Sweet Fans of Mine

And when I hurt,
Hurtin’ runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I’m with you

Watching Neil Diamond lead “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park on Saturday, the song finally made sense as the Red Sox anthem. Diamond’s romantic lyric always seemed a little intimate to be sung by 35,000 in the late innings of epic struggle. But in the aftermath of terror the chant of “So good, So good, So good” was healing for wounded hearts barely emerged from their lockdown of  the day before.

No throng is more Boston than the Fenway faithful, and their unison chant felt like an affirmation for the city. All well and good to declare they were “Boston Strong,” but the shout of “So good! So good! So good!” gave body to the spirit, a spirit rising, recovering.  Red Sox fans seemed to be reflecting on the lines, “How can I hurt when I’m with you,” when they sang to each other.

Boston has always been accused of taking the Red Sox too seriously. The melodrama of the late season swoon became a national narrative when they finally broke the “curse” in 2004 and fans from the greatest generation proclaimed “Now I can die in peace,” echoing the “Nunc dimittis,” the words of Simeon witnessing the  prophesied messiah Jesus.  Really, said America, we’re very happy for you, but isn’t this a little over the top?

Following last year’s epic meltdown of the Old Towne team, the New Yorker served up a cartoon showing traffic bustling across a suspension bridge, while one lane labeled “Red Sox Fans” ended abruptly with a plunge into the water below.  Such is the bemusement of the land west of Berkshires over the high tragedy that surrounds the failure of the Red Sox to win,

But when you die by the Red Sox, you also live by the Red Sox, and that is what happened Saturday afternoon. The Faithful called back to Neil Diamond

Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined,
To believe they never would
Oh, no, no

and for the time it took to sing a few verses, it seemed so true, so true, so true.  The congregation paid tribute to their larger self, the resilient spirit of Boston.  Their earnest  belief in a team that they carried in their hearts paid them back with good times that “never seemed so good.” The town that loved their Sox was loved back with a sentimental love song.

Now it all makes sense. “Sweet Caroline” now will recall the day Boston shook itself and moved forward again.  The fans can be forgiven if they sniffle a little and wipe a tear when the anthem is played. And the nation outside of Red Sox Nation can grin at the excessive sentiment floating through Fenway, but they might be a little envious, too.

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