A memorable trip to Boston
Last Sunday night, as I was standing in a downpour inside the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, watching Tom Brady make his epic return, one of my friends texted me, “Are you going to Fenway on Tuesday?”
An hour before, a wild series of games on the final day of the baseball season had set up a one-game, winner-take-all Wild Card game in the greatest rivalry in sports — Yankees vs Red Sox.
Plus, the game would be played in one of the most historic venues in all of sports — Fenway Park.
The answer was “of course.”
What a better way to complete an absolutely epic weekend that had started with Penn State-Indiana on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium?
For over a year, top athletes from all over the world had been competing in empty, or mostly empty, stadiums and arenas, void of the energy and passion of fans.
If two contests needed fans to capture the essence of the events, it was no doubt Brady’s return and a Yankees-Red Sox Wild Card game.
From 2000-19, Brady had been the heart and soul of the greatest dynasty in the NFL, and his return as a Buccaneer forced Patriot fans to have very mixed emotions.
I was in Cleveland the night LeBron James returned as a member of the Miami Heat, and in all my years of attending sports events, I have never heard louder booing.
Brady’s return was far different.
It seemed like every fan was wearing some kind of Brady jersey — a Patriot one, a Buccaneer one, a Michigan one, even his high school, Junipero Serra.
When Brady emerged from the visiting tunnel for warmups an hour before the game, the fans gave him a huge ovation.
Shortly after, when he led his team out of the same tunnel just before the game, as a Brady video tribute played on the big screens, the stadium rocked with Brady chants.
The Patriot fans, of course, cheered for their team and their new quarterback, Mac Jones, but were very vocal for their six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback when he broke the NFL’s all-time passing yardage record and led the Bucs to a 19-17 win.
After the game, Brady stayed on the field and exchanged greetings with all the stadium personnel, and then ran up the visiting tunnel to the sound of more cheers.
In all likelihood, the next time Brady attends a game at Gillette, he will return for “Tom Brady Day” and the dedication of his statue in front of the stadium.
Contrary to the Pats-Bucs game, there were no mixed emotions in the hearts of the fans at the Yankees-Red Sox game.
The greatest rivalry in all of sports is defined by each team’s fan base, and as players may come and go and even switch teams, there is no love lost between Yankee and Red Sox fans.
This loyalty crosses family lines as I saw husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children show their divided loyalties, including a set of two 11-year-old twins who sat directly in front me — one decked out as a Yankee player and the other as a Red Sox player, pounding each other with foam fingers throughout the entire game.
The classic parks like Camden Yards or PNC Park have tried to replicate features of Fenway, but there is for sure only one Fenway Park.
As you walk down Van Ness Avenue, you are transported back to the early 1900s (the stadium was built in 1912).
The seats are right on top of the field, and each time any batter got two strikes, the fans would rise with deafening cheers.
The Yankees’ $324 million pitcher, former Pirate Gerrit Cole, clearly could not handle the moment and had the worst outing of his career.
The Red Sox players played with so much passion and fire — sprinting out to their positions between innings and running the bases with reckless abandon.
In the middle of the eighth inning, with the Sox leading 6-1, as the fans were singing “Sweet Caroline” (a tradition started in Fenway and now played at every stadium, including Penn State), at least to the Red Sox fans “Good times never seemed so good.”
It was a fitting end to an amazing sports weekend.
Ira Kaufman, an Altoona native and Mountain Lion graduate, hosts IRA on Sports on trueoldiesfla.com on Monday night from 7-8 p.m. It is also available on Soundcloud & iTUNES, search Ira On Sports. His column appears occasionally in Voice of the Fan.