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Even in tough times, Red Sox are still a hit

Fans see ALCS as distraction from economic woes

Nicholas Steblenko (top left) of Potsdam, N.Y., and his aunt, Patricia Segerson of Shrewsbury, took a tour of Fenway Park yesterday. Above right: Billy Welch of Dracut, with his dog, Zoe, along with Paul Blaney think the Red Sox have a good chance to win the ALCS. ''Probably going to go seven games,'' Welch said. Nicholas Steblenko (top left) of Potsdam, N.Y., and his aunt, Patricia Segerson of Shrewsbury, took a tour of Fenway Park yesterday. Above right: Billy Welch of Dracut, with his dog, Zoe, along with Paul Blaney think the Red Sox have a good chance to win the ALCS. ''Probably going to go seven games,'' Welch said. (PHOTOS BY JOHN BOHN/GLOBE STAFF)
By Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / October 13, 2008
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When the Red Sox are up, it doesn't matter that the Dow is down.

This year, with stocks tumbling and the economy sinking, the team's playoff successes are more than just a welcome distraction, fans said yesterday. With each game day and every run batted in, worries about billion-dollar bailouts and shrinking investments, rising unemployment, and the coming winter take a back seat - at least for a few hours.

"You're waiting for every game. It keeps your mind off of things," Nora Brennan of North Attleboro said as she sat with her sisters on the grass at Castle Island in South Boston yesterday during a walk to benefit pancreatic cancer research. "I'm worried about paying the oil bill this year. It's scary. I'm a single mom. . . . Watching a Red Sox game you can just let all that go, enjoy watching them play."

But her sister, Catherine Davis of Dorchester, might have to watch a few more games from home. She prepared to buy a ticket the other day but decided it was too expensive.

"I was, like, 'I really can't do this,' " she said. "Any other time, I would have."

"Her financial adviser told her no more Red Sox tickets," Brennan confided.

A few yards away, friends Paul Blaney and Billy Welch - both in Red Sox caps, one blue, one red - debated the team's chances of winning the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which resumes this afternoon at Fenway Park.

"Probably going to go seven games, I think. Pretty evenly matched teams," said Welch, of Dracut. "We've got the better pitching staff with Jon Lester and Dice-K."

"I like the Red Sox's chances better than the market's - you can quote me on that," said Blaney, of Weymouth, adding that Sox games kept him from dwelling on the financial crisis and other worries. "The Red Sox aren't losing money anytime soon."

And it's those winning ways that are keeping fans going - even as they cringe while looking at their bank statements.

"This becomes a distraction - a happy distraction. It's a comfort," said Patricia Segerson, a Shrewsbury resident who was waiting on Yawkey Way for her nephew and his family, visiting from New York state, to finish a tour of Fenway Park. Segerson said she has lost about a year's worth of income from her savings as a result of the economic crisis.

Meanwhile, the gloomy market has her nephew, Nick Steblenko, worried about finding a job after college. Sox games, the diehard 21-year-old fan said, relieve that stress. Usually, Steblenko said, he is too busy screaming at the action on TV or dissecting plays by phone or text message with his best friend to worry.

"It gives you something else to focus your attention on. When you watch the news, it's all negative and relating back to the Great Depression," Steblenko said. "But then you can watch something like the Red Sox."

Across the street, Joan Jensema of McHenry, Ill., sat with her parents waiting to take the Fenway tour. Jensema's mother watched part of Game 2, which went into the early hours of yesterday morning, cheering for the Rays.

"I guess it goes with our country. Americans, we're baseball people," her mother, Marlys, said.

"I think you live through them vicariously," Joan Jensema said, referring to the players. "It doesn't matter where you are on the [economic] scale. Everybody is cheering."

Of course, in Boston, most like to cheer the Sox.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino called the team a "bright spot" in these tough times where "everything is a better bet than the stock market."

"When the Red Sox are winning, the city feels much different," he said. "This is Red Sox Nation, and the city comes alive."

The Sox were on the mind of Bill Curtis, a.k.a. "Big Bill from the Hill," yesterday as he watched a Columbus Day parade in East Boston. Decked out in a Sox shirt and World Series 2007 cap, he gestured with his red plastic cup full of beer while talking about the Game 2 loss.

"It killed me, I almost cried," said Curtis. But, win or lose, he said, games give him and other fans a chance to escape from their daily lives for a bit.

"If a guy is foreclosing his house and he turns on the TV [at game time], he's not thinking about that. He's thinking, 'Hey, let my team win.' But he's also thinking, 'Hey, I wish I was getting this guy's salary,' " Curtis said, adding, "I want, oh, Dice-K's - are you kidding me? Just a portion. I'm not looking to be greedy."

Globe correspondent John Guilfoil contributed to this report. Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com.

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