BOSTON — Count me among those that think Fenway Park is full of ghosts. Well, at least one ghost that maybe has a fascination with Anne Frank.
On the first weekend of February my personal ghost was the sound I heard all over the oldest Major League park in America. It kind of sounded like the last distorted horns of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Holland, 1945. Maybe you’re a weirdo like me and know exactly the sound I’m talking about from an indie rock album released 21 years ago. For the rest of you, well, there’s YouTube.
I’d hear the subtle whine from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea all over Fenway — in the press box behind home plate, the media room on the mezzanine level and, somehow, in the concourse. At first I thought it was the sound of doors opening. But I heard it where there are no doors, like during an interview I frantically recorded in a Fenway Park bathroom. When I was transcribing the quotes a week later, I audibly gasped. I wasn’t crazy. Something was following me around the park the two days I spent covering Red Bull Crashed Ice at the ballpark that opened the day the Titanic sank in 1912.
But this isn’t a ghost story, as I never did track down the noise and where it came from as I took in two days of downhill ice racing in one of my favorite places on the planet. This is about the places we watch sports and what makes them both special and highly marketable.
I first visited Fenway with my family in 2007, the day after July 4. By then the Red Sox had broken the Curse of the Bambino and were on their way to winning a second title in four years when I dragged my parents and sister to Boston on a family vacation, then through Back Bay to take a tour of Fenway and see the Sox bomb out the Devil Rays a day after watching fireworks explode over the Charles.
More than a decade later, I live in Boston and have seen dozens of games in America’s Most Beloved Ballpark. I’ve seen David Ortiz hit playoff home runs and saw his No. 34 get retired there forever. But Fenway has become much more than a ballpark — it’s hosted numerous concerts and the third Winter Classic. Harvard and Yale played The Big Game there last fall. Liverpool has “hosted” Roma there — the Reds and the Red Sox share the same ownership group — and even hurling has called Fenway home.
Sports fans attach a certain reverence to the places their favorite teams play. It’s something we can’t help, really, as the backdrop for our sports memories can become as important as the people on the field that make them. It’s why people get engaged at games or have wedding receptions at stadium where their alma mater plays on Saturdays in the fall. But stadiums are just vessels, things to fill with people and places containing the boundaries we need to play the games we love. Constructing them a century ago was as loveless a process as how Jerryworld or Barclays Center or any modern venue gets built these days. But the older the venue, the more we allow our own ghosts to soak into the beams and concrete and fading green paint to feel more alive.