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Hub expatriates declare allegiance to Red Sox Nation

DENVER - The signs on lampposts in downtown Denver declare: "Support a Sox Free City." But Colorado Rockies fans - and yes, Virginia, they do exist - realized yesterday that there was no stopping Red Sox fans from invading the plains east of the Rocky Mountains.

"Booooo," hollered Joe Young outside Coors Field yesterday as a pack of Red Sox fans strolled by.

Then, remembering his manners, Young, a tile setter in Denver, stopped booing, raised an apologetic hand to the Sox fans passing by, and added, "It's all good, brother," as if to welcome them.

But with Sox fans, no welcome is necessary. This is, after all, a business trip. Even for the kids.

"We're here to watch the World Series - my first one," said Chip Karlson, a 9-year-old Lowell, Mass., native now living in Omaha, whose family made the eight-hour drive to attend last night's game in Denver. "You know what I say to the kids at school? I was born a Red Sox fan and I'm going to be a Red Sox fan for the rest of my life."

The Karlson family's 533-mile journey across the flatlands of Nebraska is hardly the only epic trip made by Red Sox fans this weekend. They have come to Denver from the suburbs of Boston and the far reaches of the continent: from New Orleans and Seattle; Calgary, Canada; and Biddeford, Maine.

They have come with their Texas accents and their entire families, with tickets and without. It doesn't matter, said John Mann, a funeral director from Canaseraga, N.Y., desperately seeking tickets outside the stadium.

He drove a couple of thousand miles just to be there. And even though he knew there was a good chance he might end up watching the game in high definition at a sports bar on 16th Street, he said the trip was still worth the risk.

"I've always been a baseball fanatic," he said. "And this would be a dream come true to go to a World Series game."

But not every Sox fan crossed time zones to be in Denver for last night's game. Some didn't even leave the county. Red Sox Nation has roots just about everywhere these days. And that means Denver, too.

There was Storm Ireland, a Boston native and owner of the Pour House Pub, which he opened in downtown Denver five years ago, inspired by the Boston pub of the same name.

"We love the Rockies, but the Red Sox are in our blood," he said. "You're not a fan of the Red Sox; it's like they're your family."

And there was T. J. Green of Castle Rock, Colo., sitting at the bar at Spanky's Roadhouse near Denver University on Friday night, wearing his Red Sox cap and reminiscing about watching the 1986 World Series collapse with his father, a native of the Dorchester section of Boston. And then there was Spanky's owner, Steve Lemonidis, a Connecticut transplant and diehard Sox fan unable to stop himself from antagonizing his own customer base: Rockies fans.

"Hey guys," he said to one table of locals. "Is it Soxtober or Rocktober? I forget."

"Rocktober!" replied Randy Shires.

Briefly, a few began chanting "Let's go, Rockies." But it didn't last long and Lemonidis, 38, was not surprised. Rockies fans, he said, aren't like Red Sox fans. They aren't like him: a man so obsessed with all things Sox that he once had his favorite player's nickname and jersey number tattooed on his right bicep.

It says, "Rocket 21."

It is a rather ironic tattoo now, given that Roger Clemens hasn't pitched a game in a Red Sox uniform for more than a decade.

But Lemonidis said he never considered having the tattoo removed.

That is love. That is fanaticism. That is the sort of insanity on parade this weekend on the wide streets of Denver. And although Rockies fans may not fully understand it - not just yet - Joe Young said he does agree with Red Sox Nation on one matter of importance.

"I love watching the Yankees lose."

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