I signed up for a table at the annual church flea market. I’ve been wondering about how I could start to get rid of my boxes of old Red Sox junk, and this seemed to fit the bill. I’m not a collector, per se. Nothing I have is in mint condition or in the right packaging. I’m just an overgrown fan that’ll ask for the autograph when the opportunity is there. And sure, I’ll go and find the opportunity from time to time, as well. (If there’s room I’ll just have to tell the story of chatting with Ed Whitson at a bar in rural Ohio – or the time I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask Gabe Kapler for an autograph after watching him dump gasoline all over himself and his motorcycle – or the time I got Adam Hyzdu’s personal cell number – or the time Keith Foulke wouldn’t stop yelling at me – or the time…)
So I have lots of stuff. Programs, jerseys, books, autographed baseballs (including Johnny Pesky, El Tiante, Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Terry Shumpert, and self-proclaimed fanboy Stewart O’Nan among others), old newspapers, tapes of playoff games. I also have piles and piles of ticket stubs and random odds and ends – a 2004 World Series pin, various bumper stickers, spring training roster sheets, dirt from Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter – stuff like that.
At a particular time in this transformation process, I truly thought that I could make some cash on those boxes in the basement. I could post it all on e-Bay and watch the $100’s, $20’s, & 3.17’s roll on in as bidders across Red Sox Nation fought for a little piece of my vast bank of fan memories. I thought that for just long enough to look on e-Bay to check out the posts. What I found was ugly and shameful. The sports memorabilia scene isn’t pretty. I also saw that it was going to be a lot of work to make this fortune I envisioned.
Then I got a better idea. I could post it on our local, neighborhood FrontPorchForum.com. I could list the inventory and offer it free-of-charge to any Sox fan under the age of 15. That’d be mighty nice of me, eh? It’d be nice. But it’d also be weird. Imagine meeting up with this kid and handing over the boxes? A nervous parent might be waiting nearby in a Toyota Camry writing down my license plate number and a general description.
The stuff just stayed in the boxes in my basement. Without any ideas, I simply waited. I waited until I saw the clipboard for the church flea market – sponsored by the “Ladies’ Auxiliary”. Hell, I could be an auxiliary lady for a day. I could chat up all the church flea market bargain hunters while selling off my Red Sox childhood… (And adulthood… A bit too much of my adulthood, at that…)
Fun stuff, let me tell you. A few things I learned: weird Red Sox fanboys don’t show up at the church flea market. In fact, I didn’t see any tan lines from wrap-around mirror shades. Zero. I saw no “2004” tattoos and no backwards caps with fraying brims. Which meant that every Sox fan that talked to me was likely to be of the old school, or at least innocent – shielded from the torment the new ownership inflicts. There were white haired wives of men who grew up with Teddy Ballgame and then Yaz. There were kids (who didn’t know it wasn’t cool to flea market yet) wearing Vermont Lake Monsters tees (A’s single-A short season) flipping through programs. There were people who don’t like baseball interested in what all the fuss was about. In other words, there were just regular people.
Needless to say, I didn’t sell much. A few autographed balls went and I sold about 30 raffle tickets for a September game against Baltimore – (one ticket was sold to a woman who bought it for her sister, a Red Sox crazy nun in Massachusetts). All told, my sales contributed about $100 to the church’s general fund. And I went home with two (slightly) less full boxes of junk.
Throughout the day I only needed to answer a handful of questions about my Pirates cap. But those questions were hard. How do you tell someone who last saw Fenway before the “600 Club” was installed about the whoring owners trying to co-opt the sentimental nostalgia that was, in fact, this person’s younger life? How do you tell a kid wearing a little-league hat that she’s just being branded as an impressionable future share-holder in a multi-national capitalist power play? You can’t. At least I couldn’t. I had to call it what it was. I had to tell them that I am abandoning the team of New England. I am turning my back on the team of our land and our fathers. I am denying my people and my neighbors. I am walking away.
The raffle drawing for the tickets happened toward the end of the day. And of course, the nun’s sister won it. I called her up and she was just as pleased as could be. She’ll drive down to Boston to pick up her sister, the nun, for the game. She told me to include my name and address when I mail the tickets so that her sister, the nun, could write me a thank you note.
I feel like a jerk.