We love baseball. We love the Red Sox. Nothing else explains the wonderful, wacky reception the Sox received Monday in their 113th home opener, a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
You can insult the fandom. You can treat people as if they are imbeciles and win 69 games. You can produce the worst season in a generation (47 years). You can offend the sensibilities of smart people. It doesn’t matter. Give us a shred of hope and we are hooked.
The woebegone Red Sox are 5-2 and in sole possession of first place in the American League East. So now it looks like the pennant. Print the World Series tickets. And should the World Series reception be held at the JFK Library or the Museum of Fine Arts?
“This is a Red Sox town,’’ said Boston’s outgoing mayor, Thomas Menino, as he patrolled Level 3 behind home plate in the early innings. “Boston fans love the team. They are going to follow the team. We’re going to follow this team to a rolling rally in October.
“The Red Sox are part of the DNA of Boston. We always come back. We love the team.’’
We always come back.
There it is. We have an aging rock star mayor who is bowing out, and he knows that the Red Sox are eternal. The Sox haven’t been this bad (69 wins in 2012) since the John Collins administration (1965), but longtime Mayor Menino knows they forever are the ticket.
It is in the blood. It is part of the double helix of growing up in Boston. Sox fans are always ready for the next good thing. Just give us some crumbs. Just give us a reason to believe.
The Sox were low-key for their 102d Fenway opener. There was none of the pomp and grandiosity of 2011 and 2012. The pregame ceremony was decidedly respectful and muted. It was a celebration of the 60-year partnership between the ball club and the Jimmy Fund. While “We Are The Champions” blared over the speaker system, Sox greats from the last 60 years came out from the Wall with Jimmy Fund patients of the last six decades.
Lisa Scherber, who has been the “play lady” (officially, she is director of patient and family programs) at the Jimmy Fund clinic for 21 years, walked on the Fenway lawn with an 8-year-old leukemia patient who was flanked by Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.
“It was so cool,’’ said Scherber. “To acknowledge this 8-year-old, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, is enormous. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. His mom was crying. She was so filled with joy.
“The partnership with the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund is kind of like a marriage. I’ve been there over 20 years. I’ve watched it develop into something strong. There’s nothing else like it. No other sports organization has this kind of commitment. Watching it grow and seeing how easy it is to make things happen is really special.
“What the Red Sox do for us truly changed the patients’ lives. When everyone is down on the Red Sox, I really don’t care. In the game of life, most of the players are doing the right things. They have a gift they can give back, and when they do that, it is amazing.’’
When the Sox are winning games, the rest is easy. Monday at the yard was special. Hungry hardball fans poured into Fenway, many eager to see wunderkind Jackie Bradley Jr.
JBJ left tickets for Jackie Bradley Sr. and did right by all the cameras, but he was not in the lineup. His .143 batting average and his status as a lefthanded hitter banished him to the shelf, much to the dismay of a lot of 11-year-old fans wanting to see the Next Great Thing.
In Bradley’s place, new Sox manager John Farrell penciled in the name of Daniel Nava — a career minor leaguer who might be bagging groceries if he hadn’t clung to the big league dream.
Nava is Everyman, a 30-year-old, 5-foot-11-inch lifer who has 152 major league games on his six-year professional résumé.
Batting with runners on second and third and one out in a 0-0 game in the bottom of the seventh, Nava turned on a 1-and-1 pitch and drove it over the Wall in left to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. It was his ninth big league homer.
“Every night someone else has to step up,’’ said new outfielder Shane Victorino.
“It’s good when you win,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “The fans were awesome. It’s good to be back home. Hopefully we can continue to build and mold this team together like we want to.’’
The Red Sox are 5-2, in sole possession of first place. We don’t hate them. The outgoing mayor is saying good things and the Sox are doing right by the Jimmy Fund.
We love baseball. We always come back.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.