T.S. Eliot '10 famously wrote, "April is the cruelest month...mixing memory and desire." Of course, when Eliot was a senior here, he could remember that the Red Sox had already won two World Championships and he had to wait only two years for the fulfillment of any desire for a third. We seniors appreciate better than most that this month and the next are truly cruel, as we can't quite let go our experience here at the College in order to act on our hopes and plans for the future, so going to Fenway Park on Opening Day Tuesday with a treasured friend was perhaps not the wisest move for someone wishing to avoid ambivalence.
This is a whole new year, and though hope springs eternal, the Boston faithful are saddled not just with the curse of the Bambino and a bullpen-full of reconstructed shoulders but with the added jinx of a Sports Illustrated story predicting a World Series victory for the Sox. No team ever on the cover of SI has won the title, but I'm sure the writers meant well. Superstition and all, everyone at the game Tuesday put aside the disappointment of the last 82 years (or was perhaps feeding off of it) and stood to cheer another chance for their team to win it all. And if this were not difficult enough, there is the added problem of our nearing the necessary moment when we have to say good-bye to Fenway Park itself and look forward to a new, modern stadium in its place. Looking out to right field Tuesday, I saw the numbers of Carl Yazstremski (8), Ted Williams (9) and Jackie Robinson (42--the player we had the chance to sign but didn't) blown down by the wind, surely a sign that nature itself wants a change.
The contrast between old and new, past and present (and even future) was palpable at the park as the team which has dropped four of its first six games took the home field for the first time since a slightly different roster of players ended the 1999 season with a Game 5 loss to the Yankees. There were new faces on the field, most notably that of center-fielder Carl Everett, who hit a home run in his first Fenway at-bat and then followed it up with another one from the other side of the plate later in the game. Familiar heroes returned: Nomar Garciaparra glittering with four hits in five at-bats and the battered Roman Martinez, struggling to pitch with a shoulder a fan nearby sadly described as being held together by rubber bands. It's a new year with the same schedule: 162 games to be played before we can even think of entering the play-off hunt.
Fenway itself was filled beyond capacity with screaming fans looking for a fresh start in this old and dented park which has seen more history (and tragedy) than most other sports arenas. If managing partner John Harrington and the Red Sox organization get their way, Tuesday was one of the last times Fenway will see opening day before it is replaced by a bigger, newer, more player- and fan-friendly stadium. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little--we probably have at least five good years left on Yawkey Way before the money, the land and the construction come together as a package (if we wait for the Big Dig to be completed, we might have another 100 years in Fenway), but change is in the air.
I've heard all the arguments for a new stadium, and I've come to accept them. It's long overdue, and the benefits for everyone who loves baseball should probably outweigh the nostalgic value of old Fenway. But even though I try, I can't let go. I passed the Save Fenway display in the window of Cambridge Trust on the way to the T and immediately began to miss the dusty tunnels and cramped seating in the ballpark. Obstructed view seats suddenly seem as if they overlook a scenic panorama. Even the dilapidated sign commemorating Roger Clemens two twenty-strikeout games has some nostalgic value.
But even as we Red Sox fans blindly get excited for the beginning of a new season with many of the same old jinxes still hanging over our heads, I know that the time will come when a new ballpark will replace Fenway, and well continue with the inevitable cycle of hope and despair in a different home. It's true that if done well, a new Fenway might be able to retain its uniqueness while also accommodating the demands of space and modernity. The challenge remains for Harrington and his supporters to adjust the competing pulls of history and progress in favor of the future without failing to acknowledge the past. Seniors in the crowd, loyal Sox fans, and even the ghost of Eliot himself realize that it's not healthy to be only nostalgic. Let's all graduate, let the Red Sox win, let there be a new stadium. As Eliot wrote, "Hurry up please, it's time." Meanwhile, the Sox drubbed the Twins 13-4 on Tuesday and 7-3 on Wednesday, so I'm officially ready to say it: This is the year. Maybe.
Susannah B. Tobin '00 is a classics concentrator in Lowell House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.
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