Friday, March 04, 2005

The Red Sox, the White House & Me


So I'm kickin' it on the South Lawn of the White House watching the President honor the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox ... what? What's that? How the hell did I, a guy with no visible skills, redeeming qualities, or important contacts get to attend such an historic event? Two words: sheer luck.

Honestly, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time; and given that I live in DC, once I found out I had the chance to go, it was a no-brainer. At least in theory.

For me, the festivities started around 2pm as I lined up (behind what must have been a crowd that already numbered 300-400 people) outside the White House waiting for the gates to open at 2:15pm for a ceremony slated to start around 3:30pm. As I waited to get in, it soon dawned on me that I would be battling other fans for prime rope line viewing space since it looked like every person who'd ever claimed to be a Red Sox fan was standing in line in front of me. Luckily, by 2:35 I was on the grounds, and better yet, I had a clear view of the stage. Of course I was near the back of the rope line, but it really didn't make any difference as long as I had a clear view of the proceedings.

Well, as 2:35 turned into 2:45 which turned into 3:00, it became clear that my little patch of Red Sox viewing real estate was basically swamp land. First, I was standing about two feet from the sound guys, who were immediately next to an entire bleacher full of cameramen and reporters (I'd like to clear something up about "cameramen." Actually, some large subset of them were women. And most of them were pretty good looking at that -- at least better looking than the typical image the word "cameraman" conjures. But I digress ... ). By 3:10pm so many people (mostly media types) had made their way between me and the stage, that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to see anything. And I haven't even mentioned that it must have been a balmy 20 degrees with winds whipping around at 20-30 mph. It reminded me of a summer's day at the beach without the summer or beach parts. Just the day part ... but really, really, really cold ... and everyone was wearing some combination of suits and Red Sox gear. Other than that, it was just like the beach.

If I had to equate my view to one that I've had quite a few times at Fenway, it's without a doubt the view from the last row of the centerfield bleachers right below the scoreboard. One newspaper reported that there were roughly 1,000 people in attendance. If I had to guess, on the "how important are you" scale, I'm pretty sure I was brining up the rear. It was either me or the guy with the "I Love Millar" shirt. Still, at that moment, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

Anyway, by 3:20 the Red Sox made their way out of the White House and onto the stage. While the Sox waited for the President, the requisite Red Sox cheers broke out (I was waiting for the inevitable "Yankees Suck," but surprisingly it never materialized), and it had all the feel of a game at Fenway sans the drunk townie and the Amarak guy beaning you with an errant bag of peanuts.

Earlier in the day, here's what I read in the Boston Herald:
"Kevin could be in trouble," Nixon said of the anticipated meeting between Bush and, in particular, Millar. "He could get shot."
While I didn't want Millar to get shot, I was secretly hoping that maybe the Secret Service could arrest him for the season; or at least the first few months of the season. But no such luck -- he was surprisingly, very well-behaved.

Anyway, here are some other random thoughts I had as I watched the Sox honored as World Series Champs for the first time in 86 years:

... Despite not hearing any anti-Yankee sentiments, one old codger did bust out the "A-Rod & Jeter: Wish You Were Here" poster and proudly displayed it for the television cameras. Personally I thought this was a little weird, but hey, I was the guy holding the "Cesar Crespo, You're My Hero!" sign, so what do I know.

... Speaking of Crespo, I saw more of that guy in the two hours I was at the White House on Wednesday than I saw of him during the entire 2004 season. At least I think that was Crespo up there.

... When the President started the ceremony, he recognized Bud Selig as one of the distinguished guests. It was a little awkward since Selig was in the middle of trying to sell Tom Menino (who was sitting next to him) a used car.

... Most of the players wore dark suits for the ceremony ... except for Johnny Damon. He opted to wear his Niles Crane circa 1996, UPS-brown Sunday suit. He looked like the kid you invariably see at some wedding who looks like he'll grow into his suit in about 15 years.

... And then there was Mike Timlin. He wore a white shirt with a black leather jacket. I can only guess he met the rest of the team at the White House gates after taking in a morning at the Harley-Davidson convention.

... Mark Bellhorn's mullet is much, much worse when he's wearing a suit. I think he'd benefit from a hair net in such situations.

... Of course, given that I was about 100 feet from the action, and had about 1,000 people between me and the stage, you'd probably wonder how I could see any of what was going on. Well, thanks to my keen photography skills (read: stand on tiptoes, arm outstretched and randomly snapping pictures in the general direction of the Red Sox), and cat-like reflexes, I was able to snap these gems:

Here you can clearly see the Sox on stage waiting for the President. At least I think these are the Red Sox (there so far away it's hard to tell). Oh yeah, there's Millar's frosted mullet (center), Timlin's biker outfit (front left) and Jason Varitek with the Vice President's jersey (front right, holding the red jersey). And that big head you see in the foreground right in the middle of my shot? It's this guy. And yes I'm serious. You think I'm kidding? Check this out:

Yep. I went to a Red Sox rally and I came away with some primo shots of CNN's White House correspondent. Unfortunately, I had trouble navigating around John King's melon and consequently most of the 25 pictures I took had a King sighting. But given that this was a ceremony honoring the 2004 World Series Champs, I don't care if I ended up with 25 pictures of Larry King. It was a really cool experience, and I'm glad I was there ... even if Millar didn't get arrested.

And who knows, maybe I'll get a chance to come back next year.