Saved by a Monster |

Saved by a Monster

Nate Peterson

Went to the Cathedral last week, shared communion with 36,000, and was saved.Who knew that watching a 6-foot-4, 230-pound slugger nicknamed “Big Papi” clear the bases in America’s greatest ball park could cleanse the soul?Now I’m a believer. Like the T-shirts in Boston read, “Hallowed Be Thy Red Sox.” I believe in the Monster, the Fenway Frank and the Holy Pole. I believe that curses can be broken. I believe that baseball is still America’s favorite pastime – not NASCAR, nor pro football.I believe, like James Earl Jones’ character states in “Field of Dreams,” that baseball – yes, baseball – can remind of us of all that once was good and could be again.Please. Don’t turn the page just yet. I know it sounds like I’ve been drinking the Blue and Red Kool-Aid, but give me a chance to explain.Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge baseball fan. It’s the growing-up-in-Colorado thing. As a kid, I believed in Mile High Magic, and the saving power of a football god named Elway. I worshipped at the altar of my hometown football team, the Golden Buffaloes, who in the early ’90s were electric to watch, and feared by nearly every team in the nation.As for the Rockies?There’s no denying that this state collectively embraced the ragtag roster of what’s-his names? and various other castoffs when big-league baseball made its Colorado debut at the old Mile High Stadium in April 1993. Heck, the single-game attendance record of 80,227 from that first game has yet to be broken. The Rockies also broke baseball’s single-season attendance mark that season, and the team sold out the park for 203 consecutive games after Coors Field opened in 1995. But you know how this story goes. Aside from an improbable run to the playoffs in 1995, the Rockies have stunk worse than sun-baked gorgonzola.Eventually, as the losses piled up, the fans stopped showing up in droves. And, somewhere in there, I stopped caring about baseball. Fenway changed all that. One ticket to one game made it easy to forget about the sorry state of baseball here in Colorado. Made it easy to forget Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Bud Selig and the rest of the bums who have tarnished America’s game. To be reminded of all that is good, and could be good again, all you need is a ticket in the bleachers, a foot-long Fenway Frank and a cold draft beer.It’s pretty much been this way since 1912. The prices have gone up and more seats have been added, but Fenway is essentially the same place it was when the Sox beat the New York Highlanders – later known as the Yankees – 7-6, in 11 innings.In the seats, amid the greatest fans in sport, it’s as if you can see ghosts. I think Jones says it better in “Field of Dreams” when he tells Ray: “And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”Amen. My two younger siblings and I sat in the right field bleachers behind the bullpens – the same ones built in 1940 to bring the fence 23 feet closer to home plate for dead-pull hitter Ted Williams. Stare down at home plate, and you can imagine Teddy “Ballgame” or “Yaz” stepping to the plate.Peek over at the Green Monster, and you can picture Pudge’s game-winning home run sneaking justsee Monster on page A11inside the left-field foul pole in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Of course, the Sox went on to lose Game 7 of that series, 4-3, prolonging the Curse for another 19 years. Now that the Curse has been snapped, you’d think Sox fans wouldn’t be as hungry for wins. Instead, the opposite is true.Even against the lowly Devil Rays, the fans in the seats acted as if it were Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. When David Ortiz stepped to the plate, it felt like Mick Jagger had entered the building. Ditto for Manny Ramirez, whose smile triggers scores of “We love you, Manny” from the devoted women of Red Sox Nation, my sister among them.Behind their young ace Scott Kazmir, the Devil Rays made a game out of it, but the Sox pulled out the 8-4 win with a bases-clearing double from “Big Papi” in the bottom of the fifth, followed by a two-run dinger from third-baseman Mike Lowell in the sixth. It was the second win in a four-game sweep that put the Sox into first place in the tight AL East race, ahead of the hated Yankees.About those Yankees. As the adage goes, there are rivalries, and then there is the Yankees and the Red Sox.I didn’t believe the validity of that statement, until Fenway. Forget Broncos versus Raiders, Lakers versus Celtics, USC versus Notre Dame, or UNC versus Duke. None of those teams plays the other 19 times a year, nor do they have the same sustained ferocity that marks the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.In terms of history, Notre Dame-USC is the closest, but 1926 shouldn’t be confused with 1903. The Lakers and the Celtics are the closest in terms of titles, with 30 combined, but the two don’t play in the same conference, and haven’t been in a finals together since the 80s.Want more proof? UNC fans don’t chant “Duke Sucks” while playing Virginia. USC and Notre Dame don’t have bench-clearing brawls where a geriatric coach takes a swipe at Matt Leinart. And Broncos fans don’t make T-shirts that read: “Make Denver a better place, punch a Raiders fan in the face.” The best shirt I saw for sale outside Fenway? It read: “Johnny Damon plays for ‘the other team.'” Priceless.That’s pretty much the only way to sum up the Fenway experience. You can put a price on a ticket, a hot dog, a beer.But on being able to travel back in time? To sit among fans whose fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers watched their beloved heroes from the same bleachers?It’s an experience unlike any other. It’s a religious experience, if you ask me. Now I can die in peace.

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