If, like everyone, you’ve grown murderously weary in recent years of the so-called “Red Sox Nation” – that growing allegiance of people who once stopped by the Fenway gift shop and now pass themselves off as Sox fans in stadiums across the country – then last night’s Indians-Sox game in Cleveland seemed like the place to be.
For starters, there were plenty of alleged Sox fans on hand, including dozens in the bleachers where I sat. Most of them looked to be from Strongsville – or was it Parma? – and as they shouted jubilantly for Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball to knuckle, I detected not a whiff of a Boston accent, with which I am expertly familiar. (I just watched Gone, Baby, Gone
last week.) Then again, they were obnoxious little pricks for the most part, so maybe they were real Sox fans after all. ...
With such a target-rich environment, I felt confident the night would yield plenty of opportunities for my favorite spring-time activity: watching grown men who aren’t me punch each other. My confidence was only buoyed by the Indians and Progressive Field, who were kind enough to foster the violence with a delicious pair of promotions: Pepsi-can night, which meant bleacher seats were just $9, and Dollar Dog Night, which meant my heart stopped beating for most of the fourth inning.
Together, these promotions meant the average cash-poor bleacher-dweller was carrying an extra $10 to $15 in his pocket as he walked to the game on Tuesday – and, more importantly, as he walked into his favorite pre-game bar for a frosty mug of domestic-brewed testosterone.
So by the time the bleachers started to fill up in the second inning, plenty of folks were good and tanked, including many of the alleged Sox fans. Two in particular had obviously found a great pre-game special on testosterone, because they spent much of the first five innings standing with their backs to the field, choosing to taunt the home fans despite the classic Wakefield-Paul Byrd pitching duel that was unfolding behind them
“Sit the fuck down!” the Clevelanders would encourage gently, to which the alleged Sox fans responded by simply putting their arms in the air. They were silent, but their message was clear: “I had a layover in Boston once, and Lids was running one of those killer 2-for-1 specials, so I got this Sox hat in green, too. No, really, it’s at my mom’s place in Brecksville. I wore it downtown on St. Patrick’s Day. The chicks on West Sixth dug it. Go fuckin’ Sox!”
As you can imagine, their smug disposition only further enraged the Tribe fans, who don’t like it when people respond, even silently, to their chants of “Boston sucks” or the slightly less inventive, “Fuck you, homo.” So occasionally an Indians fan would stand up to stare down the alleged Sox fans, causing a spontaneous wave to engulf the bleachers – everyone standing, necks craned, hoping for blood but no beers to be spilled. “Fuck him up!” we yelled in beautiful harmony. We were the Harlem Boys Choir of encouraging random violence.
Then, around the fifth, it happened. The wave started in section 183 and broke in both directions. The Fuck ‘Em’ Up Chorus belted into its one and only number. And as I balanced atop the the bench-back in front of me, I saw it: Two men clutching each other’s shirts and raising their fists, like hockey goons if hockey goons were wasted and had girlfriends screaming for them “to please stop, it’s not worth it.” (Quick side note for the ladies: It probably is worth it, at least for you, because if he punches the dude at the game, he just might forget to punch you later. Think about it.)
The location for the fight couldn’t have been better. It was about 20 feet away – close enough that I could see it perfectly, but just far away that no punches would threaten me or my jumbo Pepsi. And, yes, there were punches. Well, one punch, but it connected with the thunder of 1,000 blows, causing the chorus to move quickly into the bridge of its song -- “Oooooooooh!” – before transitioning back into the chorus: “Fuck ‘em up!”
As security scurried for the melee, friends of the beloved bleacher pugilists peeled them apart. Once separated, their blows were replaced with long-distance insults centering on how each could fellate the other, although neither seemed interested. The fight hadn’t lasted long, but it had brought a feeling of accomplishment and peace to the rest of the bleachers: Finally, one of those alleged Sox fans was injured, humiliated, emasculated. And I didn’t even spill my Pepsi.
But then, as I prepared to sit down and patiently wait for the next wave to hit, the guy sitting behind me noticed something. “Dude,” he said. “Those are two Indians fans.” I stood in disbelief and walked toward the scene of the fight, which was now crowded with onlookers and security. And sure enough, there they were, two Indians fans looking frazzled and bruised, while the smug, silent, alleged Sox fans looked on, their faces beaming like they’d just seen their fake team sweep their fake rival, the Yankees.
“I love how Cleveland fans fight each other,” one finally said, a perfectly Midwestern lilt in his voice. “That would never happen in Boston.” – Joe P. Tone