Rooting For The Home Team — On The Home Computer

"Take me out to the ball game," people say. But even though we live in the Boston area, you won't find me and my family at Fenway for the Red Sox home opener.

We'll be gathered in the dark of the bedroom, around the computer, watching a strange animated web stream that rather euphemistically calls "Game Day."

It features the ghostly outline of a batter, who does not move, facing a pitcher, who is entirely invisible. Between them, the computer draws the arc of the pitches, play by play, coloring them green for balls, red for strikes.

It's as far from the experience of crowds and crackerjack as you can imagine. Still, it's free, which matters, especially now that the Red Sox broadcast exclusively on cable TV, which is not in our budget.

My sons Elliot and Ari love watching. When the words
"Home Run" scroll by, they jump up to do the wave and fall backward onto the bed. I feel bad, though. Shouldn't we be, you know, there? At Fenway? With this "Game Day" thing, we might as well be in Singapore.

I'm sensitive to this because I was born in Boston, and I told people I was from here my whole life, but I never lived here. I was a Navy brat. I lived in seven different states, 13 different houses, and 10 schools before I went off to college — in yet another state.

The only answers to, "Where are you from?" were, "Nowhere" — which was weird and demanded more conversation — "Here" — which was always a lie, wherever the place was — or "Boston," which I had no image of. Except, the Red Sox.

Then, I grew up. I had kids of my own. I leapt at the chance to move us all to Boston, partly, I admit, out of sentimental reasons. The Red Sox! I didn't stop to weigh the salary against the cost of living, or daycare, or Fenway.

It's the most expensive ballpark in the nation — an afternoon game running close to $150 for a family of four, even with the cheapest seats. We just can't afford it, mostly.

But one or two days a summer, we make our way down on the Green Line to Fenway, through the crowds, the tunnels, the gloom beneath the stands. We emerge into sunlight — blinking — and squeeze onto the bleachers among thousands of other sweating, cheering bodies.

We feel the air shake with the organ playing and, later, "Sweet Caroline." We lift ourselves up as part of a gigantic human wave.

And I look at my children and the blue cotton candy at the corners of their grins and I think, 'This is what it's all about.'

Commentator Greg Harris teaches writing at Harvard University.

This program aired on April 6, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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