Not-So-Sweet Caroline

There’s the old adage that it if ain’t broke, don’t fix it, which makes sense in theory and is comforting to hear when things seemingly ain’t broke. And when applied to this historically good Red Sox team, it can be loosely translated as if you’re on pace to have the best season in franchise history, don’t make any drastic moves before the trade deadline. Because Cora’s Crew ain’t broke. Like, far from it. Like, really, really not broke. Sure, they could probably use another 8th inning arm. And sure, it’d be nice to have all five starters collectively healthy and acting like professionals at the same time (ie. not getting Tendinitis in their pitching hand from playing Fortnite). But the most glaringly broke part of the Sox isn’t what’s on the field but what’s coming out of the speakers in the middle of the 8th inning.

Sweet Caroline, folks, has soured. I’m not sure, actually, how sweet it ever was. At its best, it’s the perfectly sappy soundtrack for a first dance at a wedding for Some Guy and Caroline. At its worst, it’s a vapid and uninspired slog of a pop song whose chorus has the same bland themes of current Top 40 hits of feeling so good and enjoying those good times now and/or tonight with our hands in the air in unison with so good, so good, so good. (How good? SO good.) At it’s even worst, Sweet Caroline is a subtly or not-so-subtly creepy song about touching warm and touching you—where you is toddler Caroline Kennedy, and warm is an adjective we’re not going to address here.

It’s 2018, and Sweet Caroline has become an unbearably ill-fitting song for a team that’s so distinctly fresh and young.

It’s a team that’s made me really care about July baseball for the first time in 10 years. It’s a team with a Mookie so electric and purely fun—whose stats are, stunningly, dead-even with that guy Ken Griffey’s Jr.’s through 2,400 career at-bats—that even the most stubbornly past-clinging Sox fans have forgotten about the Other Mookie.

It’s a team that’s back brawling with the Yankees a la 2004, much to the approval of Yankee-brawl-enthusiast, Pedro Martinez:

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It’s a team whose players serve their suspensions while watching from the bleachers. 

It’s a team whose leading home-run hitter still studies all his practice cuts every day on an iPad, and you’d think—or at least hope—that that attention to detail would extend to the PA system for the middle of the 8th. When the Sox are winning? Sure, maybe, with enough Hahhhhpoon in the system. When they’re losing? The BA BA BAs become about as appealing as Bobby Valentine returning to the dugout (Not appealing!).

(the author and fellow underwhelmed fan, John Sanderson)

But what would replace it? Let’s sort through the two most worthy contenders to fill the custom two-minute-five-second break between innings:

1. Nothing! No music! No pumped-in theatrics into America’s (self-proclaimed) Most Beloved Ballpark! Just baseball chatter. The old-timey, curmudgeonly fan equivalent of Get Off My Lawn.

2. Boston – More Than A Feeling. I’ll give Sweet Caroline credit: the song’s slow-build works well as a stadium anthem, gradually ramping things up just in time for fans coming back to their seats from the pissah. Same goes for More Than A Feeling. It builds for 30 seconds. Then, as it approaches the first chorus, it steps on the gas with the weight of a Dustin Pedroia walking boot—a chorus whose lyrics are both appropriately meaningless and easily repeatable:

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)

When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)

I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)

’till I see Marianne walk away

I see my Marianne walkin’ away

2:05 in to the song—just as Dellin Betances might finish his warm-up tosses to Gary Sanchez in a few weeks—the more than a feeling line returns and is repeated and offers the ideal spot to fade-out just as a Mookie or a Benny struts up to the plate.

More Than A Feeling satisfies the four obvious requirements for a truly classic, truly insufferable Fenway sing-a-long, should such a sing-a-long need to exist: 1. The song would be by a band called Boston (No SHIT. Boston! We’re from theeeyaaah!). 2. The song would be by a band from Boston. (No SHIT. Boston! They’re from heeeeeah!). 3. The song, like Sweet Caroline, would reference a woman’s name that’s a farily-memorable-and-not a particuarly-popular female name 4. Lastly, and most crucially, More Than A Feeling is a Good Bad song. It’s not a Bad Good song. And it’s certainly not a Good Good song. It’s catchy. It’s dance-able. It’s scream-able. It’s upbeat and buoyant. You don’t quite listen to it ironically—but you’re also mildly ashamed when your headphones get yanked out of your phone on the T (say, last Tuesday at the Kendall Square stop, for instance, hypothetically…) to reveal to everyone sitting near you that Boston is, in fact, what’s playing.

There’s a time and place for most songs. I listen to Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones on days where I need a little extra OOPMH getting out of bed. I still to listen to Call Me Maybe while I’m brushing my teeth. I listen to We Didn’t Start The Fire if the construction across the street stops, and I need a comparable replacement for the ear-bleeding, jackhammer sound.

The time and place for this song is three hours into a game at Fenway that, if it was even possible, needs a little more Boston.

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