The Red Sox game was an eye-opener to me, since it was the first Red Sox “away” game I have ever attended. It was played in Tropicana Field, which made this the first baseball game I had ever seen played indoors. As it turns out, my expectations were way off.
The first thing I noticed was that Red Sox fans outnumbered Tampa Bay fans by about 1.5 to 1. This made the game an almost surreal experience, because there may have been more Red Sox fans at that game than at any game I’ve attended in Fenway Park, which has a smaller seating capacity. The least appealing aspect of the game was Tropicana Field itself, which is a big, ugly metal building that resembles a crushed beer can. The artificial surface looks nothing like real grass, and the inside of the building is covered with noisy, garish electronic displays that constantly broadcast advertisements and exhort the crowd to “make some noise.”
Anyway, my daughter loved the experience, so we decided many months ago to see another Red Sox game there, and the end of July, Tampa Bay was hosting a 3-game home stand against the Sox. As it so happens, friends of ours from Boston were visiting that weekend, so we wound up buying 8 tickets in a single row down the first base line.
My wife’s friend had an inspiration, so she went out and bought 8 red t-shirts in various sizes, and some stick-on vinyl letters, so that we could spell out some message and hopefully get ourselves broadcast to the Red Sox fans back in New England. We had to figure out the seating arrangements ahead of time, since we couldn’t change seats for fear of spelling something offensive. We decided on “GO RED SOX” for the front of the shirts, and “HI REMDOG” for the back. “Remdog” is the nickname of the Red Sox broadcast announcer, Jerry Remy, who played second base in the 1975 World Series.
Before we left, we were passing around Red Sox baseball caps, and discovered that our friend’s son has a head the size of a wrecking ball, except that it’s slightly denser. Due to the required seating, I had to sit next to him during the game. Every time he leaned forward, he blocked out the entire infield. I was continually pulling him back so that I could see the game.
When we arrived at the stadium, we found ourselves caught in a monstrous traffic jam. Even though we had a handicapped parking sticker left over from my wife’s injury in December, we couldn’t find parking anywhere near the field. I dropped off the passengers and parked the van a mile away in the middle of a muddy field, under a tree, near a pile of garbage that may have contained a dead wino.
I missed two innings getting to the stadium, including a bunt single by Coco Crisp. The Red Sox already had a 2 – 0 lead. Later in the game, I said to my daughter, “Let’s hope your luck is working tonight.” With that, Mike Lowell hit a routine single to right field and caught Tampa Bay sleeping, so he hustled around first to stretch the hit into a daring double. “How’s that for luck?” she asked me, with a smirk.
The Red Sox had command of the game until the ninth inning, when Tampa Bay tied it up 6 - 6, sending the game into extra innings. I got that old sinking feeling in my gut, a feeling very familiar to Red Sox fans. But in the twelfth inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases, and Tampa Bay walked in the go-ahead run. That was just the beginning. The Red Sox scored 6 runs in that inning, to win the game 12 – 6.
By this time it was very late. We made the long drive home, arriving in our neighborhood at 3:00 am. Less than a mile from the house, I got pulled over by a trooper for speeding and was handed a ticket for $185. So I guess my daughter’s luck only goes so far.