Friday, March 29, 2013

What’s Wrong With Sweet Caroline?


This week the Red Sox announced a few “fan friendly” changes they were making to the Park’s operation in April. Some game times were being moved up to stay out of the coldest part of the night, and some discounts on concessions were put into effect. That has changed some of the discussion from the EEIdiots to other fan activities, specifically the singing of Sweet Caroline. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the song bad-mouthed. Usually, it’s lumped into a tirade from “real fans” about the “pink hat wearing, Sweet Caroline singing bandwagon jumpers.”

I just don’t get the angst.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t understand some in-game entertainment, and I’m generally not a fan of many others. When I go to Fenway, I’m there to watch a game. So, I don’t need my time filled with a lot of sound effects or gimmicks. I hated it when they used to have the girl in the mini-skirt run out and sweep the bases. It was tacky, and unnecessary. I hated it when they kept playing the video of Kevin Millar singing Born in the USA as a “Rally Karaoke Guy.” It was too staged. It annoys me when other teams have dot races on the scoreboard, or president races on the field. And, there’s certainly no place for “Let’s Make Some Noise!” announcements on the jumbotron.

But, Sweet Caroline isn’t like any of those. For one thing, it’s just a song. The Sox play lots of songs during breaks in play. This is just one that is a constant addition to the playlist. The most important thing though? This isn’t something the team did on purpose as a marketing gimmick. The Sox didn’t make an announcement one day that due to an arrangement with Neil Diamond and Fenway Records, the Sox would be playing this song during the eighth inning. They didn’t flash the lyrics up there and announce that we should all sing along. They simply played the song just like they play any number of other songs. The fans just happened to get behind this one. Sure, now the Sox have adopted it as a semi-anthem. And, they show the lyrics on the scoreboard. But, it didn’t start that way. It simply started as something fans enjoy doing. Which is how any good tradition starts. Like Thanksgiving, for instance. You can try to start a tradition by announcing that at halftime of the Detroit game, everyone will go out and play five minutes of touch football. But, that’s not what makes a tradition. A tradition would be if everyone just decided to have a game. Sure, after a few years you may start doing it just because that’s the tradition. But, it didn’t start like that. The same is true for Sweet Caroline.

One of the big complaints they were making abut the song is that they do it even if the Sox are losing. So? They sing Take me out to the Ballgame when the Sox are losing. Or God Bless America.  We’re not allowed to hear music when the Sox are losing? Why not? Should the fans just sit on their hands and look bored anytime the Sox are behind? What if it’s tied? Can they just play the song then, but no singing? Is there something wrong with fans working themselves into a lather before the Sox come to bat? Because, again, this is the fans doing it. There’s no announcement to stand up and sing. Is it different than fans starting a “Let’s go Sox!” chant? I don’t see how.

There are any number of things that the front office could do during the game that would annoy me. Just like the sweeping mini-skirt did.

Sweet Caroline isn’t one of them.

10 comments:

grahams said...

I personally don't like the song, but it does provide a perfect opportunity for a late-game bathroom run. If I time it right I can often get back before the first pitch of the inning.

I think the biggest complaint I hear about the song, though, is that there are so many people who stick around at the game JUST to make it to Sweet Caroline and then immediately leave. As someone who will never leave before the last out, I can understand this annoyance, but I don't care enough either way..

grahams said...

There is also a certain creepyness to the song, knowing it was inspired by Caroline Kennedy.... Lyrics like "warm touching warm" give me the heebie jeebies in that context..

Commishbob said...

Maybe they ought to play Bobby Womack's version. He really does it right.

Jere said...

"there are so many people who stick around at the game JUST to make it to Sweet Caroline and then immediately leave."

I go to 20 games a year and I've never seen anyone do this.

Jere said...

"it does provide a perfect opportunity for a late-game bathroom run."

You know, they don't give extra time in between innings just to play the song. It's the same length as any other inning break. This is probably yet another thing the media has led people to believe, that it's somehow wasting everyone's time because it's an "extra" thing. No. That distinction goes to God Bless America.

grahams said...

"You know, they don't give extra time in between innings just to play the song. It's the same length as any other inning break. "

I never said they did. The reason it's a great time to go to the bathroom is because everyone who is singing Sweet Caroline is not using the bathroom. So I can go down the stairs, rush to the bathroom, and often make it back up the stairs before the first pitch of the half without waiting in lines or slicing thru crowds.

I do ~15 games a year (almost all of which in Sec 36, fwiw) and people leave after Sweet Caroline all the time. In fact, not only have I seen people do so at almost every game i've attended, but I've even heard people talk about it "let's stick around until...".

I'm sure these people are the kinds of people that leave a game early to 'beat the traffic' and Sweet Caroline provides a convenient benchmark for when it's 'time to go', but for whatever reason, they leave.

Section 36 said...

Even if people are staying to hear the song, it's the eighth inning. It's not like they're taking off in the second inning because they played the song already. Nor, do I bet, are people sitting there for two hours, just to hear the song. If people are thinking, "well, it's the bottom of the seventh. We can leave now, or wait a half inning and hear Sweet Caroline." I'm OK with that.

The bigger issue, of course, is if you're at 15 games in Section 36 every year, where are your pictures and scorecards to submit for the blog?

grahams said...

For the most part I focus on watching the game, I don't take many photos... But at least one of mine is featured on the pix from 36 section.. ("2011 Home Opener view from Section 36 - Submitted by Sean"). I'll try to take one for the blog next week...

Wait.. Next week. It still hasn't registered that the season starts tomorrow!

Section 36 said...

Oh, in that case, Thanks!

srl said...

I think that the song has gotten stale. Yes, it started as a crowd participation thing that was cool but then management took it and drove it into the ground. It's like in Groundhog day when Bill Murray was trying so hard to impress the girl that it became phony and forced (and a little creepy). Now, the song caters to the people who go to the game and take pictures to post on their facebook pages but don't really pay attention to the games. I, for one, feel like it has run it's course (actually it did a few years ago) but Werner won't let it go so he can help create that Disney effect at Fenway.