Diary of a Sox-Crazed Maniac

(Top) One of the many Dice-K Girls at Opening Day; Sox fans camp out in tents as Opening Day approaches; Both teams gather for the National Anthem.

(Top) One of the many Dice-K Girls at Opening Day; Sox fans camp out in tents as Opening Day approaches; Both teams gather for the National Anthem.

Ben Whelan

You know those jackasses who camp outside Fenway Park for Opening Day tickets? Well, last Monday I had the distinct pleasure of being one of them. After hearing all sorts of crazy stories from friends who had experienced this before, I figured it was time to see for myself. Besides, I already spent seven hours waiting in the lobby of Madison Square Garden trying to get into the 2004 NFL draft, and this time we had chairs and a grill. Sure that was inside, but how bad could it be? As we loaded up our supplies for the night, visions of 4 a.m. wiffle ball games and the drunken shenanigans of Northeastern students danced in my head. I was prepared for the best.

We arrived outside Fenway at around 11:30 to find a small shantytown lined up outside the Green Monster. About 100 strong, they were there in an array of sleeping bags, tents, grills and a fort made out of beer cans. The first people in line, two brothers from Maine and their friend, had been camped out since 9 a.m. the day before taking devotion to whole new level of crazy. I mean, I skipped school on Tuesday, but two days off in a row camped out on the street? A little much. We parked in what may be one of the sketchiest locations in Boston, a dumpster behind Jillian’s, and set up what would be our home for the next 13 hours.

After much frustration and a few singed eyebrows later, we eventually got the grill working and began what will go down as one of the best meals ever cooked within the confines of Yawkey Way (in your face, Sausage Guy). We entertained ourselves during our repast by hurling insults and jeers at the Mariners fan in front of us, who for some inexplicable reason was wearing a Mariners number 3 A-Rod jersey. I don’t know whether it was the cold or the solid half-hour of abuse from all directions that finally did him in, but at some point while we were focusing on other things, he snuck away in disgrace into the dark Fenway night. Our first movement up in the line: one down, 103 to go.

To my great disappointment, instead of focusing on crazy escapades, such as the infamous “Cops vs. Kids wiffle-ball game” of 2005, most of those waiting in line were much too focused on survival to have fun. At around two in the morning after all of the food had been eaten, the beer drank and cans organized into various designs and structures, people began to settle in for the night.

The only movement on Landsdowne Street belonged to the roving crews of Japanese cameras crews and the drunken fans running up to them and yelling such creative slogans as “DICE-K! YEAH!” and “GO SAWX!” The obviously embarrassed and overwhelmed camera crews just stood there smiling nervously, but little did they know they were in the midst of capturing the clearest and most accurate reflection of Red Sox Nation and its inhabitants. Silence followed for the next few hours, punctuated occasionally by a fan rousing from their slumber just long enough to attempt a “Yankees suck” chant, echoing down the quiet street like a lone wolf call and drawing half-hearted responses from some of the few others who had yet to turn in for the night.

After a few hours of fitful sleep disturbed by an icy wind and numerous delivery trucks making their drop-offs in the loudest way possible, we awoke to a tangible buzz in the air as the daylight brought the anticipation of the game to come. The line had almost doubled as various stragglers added to the line over the course of the night and the street was beginning to fill with the signs of pre-game life.

The vendors began setting up their carts and cooking their delicious greasy treats, the smell of sausages and onions wafting down the line and drawing in many of the hungry fans looking to start their day with one of the ball park classics. The previously empty streets began to fill with pilgrims from the far reaches of New England and beyond, either hoping to score last minute tickets or just checking out the scene and picking up some souvenirs before adjourning the Cask N’ Flagon or one of the other local team bars. Also present were promotional teams handing out every conceivable kind of knick-knack, from the over-dressed Miller Lite girls throwing cheaply made t-shirts into the crowd to the scantily clad “Dice-K Girls” who did not seem to be selling anything in particular but just enjoyed the attention.

Eventually, to our great excitement, the line began to move. Our journey was almost through. An hour and a half later, we had finally reached the ticket window and received the four slips of paper that had made this entire journey worthwhile. It had happened. We were in.

The final glorious moment occurred when we walked up to ramp to our section to find our seats. Walking up the ramp we experienced one of the defining moments of attending a baseball game as the horizon broke in front of us and Fenway Park, in all of its glory was laid out in front of us. The intense green of the field, the buzz of the ballpark, the sight of thousands of like-minded fans sharing the experience, the white of the home jerseys, the sound of vendors walking the stands and hocking their wares, the smell of the grass.

I paused for a moment to take it all in, at that moment not caring about who was pitching or the importance of the game or the hardships we had endured to make it here. That explosion of sights and sounds and smells on the senses will keep me coming back, win or lose, rain or shine for as long as I live. Sure the tickets are expensive and the seats are small and the food is outrageously expensive, but that one moment, that moment where baseball really happens makes it all worthwhile.