The Red Sox: You Either Get It, Or You Don’t.

20cnd-gowd.184You have to grow up in New England to really understand what it means to be a Red Sox fan.

As an 8- or 9-year-old, I would go to bed early on many summer nights, so I could lie in bed and listen to Curt Gowdy doing the play-by-play of the Red Sox games on my radio. I grew up with the team. I had my favorite players. I knew their batting averages. I exulted with every hit and agonized along with them during their slumps. I’m sure I was typical.

I learned how to keep score back then. It was my own system, drawn by hand on the cardboard stiffeners that came back from the laundry in my dad’s dress shirts. But if anyone asked, I could give a precise account of every game after the fact. (No one ever asked, of course.)

Baseball players are notoriously superstitious. For example, Wade Boggs, the superb third baseman for the Red Sox — he became a bum when he went over to play for the New York Yankees — had fried chicken before every game. Players are loath to vary their routines while they’re on a win streak, and they change their routines in hopes of changing their luck when things aren’t going well.

Passionate fans do the same thing. Last month, the Red Sox lost 10 games in a row. Every day during that ugly stretch, I made a point of changing the mug in which I have my morning cup of coffee. Then, a week ago, the Sox won, snapping their loosing streak. Of course, I used the same mug the following morning and they won again! I kept using the same mug and they kept on winning. They won again today … their seventh consecutive victory. I guarantee you: all over New England, there are Red Sox fans who are refusing to change their undershirts … or shave … or take a different route to work.

My wife was born and raised here in Hawaii and is scornful about the whole thing. She looks pointedly at me, then at the coffee mug, then back at me.

Of course, there’s no point trying to explain. She never lay in a darkened room on a soft summer New England night listening to Curt Gowdy describe Ted Williams stroking a double into the right field corner in Fenway Park.