Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pink Hat and Tails

Alright, fine. The pink hat thing.

This will require some credentials and caveats before I talk about it. I went to my first game in April of '86, cried when Buckner. I went to Rich Gedman All-American Baseball Camp for half a dozen summers, where I met Roger Clemens and Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell, and even saw Bob Stanley throw a ball at Mark Fidrych's moving truck. He missed. Many years later, I attended Game 7, at Yankee Stadium, of the 2003 ALCS- That's right, The Grady Game- and lived to tell about it.

The moral of the story is I'm a suffering Sox fan (or was, now that we can play a ring toss game) as much as anybody my age, in contrast to, apparently, a 'pink-hat.'

Now, a caveat. I don't live in Boston anymore; Brooklyn, in fact, so I don't make it to Fenway all that often (also, as a philosopher, a ticket is about a year's salary), and I don't see much of the Kenmore rabble, so I haven't had the visceral experience of walking amongst, and feeling superior to or annoyed by, the pink hats. In fact, that expression, starting with the definite article (as opposed to a definite article?), is mostly foreign to me.

Another caveat. Not having NESN, I watch the games streaming from So rather than the crisp, clean, shahp images of an HD broadcast, I get the wonders of a pixely Beckett and a blurry Manny, jumping discretely from stance to followthrough, leaving the swing merely implied, a subtle bit of subtext.

Basically, these third-world conditions have made me grateful, grateful I tell you, for whatever I can get.

So, that being said, I'm just not bothered by the pink hat thing.

But what's an opinion without a philosophical rationalization?

Notwithstanding the anachronism or meter, Its not 'take me out to the ballgame, take me to see how much the off-camera fielders cheat towards the opposite field when the hitters are behind in the count', its, well, 'take me out with (to?) the crowd'.

For many people, being a sports fan is about identification with others; feeling what the players feels, oohing and ahhing with the crowd, bonding over beers, chanting 'Yankees suck' (a metaphysical proposition, not a physical one, given their talent in previous years.) For Sox fans in particular, its about going through the drama, acting out that too familiar narrative of the team, living and dying with every pitch when none of them are even yours, physiologically speaking.

Religion is about collective bonding too; in fact, etymologically (yeah, i went there) 'religion' is related to 'ligament' or 'ligature', all of which means 'to tie together'; religion is about supernatural bonds. (perhaps a nickname for HGH Barry.) People who pray together stay together, I'm told, and this works for Sox fans as much as anybody. Maybe more.

Identifying with a collective, at least momentarily, involves taking on the traits of those others with whom you identify, blurring individuality, and allowing one, for example, to take pride in the accomplishments of others (as when I take pride in Kevin Youkilis, Gabe Kapler, and a Mr. Sandy Koufax.)

But what's the point of the group if you don't get to feel special? So one has to earn membership; initiation rites are as old as groups. For Sox fans, the initiation is suffering (as with fraternities and monasteries.) If not for this, and just anybody can get in, one risks taking on, through metaphysical osmosis, traits of those objectionable shouldn't-be members.

So to keep people out, groups define themselves in opposition to an Other which doesn't share their values or stories.

In the past, the suffering and oppressed Sox were contrasted with the tyrannical Yankees. Now that they actually suck, and we've whooped 'em good, Sox fans, as the article puts it, are having an identity crisis. Not willing to give up their identity as sufferers, they seek a new Other to define themselves in contrast to, now that vis-a-vis the Yankees, we are, at least temporarily, the ass whoopers, not the ass whoopees. (My old school Sox pessimism dies hard.)

So the pink hats are taken symbolically (whether any particular person who owns a pink hat is a 'real fan' or not is ignored- this is symbolism we're talking about), as playing the role of the Other, the fairweather fan who doesn't suffer through the storms and freezes and the being left out in the woods for a week to have a vision quest so that the 'real' Sox fans, who aren't yet comfortable in their new role as ass kickers (something with which I'm quite comfortable, I should point out. Also, I'm real- and as a philosopher, I'm an expert in existence), can maintain their traditional sense of collective self which is built around suffering. Cultures are intrinsically conservative and reactionary, Red Sox nation is no exception.

But its not an entirely symbolic attack; it's fair weather fans, presumably, that give that extra revenue bump that leads to big market victories, and so, to the extent that the Sox wins are a function of the market, the diehards can actually cite such fairweathers as a partial causes of their identity loss.

But what's with the massochism? (Bad pun intended.) The suffering is supposed to be redeemed through winning. And I like winning. I do, I admit it. I don't need another Grady Game. So the more fans, the better. They make it possible for Theo to give Julio friggin Lugo a 4 year contract and not have it sink the ship.

Also, I'm just not all that into the collective identity stuff. I'm more of a hermit monk type than a church picnic type of guy, so to speak. I watched the Sox win the Series in '04 with just one other friend. I typically watch games by myself. I enjoy a close, personal relationship with my Sox, (have you heard the good news?), unencumbered by sociality. I try to avoid thinking too much about those superfluous aspects- whether the players are really good people deep down inside or whether Wild Thing Vaughn slept with Dorn's wife last night. These get in the way of my spiritual whatever.

Look. People stink. Forget about them. I had standing room monster seats (an oxymoron) for Game 2 of the '04 World Series- Schilling pitched a gem, I recall. And who was sitting rows in front of me (in a seat, no less, the show-off) but Tom Hanks. People kept looking at him, not the game. Its the F'ing world series, I'd yell. Just watch the game. Jimmy Dugan would have told you the same thing.


Jere said...

1. Great blog. 2. Did you get to meet Gedman? Please supply any and all stories. 3. I don't see an email address for you and I just sent out a mass email to a lot of Sox bloggers that I'd definitely like to send to you. Can you give me an address? Thanks.

matt "triple-face" lau said...

Bro, if you want a pink hat for your birthday you should just say so. Also, the analogy of your particular denomination of fandom with (I think) Lutheran Protestantism is ironically amusing. But still I must insist that the local team from where I grew up is better than the local team from where you grew up.

Soxlosophy said...

matt, my fandom is not reducible to geography. i would have seen the light from anywhere. also, leave the ribbon on the hat. that's how i roll.