Reimer: How I learned to stop being so angry, and embrace 'Sweet Caroline'

Alex Reimer
May 15, 2018 - 11:27 am
Fenway Park

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

I used to attend Fenway Park with a militant attitude. We were to be in our seats for first pitch with programs in hand. Anybody who arrived late, or worse, threw their hands up for The Wave, was mocked on the car ride home. And most of all, singing during “Sweet Caroline” was forbidden. “How dare these people drunkenly sing a bad pop song on a hot summer night,” I would angrily think to myself, “when the Red Sox are down by one in the bottom of the eighth?”

Nowadays, when I venture to Fenway, my skinny jeans don’t hit the seat until sometime in the second or third inning. Large portions of my time are dedicated to wandering around the concourse, seeking out the shortest line for an $8.50 plastic cup of Bud Light. I still do not sing during “Sweet Caroline,” but I go with people who do. 

The 16-year-old boy who could recite J.D. Drew’s OPS by memory would be crushed. I have turned into everything I used to hate. 

“Sweet Caroline” is disdained among self-proclaimed hardcore Red Sox fans and most media members. The song is lousy and overplayed, but more egregiously, it represents fair-weather fandom. Neil Diamond’s 1969 single has been a staple at Fenway Park for 16 years, and became synonymous with the Red Sox right around 2004, when they broke the curse and started selling those damn pink hats. (Three years later, they upped the ante with brown Coco Crisp shirts.)

The Boston Globe recently interviewed several Red Sox fans who expressed their disenchantment with the ubiquitous tune. One person even said he refuses to spend another dollar at Fenway until the song is scrapped. 

I used to feel a similar way. But then I went to a couple of games in college with people who weren’t Red Sox fans. I realized, as my eyes darted around the bleaches, that lots of the folks around me didn’t seem to care that much about baseball at all. They were too busy talking to each other or spilling beer on their shirts to notice whether the Red Sox had double-barreled action in the bullpen with two lefties and a righty due up next. 

Different people have fun in different ways, of course. For some, there is nothing better than keeping score and studying the infield alignment on each pitch. The average Red Sox ticket cost $57. It makes sense to want to see the action you’re paying for. 

But why get so angry about those who just want to stay for a few innings, scream while “Sweet Caroline” plays, and then go home? It’s like going to a sports bar to watch a game and complaining about the noise. 

Sports stadiums are not monasteries. They are entertainment venues where people go to eat, drink and enjoy the atmosphere. “Sweet Caroline” has become an indelible part of the Fenway experience. Yes, it’s cheesy, but almost every stadium gimmick is lame–– from Rene Rancourt’s fist pump to Gino dancing on the JumboTron. 

Unless you have great seats –– I’m talking courtside, front-row, 50-yard line, luxury box –– the viewing experience is better at home, anyway. There, you have access to high-definition replay, close-up angles and, most importantly, a bathroom without a line. 

If you want to watch the game without thrills or standing up while the doofus seated next to you shuffles his way to the concession stand, then stay on your couch. When you go to the game, you’re paying for the entire package. 

Most of the people who attend Red Sox games stand up and sing during “Sweet Caroline.” They put their arms around each other and blare out those awful lyrics. Those who don’t enjoy it appear to be in the vast minority. 

This is a losing war. “Sweet Caroline” is here to stay. Now relax, and make sure to time that bathroom trip properly so you don’t miss an entire inning.