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Nothing moving about 'Truck Day'

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  February 12, 2010 01:31 PM

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This is what being a Red Sox fan has come to -- celebrating a truck full of inanimate objects being transported to spring training.

Yes, today is "Truck Day" across New England. What is the big riggin' deal?

There is not a more insipid pseudo-sports holiday than what has become known as "Truck Day." It's supposed to symbolize the oncoming of spring and the start of baseball, instead it's a symbol of how over-the-top coverage of the Sox has become. People actually come out to watch the truck begin its sojourn down south to Ft. Myers.

Some would have us believe the truck isn't just carrying bats and balls it's carrying the hopes and dreams of Red Sox Nation. Spare me.

Not to be all truculent about "Truck Day," but really is this what we've been reduced to as Sox fans? Only in Red Sox Nation would the simple transportation of equipment to a spring training take on the importance of a Holy Day. Red Sox fans you're better than this. You are the most astute, educated and critical fans in the game. You cheer the outstanding plays of opposing players. You argue endlessly over a manager's decisions, can debate the importance of .OPS vs. UZR and explain why Jose Iglesias has more upside at shortstop than Derrik Gibson.

Yet, somehow you've been compelled to count down the days until a moving truck makes its way out from in front of Van Ness Street and then treat it like Opening Day.

I'm sending out an S.O.S to the Sons of Sam Horn to put a stop to this madness.

It wasn't always this way.

Since 1998, Kevin Carson of Holliston-based New England Household Moving & Storage/Atlas Van Lines has been the Terry Francona of "Truck Day." He oversees the packing of the trucks (one truck has non-baseball items).

Carson, who bears a slight resemblance to Dan Duquette, said today that "Truck Day" wasn't a New England tradition back when he started. The workers quietly did their work and loaded the equipment truck and driver Al Hartz, who is still the man behind the wheel today, simply drove the Sox equipment to Florida without fanfare.

However, like all things Red Sox under the stewardship of the John Henry-Tom Werner-Larry Lucchino ownership group where some saw just a vehicle the Sox saw a promotional vehicle. Many credit, if that's the word you can use, master promoter Dr. Charles Steinberg with being the driving force behind "Truck Day."

Now, other teams like the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers are also trying to make "Truck Day" a moving experience for their fans. This video is just riveting -- looks like the last time I moved -- but at least the Rangers had a player present.

One year the Sox held a contest to select fans to help pack the truck. You can't make this stuff up. This year, the team, always looking to capitalize on the Sox brand, have gotten JetBlue to sponsor the truck. On both sides of the truck there is a picture of Wally the Green Monster and a JetBlue logo with the slogan, "Bringing a piece of the Green Monster to Florida."

Hartz and Carson are a little concerned about the signage because it makes the truck easily identifiable to Red Sox fans and foes alike for its road trip. Hartz could find drivers honking or waving at him in salute or worse on the road to Fort Myers, which he said will pass through New York.

"Maybe in New York I'll get the old one-finger salute," said Hartz, with a grin.

Doubtful because they probably don't care about a truck in the Bronx, not unless it's transporting the Yankees' 27 World Series championships.

People get so amped up around here for Sox "Truck Day" that you'd think there were actually Red Sox players on the truck. But it's not all their fault. No, we (the media) are to blame for that as well.

Give credit to the intrepid Steve Silva of Boston.com who was out at Fenway at 6:30 a.m. to chronicle the arrival of the actual truck. Yours truly pulled up around 7:30 a.m. and saw two cameramen filming footage of the truck being loaded and a newspaper photographer snapping away. That's means that we in the media are complicit in the hyperbole. We have bought into this fabrication and fuel it along with the Sox.

"Everybody sees it on TV and thinks it's cool," said Hartz, conducting an interview -- gasp! -- inside the actual truck. "It gets a lot of attention from you guys this time of year."

One media outlet even proposed putting a GPS device on the truck to track it a few years back. The idea was nixed.

By the way, you don't think Sox players get excited about "Truck Day" do you?

"The players, I don't think they know," said Carson. "They just want to see their stuff."

Carson and Hartz were both very deferential when talking about "Truck Day" and its spurious significance to Sox fans. But here is the big question, if they weren't working on "Truck Day" would they be one of the fans getting excited about the truck's journey?

"No, not at all," said Carson. "It's a truck. I don't get it. I think it's great that the fans have a great time, but I guess that maybe because we're in the trucking industry we just don't get that excited over a truck."

What about Hartz?

"Probably not," he said. "I don't know what the big deal is. It's a truck leaving Fenway. Me coming out in the middle of winter to watch a truck leaving Fenway, I don't think so."

If you're wondering, the truck is scheduled to arrive in Fort Myers on Monday. The arrival date for the sanity of Red Sox Nation when it comes to "Truck Day" is still unknown.
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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