YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif., - If you're ever attacked by a bear in Yosemite National Park, don't worry.
Chances are there's a Boston fan nearby who will have your back.
The mythology is that Boston fans are everywhere. The reality is much better. Spending three-plus days in America's third-oldest National Park reinforced the notion that nothing builds a sense of lasting community better than your favorite team.
Yosemite is overrun by tourists, rock climbers, hikers, nature lovers and day-trippers this time of year. Walk a mile in anyone's shoes and you'll hear Russian, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, English and American being spoken. The crowd is thinner than you might find at Disney World or Revere Beach, and we don't mean in terms of numbers, but rather girth. It may be the last great hope for the United State's long war against obesity, laziness and the aversion to motion.
You'll also see plenty of Red Sox and Bruins hats, not to mention a few Patriots t-shirts. There were no Brad Stevens' polos.
Dave grew up in Greater Boston but relocated to California. He proposed to his wife at Glacier Point. This pile of rocks sits 7,214 feet above sea level and offers a Bucket List view of Yosemite Valley and all points east, west and north.
"If she said no, I'd only have to take one step,"
Nine years after their wedding, Dave and Laura were spending a couple of days at Yosemite, escaping all that is Southern California, including the Red Sox abysmal performance in Anahiem during their West Coast road trip.
Dave was another face in the crowd at the Curry Village cafeteria Wednesday night eating pizza, but his yellow retro spoked "B" Bruins hat was a dead giveaway.
It was only the fifth Bruins or Red Sox hat of the day, not counting my tattered Red Sox lid.
Yosemite is the last place on earth where you might think about John Lackey, the Bruins' mirco collapse in Game 6 against Chicago or the Celtics' rebuilding efforts. But they were all dinner conversation topics in the shadow of Half Dome last week. The conversation wasn't much different than any you've heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub or WEEI in recent weeks. "Damn, how did they lose that game?" "Did they sign Rask?" (Yes, but we didn't know it yet). "Aaron Hernandez. WTF?" But they were fresh and refreshing after a few days in the woods.
The power of a worn out hat, that features a red "B" or spoked "B" proved again mightier than any social media site or trip planner. Two guys who didn't know either other existed a moment earlier spend 15 minutes talking like they grew up together. All because of a couple of hats.
Laura grew up on the West Coast. Her So-Cal roots were evident in her demeanor and appearance. This whole "Boston Nation" experience was nothing new.
"I don't get it, but it happens all the time. Whenever he's wearing a Red Sox or Bruins hat, he'll meet someone from Boston. Even here."
As we've written once before: "You can leave Boston, but Boston never leaves you."
Even in the middle of the Sierra-Nevada mountains.
The presence of Boston fans was much less of a surprise at O.co Coliseum in Oakland. The conductor of the BART train that stopped at the Coliseum/Airport stop at about 6:15 p.m. on Friday might as well have "Kenmore" when the train pulled into the station. This supposed earthquake-resistant train was full of baseball fans, at least half of whom were wearing their Yaz jerseys, Red Sox t-shirts or Pink Hats. The 25-minute ride from downtown San Francisco was highlighted by a discussion of the pros and cons of Fenway Park.
The ticket market was fairly soft, despite the proliferation of Red Sox fans. For $50, I ended up 14 rows off the field next to the A's bullpen.
Michael sat next to me wearing his Ted Williams retro-jersey. He was up from Los Angeles for the weekend. His nephew was going to join him Saturday and Sunday.
"Grew up in Boston. My ex-wife was a Yankees fan," he said.
"That's why she's your ex-wife," I added.
Slow, hanging curveball.
Perhaps the most amazing part of this trip that took my wife and me to the vineyards of Napa Valley, the stunning beauty of Yosemite and the splendor and bustle of San Francisco was the fact that I witnessed Lackey throw four no-hit innings in Oakland. Wifey stayed back at the hotel. Not even Lackey could get her off the bed after a day spend touristing at Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square.
The Red Sox won 4-2 Friday before dropping the last two games before the All-Star break.
The Red Sox have a 2.5-game lead in the A.L. East, a far cry from the 9.5 games they were out of first in 2012. Believe it or not, Lackey is a key reason why. It's amazing what happens when you get rid of Bobby Valentine, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
And here's the kicker: Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez can spend all the free time they have this week walking around Yosemite National Park and be reminded of what they lost when they left Boston.
All they have to do is check out the hats.
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