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Lunch » Tags » Book » Reviews » Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Stewart O'Nan

Fans watching the 2004 baseball playoffs were often treated to shots of Stephen King sitting in the stands, notebook in hand. Given the bizarre events on the field, from the Red Sox's unprecedented comeback against their most hated rivals to their ace … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Stewart O'Nan
Publisher: Scribner
1 review about Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans...

By the Faithful, For the Faithful

  • Feb 1, 2005
Rating:
+3
Frankly, I read "Faithful" because I'm a diehard Stephen King fan, and I tend to follow all his work the way he follows the Red Sox. I trumpet his successes to anyone who will listen, and I look at his failures as an opportunity to do better next time. While I like the way King writes about baseball (most especially in his wonderful short story "Head Down"), I'm not particularly a baseball fan myself, and this is definitely a book by baseball fans, for baseball fans. More specifically, it's a book by Red Sox fans, for Red Sox fans.

King pretty much nails the structure of this book in the early pages, when he describes the differences between his writing style and that of his partner, Stewart O'Nan. "Do I need to bother with all this in-game detail?" King asks himself at one point. "Probably not; O'Nan will have it." And later, King expands a little bit on this: "Stewart's the brains of the operation, no doubt. He knows where all the fielders are playing at any given time, and who'll be covering second...in any given situation. I'm more of a from-the-gut kind of guy."

And indeed, King is absolutely right. Stewart O'Nan's contributions to "Faithful" outnumber King's (in a very rough estimate) by about two-to-one. O'Nan's portions often read like a play-by-play calling of key games, with a healthy dose of baseball stats thrown in for good measure. He definitely takes his baseball pretty seriously. He also is a huge fan, and he comes at this book from that perspective; that of a devoted fan who loves the game right down to the nitty-gritty of it.

King is no less a devoted fan, but his contributions are less detailed. His musings in the book can wander from the legendary "Curse of the Bambino" to the events of last night's nail-biter to the unfortunate treatment of the Red Sox by the press without much difficulty, and only rarely does King delve into the land of statistics.

It makes for an interesting balance: two skilled writers, both looking at the same baseball team during the same season and keeping their fan diaries in their own way. Neither contribution is less meaningful than the other; O'Nan's portions form the meat of the book, while King's provide much of the garnish. Both are key to expressing the fan's perspective.

For myself, I enjoyed the personal touches more than I got into the play-by-play. Some of this may be due to the fact that I already knew how the season ended (does anyone NOT know?), so I was less interested in the games themselves and more interested in the things that happened uniquely to O'Nan and King in their pursuit of capturing the fan's perspective. For example, O'Nan made a habit of going to batting practice prior to most of the home games, and in a few memorably funny passages he brought a big fishing net to help him catch the fly balls. I'm still uncertain whether this did him more harm than good, but the image sticks out in my mind. Another good moment for O'Nan was on the night when John Kerry (yes, that one) threw out the first pitch for a home game, and O'Nan was throwing balls back and forth with him, getting his signature for himself and another fan. These are the things that make baseball interesting to me -- the camaraderie, and the way it brings people together.

King had some of those moments as well, though he had the distinction of being both a local celebrity and a devoted fan, and the book captures both sides. We get the absolutely thrilling description of King throwing out the first pitch of a game, and then getting blamed by a local paper after the Sox lose that game. A few pages later, there's the humbling description of King in a hotel room, in his underwear, wearing a David Ortiz t-shirt and a Red Sox ball cap, watching the latest game on television. Now that's a true fan. And when the last game of the ALCS was over and the Sox had beaten the Yankees in a record-breaking comeback, we get the sour, departing Yankee fans sniping at both King and the Sox: "Red Sox suck, and you suck too, Steve." It didn't lessen his joy one bit...in fact, it probably magnified it. The burdens of celebrity.

I bought "Faithful" expecting something different than what it is. I suppose I was hoping for a longer version of "Head Down," that excellent King reflection on little-league baseball. Even so, I wasn't disappointed by the book at all. "Faithful" is just what it purports to be: an honest, personal account of two diehard fans during one season of one of the most infamous teams in baseball, a season that just happened to be the one where their faith and hope were finally rewarded. I came to understand the Red Sox and baseball in a way that I hadn't before, and while I don't think I'll ever appreciate it the way these guys do, I have certainly had my eyes opened a bit, and that's always a good thing. "Faithful" is a light, enjoyable read about one of America's most enduring pastimes, and what makes it so special for the devotees who stick with it year after year.

Keep the faith, lads. Because that's what you do.

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