A fan's notes for the ages, Faithful grew from an email exchange last summer. Filled with the heady mix of exhilaration and frustration familiar to all Boston Red Sox fans, Stewart O'Nan fired off a note to fellow Sox fan, Stephen King, who responded with his thoughts on Pedro, Nomar, Manny, Mueller, and Theo. From the supposed Curse of the Bambino to f###in' Bucky Dent to the recent off-season battle for Alex Rodriguez, Sox fans have seen it all since 1918...except for that elusive World Championship. Baseball history has transformed these fans into a "nation" -- not to mention the most dedicated, knowledgeable fanbase on the planet. Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King, proud members of Red Sox Nation, will chronicle the 2004 baseball season from spring training to the last game of the season -- the important plays, the controversial managerial decisions, the significant front office moves, and the spectacular finish (whether heartbreaking or joyous). Attending games together, keeping a running diary of observations and arguments, and occasionally evoking great or tragic events in Red Sox history. King and O'Nan will cheer on their beloved team with the eternal hope that this just might be the year. If you don't have season ticket box seats right behind the firstbase dugout, you can't beat Faithful.
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December 01, 2004
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Excerpt from Faithful by Stewart O'Nan
Opening Day: Notes on Addiction
I've written about substance abuse a good many times, and see no need to rehash all that in a book about baseball ' but because this also happens to be a book about rooting, the subject at least has to be mentioned, it seems to me. These are a fan's notes, after all, and when used in the context of rooting, the word fan ain't short for fantastic.
I don't booze it up anymore, and I don't take the mind- or mood-altering drugs, but over a good many years of staying away from those things one day at a time, I've come to a more global view of addiction. Sometimes I think of it as the Lump in the Sofa Cushion Theory of Addiction. This theory states that addiction to booze or dope is like a lump in a sofa cushion. You can push it down ' but it will only pop up somewhere else. Thus a woman who quits drinking may start smoking again. A guy who quits the glass pipe may rediscover his sex drive and become a serial womanizer. A gal who quits drinking and drugging may put Twinkies and strawberry ice cream in their place, thus adding forty or fifty pounds before putting on the brakes.
Hey, I've been lucky. No sex issues, no gambling issues, moderate food issues. I do, however, have a serious problem with the Boston Red Sox, and have ever since they came so damned close to winning the whole thing in '67. Before then, I was what you might call a recreational Red Sox user. Since then I've been a full-blown junkie, wearing my hat with the scarlet B on the front for six months straight and suffering a serious case of hat-head while I obsess over the box scores. I check the Boston Red Sox official website, and all the unofficial ones as well (most of them fucking dire); I scoff at the so-called Curse of the Bambino, believing completely in my heart even though I know it is the bullshit creation of one talented and ambitious sportswriter.
Worst of all, during the season I become as much a slave to my TV and radio as any addict ever was to his spike. I have been asked by several people if working on this book is a hardship, given the fact that I have two other books coming out this year (the final novels in the Dark Tower cycle), a television series still in production (that would be Kingdom Hospital on ABC, the Detroit Tigers of network broadcasting), and a half-finished new novel sitting on my desk. The answer is no ' it's not a hardship but a relief. I would either be sitting at Fenway or in my living room with the TV tuned to NESN (the New England Sports Network, the regional pusher that services addicts like me) in any case; this book legitimizes my obsession and allows me to indulge it to an even greater degree. In the language of addiction, the book's publisher has become my enabler and my colleague, Stewart O'Nan, is my codependent.
Now, nine hours before Sidney Ponson of the Orioles throws his first pitch to the first Red Sox batter of the season, I can look at my situation coldly and clearly: I am a baseball junkie, pure and simple. Or perhaps it's even more specific than that. Perhaps I'm a Red Sox junkie, pure and simple. I'm hoping it's choice B, actually. If it is, and the Sox win the World Series this year, this nearly forty-year obsession of mine may break like a long-term (very long-term) malarial fever. Certainly this team has the tools, but Red Sox fans do not need the bad mojo of some false "curse" to appreciate the odd clouds of bad luck that often gather around teams that seem statistically blessed. Outfitted in the off-season with strong pitching and defense to go with their formidable hitting, the Sox suddenly find themselves short two of their most capable players: Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon. 2003 batting champ Bill Mueller, suffering supposed elbow problems (from swinging a leaded bat in the on-deck circle ' I wonder), has seen little spring training action. And Cadillac closer Keith Foulke has been, let's face it, nothing short of horrible.