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Pink hats are the illegal immigrants of Fenway Park, and some Sox fans are starting to act like Arizona law enforcement officers.
It’s easy to see why longtime fans resent the newcomers to Kenmore Square. Bleacher seats are hard to come by these days, and if anyone deserves them it’s the tried-and-true fan, whose blue hat with a red “B” is so old that it’s faded to gray and, though I hate to say it, pink; the fans who watched the Sox come this close more times than they can remember, who might have cried a bit when they watched their boys finally win it all in 2004, and who think the only person who should wear green on the field is the Monster.
They’ve put in their time, they’ve paid their dues, and now they deserve a long and happy retirement, complete with a pension plan that includes lifetime season tickets and admission to all home playoff games.
But Fenway ushers don’t ask to see documentation of team loyalty, and though there’d probably be fewer pink hats dotting the stadium if they did, there would be just as many fair-weather fans sitting in the stands and wearing the blue-and-red standard in effort to blend in and avoid interrogation. Not that they aren’t wearing the red “B” already.
No one asks to see your papers when you try to buy a hat on Yawkey Way. Consider my roommate, who wears the classic regalia even though isn’t quite sure whether or not the Red Sox play baseball. She’s who everyone’s talking about when they curse the Pink Hats, but she doesn’t fit the headwear profile so no one’s asking any questions.
She certainly didn’t hurt the team when she decided to hand over thirty dollars in the team shop so she could look like a fan. What too many Red Sox fans fail to consider is that pink hats are an indicator of long-term success. It’s cool to be a fan, which means that the city is taking pride in the team and the Red Sox don’t have to depend on the old-timers for ticket sales and television ratings. There hasn’t been an unsold ticket to a home game since 2002, despite some of the worst economic times since Fenway opened, and for that we’ve got to thank the same people that wear the pink hats everyone loves to hate.
Some of the newcomers might let go when they graduate and move back to the Midwest or the Sox hit a rough patch, but plenty of them will stick around, addicted to the high they got that first time they watched Josh Beckett school a batter with a fastball. They aren’t native-born Sox fans, but they paid their taxes when they bought the hat and they’re taking the steps necessary to become naturalized.
A pink hat might be annoying and stupid-looking, but underneath it is a person who has a Red Sox Nation green card. Maybe you wish they spoke your language, and maybe you wish they’d stop buying up your hard-earned seats, but give them a chance and maybe one day they’ll pass the citizenship test.