Back before the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, practically no one important wanted anything to do with the team. In fact, as recently the late 1980s, Jerry Remy’s Bar & Grill on Boylston St. looked nothing like it does today as it was nothing but a modest industrial mill employing roughly 50 day laborers.
After work, those same blue-collar millworkers got soused on cheap, locally brewed lager and sat behind home plate for a price equivalent to a few hours’ wages. They yelled and cheered for guys like Ellis Burks, Jody Reed and Mike Greenwell; they stood for two-strike counts; and they fist-rolled.
Oh, did they ever fist-roll.
That jarring motion of rolling forearms just inside the pitcher’s peripheral vision resulted in uncharacteristic loss of strike-zone command, disorientation and, in many cases, projectile vomiting due to nausea.
Think Alfredo Aceves’ five consecutive walks in Tuesday night’s loss to the Padres was a bizarre display of pitching yips? Well, Fenway fans rolled their fists so furiously during one game in 1990 that a confounded Chuck Finley threw an entire inning with his right arm even though he was predominantly left-handed. The Red Sox scored 11 runs on only two hits.
But that was back when Bostonians used to make things. Back before Everything Went Corporate.
The Red Sox won it all in 2004 and businesses cashed in. Shortly thereafter, perhaps only coincidentally but most likely not at all, fans’ gamesmanship officially died—grown men were suddenly deeply offended by mostly meaningless hand gestures; passive aggressive T-shirts professing various degrees of suckitude replaced half-joking (but mostly good-natured) death threats aimed at rat-bastard Yankees players and coaches; parents stopped buying their kids multiple bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and jars of peanut butter to snack on during doubleheaders.
In a few blinks of the eye, the Red Sox fan base has gone soft. The fire is officially gone. The old-tymey tenacity has been replaced by lukewarm ‘Let’s Go Red Sox’ chants.
It doesn’t have to be like this, of course. In a cruel twist of irony, the last glimmer of hope resides in the people that sit in the box seats behind home plate.
If Fenway’s well-to-do fans can routinely go to the trouble to pull out their cell phones to make sure their best friend from the third grade knows they have seats in the fifth row, there’s no reason why they can’t go the extra mile and churn their fists at a rapid rate of speed while the opposing team’s pitcher is on the mound trying to hone in on home plate.
As denizens of the field box level, these fans enjoy the convenience of never having to leave their seats to purchase beer and concessions. Aramark servers cater to their growingly sophisticated needs throughout the game, affording their full attention to the baseball game and leaving their forearms in perfect position for rolling their fists in an obnoxiously fast circular motion.
Sure, this fist-rolling tactic may sound childish and embarrassingly stupid. But anyone who claims they aren’t interested in the Red Sox winning a ballgame because Justin Verlander got a serious case of vertigo after staring at a bunch of spinning forearms in the box seats isn’t being honest to themselves. As fans of a team that has lost hundreds of at-bats over the last four-plus years from J.D. Drew as a direct result of vertigo, can’t we honestly say we have it coming to us? It’s about time opposing pitchers from around the league start to once again fear pitching in Fenway Park.
There’s no reason why the back of the pitcher’s mound shouldn’t look like some puke-laden L Street sidewalk the day after St. Patrick’s Day.
Of course, results may be mixed. For example, fist-rolling could prove counter-intuitive against pitchers such as Kansas City Royals ace Jeff Francis, who sucks enough in his own right. But generally speaking, it is not unreasonable to expect that nearly every visiting pitcher who takes to the mound will be visibly and hilariously affected.
The time has come to return Fenway Park to its glory days. After some lean, dark days following Boston’s two World Series wins in 2004 and 2007, the fans have finally returned—interested, engaged, “All In!!” at long last. The climb back to .500 after a 2-10 start was long and arduous. Now that the Sox have fulfilled their preseason billing, We Won’t Rest…nay, We Shan’t Rest…until the fist-rolling returns.