Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Football at the Fens

(Photo: Jim Davis)

My first memory of Fenway Park goes back to 1989. More specifically, my eighth birthday, which happened to fall on June 21st of that year.

Apparently, my dad, perhaps noting my burgeoning enthusiasm for baseball and the Boston Red Sox, bought a series of tickets for us - us, being my dad, my uncle Mike, my cousin Mike, my brother, my bffi at the time and me - to partake in what was simply known as the Boston Red Sox vs. the Texas Rangers, 7:05pm.

That game was quite an experience. It afforded me the first opportunity to not only witness firsthand my favorite baseball team in the entire universe, but also the chance to display one of those homemade signs that often attract the attention of the nearest TV cameraman.*

(*The sign - which was actually my dad's idea - was a large, white cardboard canvas that read "Hey Wade, hit one for me! It's my birthday!" And wouldn't you know it? Wade Boggs, the Chicken Man himself, must have had the vision of a hawk to read that sign from my centerfield perch because he delivered a base hit in his third at bat that very evening.)

It was a magical night all-around. The guys in my section all wished me a happy birthday, my dad bought me an endless supply of hot dogs and soda, and on the way home in the family station wagon, I slipped into dreamland, with the knowledge that this was probably the best day of my life.


Twenty-one years later, my dad and I are going back up to Fenway. Although we've made a few trips up to America's Most Beloved Ballpark since I turned eight, tonight's journey will bring us up I-93 for a different reason. Instead of the Sox and Rangers, it'll be Celtic and Sporting. And, of course, instead of baseball, it'll be soccer.

Now, there's obviously something beyond cool about soccer at a field as legendary as Fenway. There really isn't a word to describe what will take place. Astonishing? Amazing? Breathtaking? Beast? I'll go with all of the above. I mean, the last time a ball was kicked around Fenway - besides the time that Manny Ramirez was kicking a baseball around left field vs. the Dodgers a few years ago - was back in the late-60s, which, as you may now, was years before my time.

It's not only the novelty of soccer. Nor is it merely the idea of having two storied clubs - Celtic and Sporting* - gracing the temporarily-sodded pitch in front of the Green Monster. Although that very image just gave me goosebumps, tonight means much more than the concept of soccer in a baseball field.

(*I know that Celtic is actually a Scottish club, but with a name like Celtic, you're bound to attract a few Irish fans as well. Boston, as you may know, has its more than its fair share of Irishmen and Irishwomen. You probably also know that Sporting is a pretty good Portuguese club that has a decent amount of supporters in from the many Portuguese communities based in sourthern New England. You may or may not also know that I'm half-Portuguese, and half-Irish. Am I conflicted? Not at all. I see it as win/win situation, unless, of course, they draw.)

What really takes the cake for tonight is that the match will be the first one my dad's ever attended. I'm not going to lie; he isn't the biggest soccerhead on Brightridge Ave. By no means. But, whether it's the Revs, the US MNT, the World Cup, or the College Cup, my father almost always joins me to watch whoever's kicking around the soccer ball on the small screen.

Tonight is more than just a game. It'll be more than watching two insanely successful clubs run up and down what's usually the infield and right field grass. And yeah, it'll be cool to watch the black and white ball hover below the huge, iconic light towers that illuminate Kenmoore Square. But it's more than just these wonderful images that has me stoked.

Tonight will feature something that the both of us have never witnessed, but will easily remember for the rest of our lives. Tonight is more than just soccer in a baseball stadium. Rather, it's the unique opportunity for a son to take his father to the same place his father first took him over 21 years ago.

Tonight is a small thank you to my dad, who has always nurtured my interest in sports, even the ones he still doesn't quite get.

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