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Fenway Park: Small, Uncomfortable, Expensive, And Fantastic

Fenway Park kind of sucks. Cramped seats, the pervasive (and oddly fishy) smell of Fenway Franks, high prices, often dilapidated facilities, and whole sections that have seats pointing to right field instead of home plate all go to create a ballpark which should have fans demanding something new. And this is after renovations!

But I, and thousands of other Red Sox fans, would have it no other way.

Matt P. from the Phillies blog The 700 Level perhaps put it best:

It's not often you can walk out of a stadium in another city and say, "Those were probably the worst seats I've ever had, and among the worst Phillies efforts I've ever seen," while still feeling like you'd had a great time at the ballpark.

Matt experienced the same things we all do. He sat in the right field box seats, the occasional harassment as a Phillies fan (though, as he experiences, things are usually pretty mellow so long as you're not a Yankees fan), the overabundance of food vendors, and the admittedly significant number of fairweather and non-fans more interested in being at the game than the actual game. Reading the actual article aside from the intro and conclusion, one might be expecting him to quarantine the place. And yet, it receives a positive review.

Maybe it's because you go there and can feel the history. Carl Yastrzemski playing the Green Monster, Pesky hitting one of his very few just barely around the pole that now bears his name, or the red seat where Teddy Ballgame's bomb landed. But there's more to it than that.

The lack of foul territory brings the seats and the fans into close quarters with the players. The cramped and crowded conditions make it a wall of fans instead of a wall of seats separating you from the field, closing the distance even further regardless of how many rows back you're sitting. The park is filled with landmarks and quirks big and small above any other park in the country, making the Fenway experience unique above the newer parks that either follow cookie cutter blueprints, or the "retro" parks that seek to reclaim the magic that Fenway inherently has.

Fenway breeds loyalty somehow, perhaps because it's an experience that's just not available anywhere else. Would the Boston fanbase be so rabid if the Red Sox played in a Tropicana or U.S. Cellular field? I haven't been around long enough to remember a relatively empty Fenway. The Red Sox haven't been below the average American League attendance since 1997, and I was too young back then for anything outside of Mo Vaughn or Nomar, much less the fullness of the park, to seem important. But I have to wonder how much of a difference it would have made. Do the fans make Fenway Park, or does Fenway Park make the fans?