Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fenway's 100th Birthday Party

Fenway Park turned 100 on Friday. You might have heard about it. It's crazy to think about a facility being used and abused each year by fans and players, and it's still standing. Fires have burnt down grandstands, floods have seeped in from the marshy Fens, and I once threw up in Section 14.

When Fenway Park opened, World War I was 4 years from starting. There was no TV, no radio broadcast of the game. People got their news from telegraph. The Civil War had only been over for 47 years.

Fenway was 28 years old when the US joined World War II. It was 57 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. It was 72 when I was born. And it will probably outlive me,

The ceremony on Friday was tasteful, emotional, well planned, and even moving at times. It brought back memories of childhood, and made me remember why I blindly loved Pedro Martinez and Mo Vaughn. It made me remember that the team we have here in Boston is an integral, inseparable part of life in this town. It made me remember how unreasonably sad I was in 2003 and how unreasonably happy I was in 2004.

It was nice. The players came out, from different generations, from different classes of stardom in this town. Some players I'd never heard of. Some players I saw when I was a kid. Some players I've read about. Wilton Veras, Bill Monbouquette, Nomar, Millar, Lowell, Yaz, Doerr, Pesky, Petrocelli, even Jose Canseco. The obscure, the famous, the infamous.

Even the flyover gave me goosebumps. An F-16 flying wing-to-wing with a P-51. That's just cool. Although the P-51 flew in Europe and the Pacific when Fenway was already 30 years old. A formation of planes ranging from a WW I biplane might have been more appropriate. Or maybe a Marine Corps F4U Corsair and an F9F Panther (the planes Ted Williams flew in World War II and Korea, respectively). But only a history nerd like myself would make such specific suggestions.

I felt like a kid as I watched the proceedings. Then I realized that this was precisely how Larry Lucchino and John Henry wanted me to feel. This was how they got Sox fans to shell out hundreds of dollars to watch mediocre players blow 8 run leads and then be happy about it. They make us feel like we're in Disney World, then they pick our pockets. And we smile as they do it.

Lucchino and Henry didn't care about the Sox until they realized it was an asset they could build up, squeeze, then sell. They see Fenway Park as a tourist attraction, not a ballpark. I used to go to games to see the Sox play. People today go just to go, because it's cool. It's the trendiest bar in town with an obscene cover charge, overpriced beer, and lousy entertainment.

So while it was cool to see Pedro, Nomar, Millar, Lowell, Wakefield, and everyone else. Knowing that it was all part of the Lucchino-Henry money making master plan gave me a bad after taste. Fenway's 100th Anniversary wasn't a celebration of Boston, or the Sox, or Fenway. It was a marketing tool. It was exploitation of the team's most valuable resource. It was about image and money, and "growing the brand," as a business person would say.

And I wouldn't care if "growing the brand" included signing a frontline starting pitcher. But it doesn't.

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