Standing in the Penumbra of Celebrity

Portland Sea Dogs TicketI’ve written before about The Grateful Dads, the quartet in which I sing lead. Once every summer we sing the National Anthem at a Sea Dogs game. The Sea Dogs, our local AA baseball team, are affiliated with the Boston Red Sox and part and parcel of the almost mystical fan alliance known as Red Sox Nation.

We’ve been singing for the Sea Dogs for about 10 years. The best part of it has always been the chance to sing through the ballpark’s astonishing sound system. It’s the only time four guys, at least these particular four guys, can make that much sound. And since it’s the National Anthem, we get, by definition, a standing ovation every time.

Big PapiLast night, however, was different from all our other experiences with the Sea Dogs. You need to know by way of background that Red Sox superstar David “Big Papi” Ortiz has been out of the game with a wrist injury for several weeks. As part of his rehabilitation plan, and just before returning to the active roster of the Red Sox, he has been appearing with Red Sox affiliates. Last night he suited up in a Sea Dogs uniform as “designated hitter.” According to local news broadcasts after the game, there were people in the stands who had paid as much as $600 apiece for tickets to the sold-out game. They were there to see Big Papi in their hometown.

The enthusiasm, some might say the fanaticism, of Red Sox Nation fans is something that often catches baseball fans from other parts of the country by surprise. And so it was last night.

When we went onto the field to sing, we saw that every seat in the park was filled. The excitement was infectious. When we were done singing, a cheer went up from the crowd such as we had never heard before. I didn’t think too much about it as we left the field, of course, because I knew the cheer was for Big Papi, not for us four old farts in blue blazers.

But then something we had never experienced before began to happen. As we moved toward our seats for the game, people began to smile at us and praise us. More than a few actually reached out and touched our sleeves as we walked past. When the game was over and we were leaving the park, the whole thing started again. Somehow, in that super-charged atmosphere, Big Papi’s celebrity made everyone a star. It was more than a little unsettling, but also a lot of fun.

If it happened all the time, however, it could certainly be hazardous and might do for the soul what a diet of Mountain Dew and Twinkies would do for the body. Big Papi seems to be at ease with celebrity, but there is skill and self-discipline involved that many celebs just can’t muster or maintain. I had a good time last night, but I woke up this morning just a little more sympathetic to those who are destroyed by their own success.

2 Replies to “Standing in the Penumbra of Celebrity”

  1. Penumbra? Better to be able to use such a $10 word than be a rock star! Still…did you meet him?

  2. Got to within 20 feet of him after we sang and were leaving the field through a gate beside the bullpen. The guy is big!

    I dragged the word “penumbra” home from law school. Something about it appeals to judges. They have used it (try to stay with me here) for precise description of legal uncertainty, most especially in connection with First Amendment rights.

    That alone should have been enough to show me that law school was the wrong place for me.

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