It isn’t John Adams defending the British after the Boston Massacre.*
It’s not Edmund Ross defying his party and voting to acquit President Andrew Johnson.
Hell, it’s not earth shattering or courageous.
It is, however, contrary to public opinion.
I like Sweet Caroline at Fenway.
There. I said it. Consider me now on the opposite side of public opinion.
It’s become cool to make fun of the song’s use at Fenway; sportstalk radio hosts decry it, columnists demonize it, true baseball fans derogate it. It begs the question, how did all of this get started? How did this silly song, written in the 1960’s about Caroline Kennedy, become the anthem for the Sox? More than a decade ago, Sox music directors would play it –periodically- during the season. Once the new owners took over they recognized the tune’s catchy lyrics and upbeat manner would be ideal for a mid-game singalong.
After reading that previous sentence, I can understand why it’s become so criticized. A singalong? At a baseball game? Really? Apparently the song’s make-up is ideal for crowds. How? I have no clue. A man who can provide a more adroit description of its use does so in this video produced by the Globe. In it, Sox Vice President Dr. Charles Steinberg explains (and plays!) the method to the musical madness…
Now, don’t accuse me of being a fair-weather, uninformed baseball fan. I played for years; my family hosted Cape Leaguers from Cotuit during my childhood; I’ve followed the Red Sox my entire life and can tell you just where I was when Pudge hit the fair pole in ’75, Mike Torrez started the playoff game in ’78, and the ball got by Buckner in ’86. I’m a certified umpire and can recite –word for word- the infield fly rule…and then explain it to you. I was taught to keep score at Sox games. I’ll tell you your arguments against Sweet Caroline are horseshit and not bullshit, because every baseball fan knows horseshit is used as an adjective in baseball and –as a curse- bullshit is simply….horseshit.
I ain’t no pink hat.
So, when the music starts playing in the middle of the eighth inning, I’m not one to groan or criticize. I enjoy it. It is yet another example of a shared experience with the 30-thousand plus fans sitting at Fenway. Perhaps a sociologist could better explain the crowd/mob mentality and a psychologist could explain the physiological changes that take place in an individual when one joins up in song with the crowd. I just know that I like it.
Critics of the song say there’s a time and a place for it. When the Sox are down by double digits in the eighth, there is no reason why the crowd should be singing along.
Last year my sons and I were at Fenway for a game against Toronto. The pitching staff was shelled and the Sox had no chance whatsoever to come back. If a photo is worth a thousand words, this shot of Jack resting on my shoulder watching the debacle on the field explains it all.
Fenway. During some not-so-fun times.
A few innings later, Neil Diamond’s cheesy tune (and yes, it IS cheesy) began to play; the frustration at the product on the field was soon forgotten as my sons and I laughed and sang along. Does that make us bad fans? Hell no. We had already sent Josh Beckett to the showers in a shower of boos, and applauded in fake sincerity when the Sox finally extricated themselves from a rough inning. They knew we weren’t happy. But Devin, Jack and I weren’t there for the game itself. If that were the case we could have stayed home and turned on NESN. No, we went to walk with the crowd onto Yawkey Way; to enjoy an onion and pepper covered sausage before the game; to take in the sights, smells and, yes, sounds of Fenway.
One of those sounds can be heard when 30-thousand people are screaming, “So good! So good! So good!”
…even when the product on the field isn’t.
Thankfully, that’s not the case this year.
*Fun history fact: the Boston Massacre case began on this date in 1770. The Massacre of the Cardinals is expected to conclude sometime next week.