With each passing day in August, the Red Sox are maintaining hope that the post-season is within reach. These past few games have directly pulled the Sox back from the brink and into the AL East race, as they defeated the New York Yankees on Monday afternoon and pulled-off a 2nd straight win in Toronto on Tuesday night to climb within 5 games of the division (thanks to a late inning Yankees loss on Tuesday). The Rays won on Tuesday and maintained a 4.5 game lead in the AL Wild Card chase, but the Yankee losses are allowing the top 3 in the AL East to shrink back up and make these last several weeks of the season a potential 3-way race for the division, not just the Wild Card. The Red Sox can only worry about themselves and winning each night, but the fans, players and management have surely turned into scoreboard watchers as each day passes.
The sport of scoreboard watching only applies to a certain group of fans each season. In order to be a scoreboard watcher, your team has to be in a tight race and with a chance to make a comeback or with a team nipping on their heels. The Red Sox fit both of those categories this year. The Sox are within 5 games in their division and 4.5 out of the Wild Card, while they also are looking behind them, as the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have been duking it out for the AL Central lead and being a game or two behind in 3rd place in the AL Wild Card race. The Sox are also in a position of watching both the Rays and the Yankees, as each decision for either team has a huge direct impact on the club. Having to watch up to 4 different game scores each day can be time-consuming.
I have always considered scoreboard watching a full-time sport at certain times of the year. Being a fairly well-rounded sports fan, I need to scoreboard watch during football (college and pro), basketball (college and pro) and baseball season, reducing my overall free time to do nothing. The obsession with scoreboard watching impacts other pieces of my life as well. A perfect example is Monday night. A bunch of us are at a concert in Boston and although the Sox had already taken care of business that afternoon against the Yankees, I spent a good portion of the evening checking in on the Rays/Tigers game, hoping that the Tigers would all of a sudden bring Magglio Ordonez back 6 weeks early from a broken ankle and beat the Rays. In someways, scoreboard watching can be more obsessive and more nerve-racking than even the Sox games themselves.
Now I do understand that not everyone is as nutty as I am, because then this world would be a ridiculous place to live, but I find even more casual fans tend to take a closer look at the out-of-town scoreboard this time of year. Maybe they don’t check their smartphone or computer every 10 minutes like some of us, but a glance at the scores on occasion becomes the norm rather than the exception when the post-season battles get heated. Being a sociology person, I am always fascinated by human behavior and how a community develops a certain practice of keeping each other informed about things like sports standings. Being the token obsessive sports fan in my office, people come to me with questions and commentary on occasion, but it seems now they stop by my desk on a daily basis and I am being asked about how the Rays did the night before.
Although the person coming to me with a sports question is not technically scoreboard watching by my arbitrary definition, they are indirectly doing so through me. Instead of doing the work of typing ‘baseball standings’ into Google themselves, they are coming to me for the information. Baseball in Boston is such a large piece of the cultural identity that even a non-sports fan who won’t watch a Sox game all season are curious about the standings and the team’s chance at the playoffs. Having grown up outside of Massachusetts in a state without a real professional sports identity, this concept is still funny for me to witness, but is also what makes the sport of baseball here so incredible. Sports aren’t just ingrained in the social fabric of Boston, they are the social fabric of Boston.
Knowing the Red Sox like I do, this is only the beginning of either bitter heartbreak or unbelievable joy, but nothing in between. The culture of scoreboard watching and obsessing over each result magnifies both the good and bad. For those who are not sports fans from a city like Boston, it is near impossible to understand why fans take losses so badly or why it effects them so much. It’s because a sport like baseball is more than just used as entertainment, it is a representative of the place you know and love and a loss feels like an insult to your city and home. On the other hand, when the Sox win a big late-season or post-season game, the feeling of joy is wonderfully amplified and shared by thousands of people.
Needless to say, if you need to find me over the next month and a half, I will likely have my face buried in an electronic devise on either RedSox.com or MLB.com checking in on the latest scores from around the league. I can just hear my friends now saying, ‘And that’s different from every other month of the baseball season how?’ My friends may be right that I always have my face buried in an electronic devise looking at sports related-content, but now I at least have an excuse to be checking the scores every 5 minutes, don’t I?