The Boston Red Sox do not always prevail, but fans at Fenway Park always go home winners at the end of games thanks to the club’s iconic tradition of playing Neil Diamond’s classic ‘Sweet Caroline’ just before the bottom of the eighth inning.
Unfortunately, Red Sox batters and pitchers rank as some of the slowest in the league in terms of Pace, a fancy stat measuring how many seconds pitchers and hitters take to do stuff in between pitches. More often than not, the hallmark singalong moment seems to come at obscenely late hours of the night.
In response to prodding from a growing number of fans – including parents with young children, people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, NASCAR fans and psychopaths who actually respect Neil Diamond as an artist – the organization has begun researching the impact of moving the playing of ‘Sweet Caroline’ from the middle of the eighth inning to the end of the fifth inning.
“Per regulations of Major League Baseball, all games become official after the fifth inning is completed,” reasons one high-ranking member in the front office. “We’ve heard some of our fans have children that are having trouble concentrating in class the following day because they were at a Red Sox game that ran late the night before. We’ve also heard from many people who hold in bodily waste during games due to irrational fears about utilizing our restrooms facilities. Respecting all these various weirdos as much as we do as an organization, we believe this may be the solution to make everyone happy.”
While some members of the club were hesitant at first, the initiative’s proponents appealed to humanity’s basic core in arguing the cause.
“We sat a few people down in lounge chairs, strapped their limbs in place and wire-pronged open their eyelids a la Clockwork Orange. Then we made them watch Daniel Bard pitch with multiple runners on base,” explained one source. “Everyone quickly came around and once all the vomit and diarrhea was cleaned up, the idea of shifting ‘Sweet Caroline’ to the fifth inning seemed pretty inconsequential.”
(The technique was so effective, in fact, that MLB recently announced that Bard’s go-to pickoff “trick” move will be called a balk by all umpires – not just some! – beginning in 2013.)
It seems to be a unanimous belief internally that fans will submit to witnessing actual baseball during the first five innings if they know a sweet, sweet reward is just around the corner.
“But making people watch this ballclub for eight innings? I can’t believe we haven’t been under assault from all those hippie letter-writing organizations like Amnesty International…” said another club official. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that many fans would rather be waterboarded than watch Vicente Padilla pitch.”
Fans interviewed by Fenway Pastoral during the most recent homestand seemed to agree, although some have their reservations.
“I understand where the team is coming from, but I’m a big beer drinker and I can’t sing along with a fifth-inning buzz,” said Irene from Sudbury.
For those worried about a decrease in team concession sales, one club financial officer says there is no reason to fret.
“Yes, studies have shown most of our soft-serve ice cream is served between the sixth and eighth innings to people passing the time waiting for ‘Sweet Caroline’ by indulging in one of our famous helmet sundaes – the Red Sox logo is printed on a plastic helmet and it makes a great souvenir.”
But, the source went on, “We have sold the presentation rights of the fifth inning to John Hancock for a significant sum of money that will make up for the difference. So it will now be John Hancock presents The Fenway Fifth Inning Festivities Starring Sweet Caroline. I know, I know…it’s brief but catchy right?”
Even Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has fervently applauded the team’s diligence in researching such a landmark decision. “As a diehard Red Sox follower, I can understand the fans’ desire to be able to witness the halftime ceremonies in full. Baseball is not just about socking that ol’ pigskin over the Green Mammoth, but also about the pageantry. The ‘Sweet Caroline’ singalong is an integral part of that perfect evening watching Dusty Peters and company play in that jolly old sandbox, as Henry David Upton famously put it.”