A Confluence of Sport | Out and About

For my birthday this year, my wife Kay got us tickets to a Red Sox game. Although I’ve never been a fanatic baseball fan, growing up in southwestern New Hampshire, just down the river from Carlton Fisk’s home town, made so that the few times I’ve visited Fenway Park were special occasions.

This year was no exception. The excitement outside the stadium is contagious, amid the throng of spectators and entrepreneurs hawking programs, T-shirts, and baseball paraphernalia. Entering the grandstands, I’m always impressed by the brilliant green grass, contrasting with the red dirt of the infield, and the perfection of the white baselines.

Three dollars gets you a program that provides interesting information about the current team members—helpful beacuse the players seem to be traded so frequently. For example, the Red Sox payroll on opening day was $151 million (fourth in major league baseball), while their opponents that day, the Colorado Rockies, had a team salary less than half that much. I found it interesting that while a maximum of nine players actually represent a team on the field, Boston’s roster totaled 34 men, of which, more than half are pitchers. The highest paid player on the team is John Lackey, a pitcher who will earn $15,250,000 this season. The entry level salary appears to be $490,000, which five players on the roster receive. Just so we don’t feel too badly for these rookies, the average annual salary for teachers across America is $44,000, less than a tenth of what these ballplayers earn in a season.

If the action on the field lags, there is always entertainment to be found in the stands. What an amazing cross-section of the population attends baseball games; from corporate titans in the luxury boxes, who spend most of the game focused on their smart phones, to rowdy, blue-collar types, fueled by the plentiful beer, who are not shy about voicing their opinions on almost every play.

There were plenty of blue and yellow BOSTON STRONG T-shirts in evidence, reinforced by a prominent image on the right-field wall. Although life goes on, (as they say) and thousands of Red Sox faithful were enjoying a warm, summer afternoon at Fenway, most attending the game also remembered the horrific events that made the Boston Marathon, back in April, national news for several days. The bombings took place just a few blocks from the ballpark and it’s not uncommon on Patriots’ Day for Boston sports enthusiasts to watch the leaders finish the marathon then walk over to Fenway for the Red Sox game.

But the real buzz during the game we attended on June 26 was the news coming in on people’s smart phones that New England Patriots’ tight end, Aaron Hernandez, had been arrested in connection with the murder of an acquaintance. There were no shortage of opinions in the stands regarding his guilt or innocence. Some claimed to have seen it coming given Hernandez’s previous brushes with the law. Others expressed a sense of betrayal that the Patriots had embraced a troubled youth who had then squandered a remarkable opportunity. Oh, and the 23-year-old Hernandez had just signed a $41 million, seven-year contract with the Patriots.

Although it didn’t actually come up at the Red Sox game, the Bruins fought valiantly against the Detroit Red Wings in one of the finest Stanley Cup battles of recent years. After the series it was revealed that one of the Bruins star players was competing with broken ribs (which he knew about) and a punctured lung (which he didn’t know about).

In roughly the same time period, Doc Rivers who had coached the Celtics for more than half a decade would be leaving for California. The Celtics are entering a rebuilding phase and apparently, Rivers was not the right guy for that job.

As if all this sports news isn’t enough, I just learned that there is an effort to promote Boston (and New England) as a candidate to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games! Presumably the hockey, figure skating, and speed skating would take place in the many rinks in the greater Boston area, with the snow sports contested on mountains in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The proposal may not be as far-fetched as it appears at first glance. Even the Winter Olympics have become a monumental undertaking with accommodations and facilities for the athletes being dwarfed by the requirements for thousands of journalists and security personnel. A world class sports city like Boston might be just the ticket.

John Morton

John Morton is a former Olympic biathlete and Nordic ski coach. He lives in Thetford Center, where he designs Nordic ski trails. You can reach him through his website, www.mortontrails.com.