Archive for October 30th, 2004

Dowbrigade, Prophet of Doom

2


Police block exits to Kenmore Wed. night (Dowbrigade photo)

Boston awoke today to dark threatening skies
laid thick on a cold, raw mist, a steady drizzle coating the streets
with a slick shiny sheen.
Despite
that fact, up to five million long-frustrated Red Sox fans are expected
to jam the streets of the city for the triumphant World Series victory
parade. Bundled into long johns and rubber-muckers, yellow rain-slickers
and ponchos, they have been lining the 3 mile parade route since long
before dawn, wanting to share the supercharged emotions that have momentarily
sliced through their normal apathy and somnambulistic media overload.
The Dowbrigade will not be among them.

In fact, since we impulsively grabbed our heavy-knit Andean
sweater-coat and headed out to the vicinity of Fenway Park
during the ninth inning
of the
final
game
of
the world championships, drawn by the vague promise of unbridled exuberance,
drunken violence and bared undergraduate breasts, we have have been so
burnt out by the double-barreled emotional assault of the World Series
and the Presidential Elections that we have not blogged or even followed
much of the news for a couple of days.

Not too long ago, the Dowbrigade was so addicted and fanatical
about blogging EVERY day that we forced Dave Winer to exit Interstate
93 on our
way back from a long day covering the primary campaign in New Hampshire,
just so we could get to a computer and blog before midnight. We succeeded
in publishing a note at 11:59:11, and couldn’t understand why Dave thought
we were crazy.  Now we do; at times a dramatic pause in the old
verbiage flow can be healthy for bloggers and readers alike.

So there we were, on Wednesday night, driving directly
into the heart of the madness, Kenmore Square, where thousands of bloody-mined
intoxicated youngsters gathered after every important victory to wreak
a little havoc, where there was guaranteed to be exhibition of undergraduate
idiocy and multiple arrests, where Victoria Snelgrove had been killed
by a Police pellet gun a week earlier, where we had warned our students
to absolutely stay away from, in the unlikely event of a World Series
victory.

Despite the madness and exuberance and joy in the hearts
of all members of Red Sox Nation that magical night, the Dowbrigade was
filled with a gathering sense of dread. Somehow we knew that this epochal
win
represented
a seismic
shift in the karmic landscape of our corner of the universe, and such
fundamental movements in the lines of power and fate which rule our lives
always have counter-balancing repercussions. Something very bad was bound
to happen.

We parked the white whale on a quiet residential street
behind BU, and about a 15 minute walk from Fenway Park.  As we got
closer to the center of the action, the crowd got thicker as hundreds
of students
flooded
towards the square and the ballpark, frantically jabbering into their
ubiquitous cell phones, sharing their joy, mustering forces, gloating
to fans of other teams, or checking in with parents. Although most were
going in our direction, some of fainter heart were turning around
in the face of dangerous, out-of-control behavior already evident more
than 10 blocks from the gathering crowd.  We heard dubious and fearful
mummers of "It’s getting too crazy" and "This might not be such a good
idea" as about a third of the crowd bailed out and looked for calmer
havens to hoist their celebrations.

In Kenmore Square the scene was a Dantesque mixture of
heaven and hell. People were hugging and hi-fiving strangers. The crowd
streamed and bumped together, rising in spontaneous chants at random
times or when someone did something exceptionally visible or stupid.
The favorite sport seemed to be to climb light poles and shimmy out over
the street towards the hanging stop lights, whip out a photo phone,
snap a
shot of the ecstatic
crowd below to prove they’d been there, and shimmied down before the
police could work through the massed bodies to arrest them.

The crowd was definitely getting rowdier, and there was
a lot of physical contact. At one point somebody bumped against our backside
and uttered a sloppy "sorry".  Instinctually, we brushed
our right hand against our rear pocket, to feel for our wallet, and it
wasn’t there. Veteran of hundreds of attempted pocket-picks on foreign
shores, we struggled to remember the details of the contact. Had we even
remembered our wallet when we rushed out of the house at the start of
the ninth? For about five minutes we ran through the mental checklist
of what had to be done after a walletectomy, canceling cards, etc, before
deciding it was a problem we could do nothing about until the following
day, and that we needed to have out wits about us an our mind on the
here and now as the crowd got more and more dangerously excited.

Here and there throughout the mob, brooms and banners
were waving like captured emblems of enemy legions. Girls got up on their
boyfriend’s shoulders, and a few flashed the crowd to sustained cheers.
At the outlets to the Square a massive police presence lurked, lined
up in riot gear, on horses, backed by floodlights and mobile command
centers and armed with gas grenades, shotguns, white batons and some
kind of fancy plastic lariats.

By about an hour after the end of the game, the crowd reached
its peak.  Music was provided by isolated individuals, one with
a tom-tom, another with a saxophone, a third waving a set of bagpipes.  People
were literally dancing in the streets, although considering most of them
were severely intoxicated, rhymthically-challenged white people their
movements more closely resembled St. Vitas than any Arthur Murray
steps.

Smashed football players were cannon balling through the crowd, trying
to high-five people hard enough to knock them over.
We bundled deeper into our protective sweater and concentrated on keeping our
feet. A crewcut celebrant with obliterated eyes wrapped us in a bear
hug, lifted us from the ground, and screamed, "Way to Go, Sweater-Dude,
we’re Number One!" We knew it was time to leave.

As if to reinforce our decision, the forces of order chose
that moment to decide to clear the crowd, moving in tight, coordinated
lines through the square and forcing the human mass down Commonwealth
Ave and away from the ballpark. We went with the flow, as this was the
direction
of our car.

We joined a ragtag band following the bagpiper through
the BU campus, erupting into applause every time he finished a tune and
encouraging him to keep on, keep on. Behind us, it was obvious that some
of the celebrants weren’t ready to go home and were confronting the police
Siriens wailed as ambulances and paddy wagons roared off down the blockaded
street. Our thoughts returned to our missing wallet and we noted our
vague sense of impending doom
was unabated.

We gained our car around 1:45, pleased to see the route
out of the area and towards home was clear of traffic or crowds.  We
had to give a midterm exam at nine, and several sections of the test
were still unfinished.  As we drove down Memorial Drive, along the
river and past Harvard Square, we glanced for the first time at our rear
view mirror. It wasn’t
there.  All that was left was a jagged white plastic stump.  It
had been smashed and ripped from the body of the car.  We pulled
off to the side of the road and inspected the car for body damage.  None.  It
was as though the mirror had been shattered by a sledgehammer, or a crowbar,
or a BASEBALL BAT, while we were at the celebration.

Arriving home a little after two, tired, exhilarated, pissed
off, our emotions still roiled by triumph and rage, we found our wallet
atop the
dresser. Menos mal.  But we still can’t shake this feeling of gathering
doom. The Red Sox are champions of the world, and something is very wrong
in the cosmic balance.

It’s noon now, and still raining.  On the television
scores of delirious fans are mobbing the parade route, following the
amphibious and meteorologically aptly named duck boats down off of Storrow
Drive and into the Charles River. The people crowd close for a glimse
of their heroes, the only heroes they are allowed to have.  Whatever
else can be said about Bush and Kerry, they are not looking terribly
heroic to the teeming masses looking for a lifeline of authentic hope
or pride or vision to cling to.

Its all too depressing for words.  This is the trial
by fire of the TRUE Red Sox fan.  The essential core nature of the
Red Sox fan, what makes us different, and grander, than all other sports
fan is the eternal striving after an unattainable goal. The TRUE Red
Sox fan is paranoid, sun-shy, fatalistic, cynical and morose. Those pathetic
good-time Charlies lining the streets of Boston in the rain are the deluded
fools, dancing around their own downfall.

So we feel not only justified but weirdly righteous in
dwelling on the darker side of the changes sliding swift and silent beneath
the surface of this insane euphoria. We are getting very close to bumping
up against something large and vicious in the dark of our national bedroom,
and we obviously aren’t ready for it. The next few days promise to deliver
us once more into uncharted territory where all our map’s and notes and
accumulated
political wisdom and experience
are
useless.
It could get very ugly.

There are momentous movements underway, on the surface
and deep beneath. Yassir Arafat exits stage left.  Osama Bin Laden
reappears in a lonely spotlight. Massed and poised power shuffles impatiently
in
the wings. The game is afoot, and it doesn’t bode well for the casual
sports fan.

So enjoy the party while it lasts, boys and girls.  For
us, we will not be attending any large public gatherings for a while.  We
will be here, in our living room, on the computer, TV tuned to a news
channel in the background, nervous as a rabbit and ready to bolt at the
first
sign
of
the shit hitting
the fan. And by the way, the fan they had in mind when writing that aphorism
was definitely a Red Sox fan.