Friday, February 20, 2009

No, It's Not Time to Let Fenway Go

Yesterday, Boston Herald writer Steve Buckley wrote a column urging the Sox to replace Fenway. Today, someone from Sports Illustrated - although damned if I can find it again - echoed Buckley's statements, calling for the old park to bite the dust in favor something new, modern, and more comfortable. The topic is, of course, one that arouses great passions in partisans of both sides of the debate, but I have to wonder: what set off the hate to begin with? Buckley himself calls Fenway "a palace" when comparing it to the park's appearance a mere 10 years ago and while it's true that it's the team and more than the locale that keeps the ticket sales high, I wouldn't go so far as to say that going to watch a good team in a crappy stadium is fun. The late 80s/early 90s Athletics - for example - might have been excellent teams, but I'd hazard a guess that their fans would have enjoyed the games even more if the team wasn't housed in the Coliseum.

To my mind, there are two reasons why scrapping Fenway is a bad idea:
  1. The Practical Reason. Have you seen the economy recently? Think ticket prices at Fenway are bad now? Imagine what they'd be like if the ownership pulled a Steinbrenner and turned most of the park into luxury seating to recoup the losses of construction. In fact, that's probably an optimistic view, because even the Red Sox don't have the resources the Yankees can generate.

  2. The Emotional Reason. To defame Fenway is to forget one thing: Red Sox fans - and in some ways, Bostonians in general - are defined by the history of the team and their city. Do you remember in 2001 when Dan Shaughnessy said the Yankees deserved to win the World Series because the Pheonix newspapers were handing out guides to baseball and the Diamondbacks didn't have the proper sense of history? An asinine thing to say, to be sure, but the point is that his statement was emblematic of how closely Sox fans look at the history of the game. And while some of that historical obsession came from years of near-miss ineptitude, the feeling is still part of the culture of Red Sox Nation. We can't tear down Fenway, the shrine to the successes and failures of our team, our living link with the oh-so-important past: it would be tearing out a piece of ourselves; a piece that could never be replaced with wide-load injection molded seats with three feet of leg room and two cupholders, no matter how comfortable.