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BRIAN MCGRORY

Heeding the faithful

Johnny from Burger King? Yes, that's who Keith Foulke apparently sees when he looks at the 35,000 screaming, clapping, occasionally booing fans who gather for every game at Fenway Park as if it's a revival meeting.

Johnny from Burger King. As if they're beneath him, with their unglamorous jobs and their minuscule paychecks, living their inglorious lives. Who are they to sit in judgment of a multimillionaire Major League Baseball all-star like him?

Well, before Foulke does something so stupid as run off at the mouth again about ''Johnny from Burger King" booing him, he might want to understand a few things about all those people who are paying his $7 million-a-year salary.

He might want to know that at any given game, many of those people rode hours to Boston on malodorous buses or drove in rickety cars from the far reaches of Massachusetts and the hinterlands of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to bask in the experience of Fenway Park.

They will arrive home exhausted in the middle of the night, toting bags crammed with souvenirs and with their heads full of stories for family and friends about how the wall was every bit as high as imagined, about how the grass was even more lush than it looks on television, about how the stands were so close to the players that you felt as if you could reach out and shake their hands.

He might want to know that there are starry-eyed kids in the crowd in crooked baseball caps and oiled mitts who are attending their first game. There are old men and women on hand who are probably attending their last. There are successful people, sick people, upbeat people, depressed people, all of them looking for a few hours' respite from the burdens and the pitfalls, the relentless challenges, and the unending ordinariness of their everyday lives.

Do some of them work at Burger King? You bet -- and McDonald's, Wendy's, and Taco Bell, as well. They are factory workers, truck drivers, bartenders, and janitors, mixed among downtown lawyers, money managers, and business moguls.

Many of them have something else in common. The $45 grandstand ticket and the $75 box seat is probably more money than they can realistically afford. Yet they pay it anyway, scrimping and saving or loading it on an already-groaning credit card because the singular pleasure of seeing the world championship team in the best park in baseball is more than they can let pass by. For that, they are decidedly unashamed.

Foulke might want to know that when fans pay as much as they do, they have the right to high expectations, not to mention self-expression: good and bad. They are involved in a pact with the team that began long before Foulke arrived and will continue long after he is gone: Spectators will pay big money to watch a club that contends for the pennant, and they appreciate all the more the players who appreciate them in return.

He should understand that Jason Varitek will probably never be booed at Fenway Park. Neither will Trot Nixon. Fans will suffer with them through slumps and sit on their hands during their occasional errors because they are players who leave their guts and their souls on the field every game and wouldn't even consider talking about how their favorite part about baseball is the days they get paid, as Foulke recently did.

He should know that these fans remember. They remember the good, such as Foulke's unbeatable performance during the playoffs and World Series last year, which is why they've given him so much string during one miserable outing after another in 2005. They remember the bad, such as the boneheaded quote about wanting another free truck to talk to the news media. He's not going to get a lot of slack for that.

Foulke ought to know that it's the fans, every bit as much as the players, who make the Red Sox the storied club that they are and Fenway the mystical place that it is. He ought to embrace them, not insult them.

Maybe Johnny works at Burger King. So what?

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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