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Holy Johnny Damon And Fenway Disciples

By Yong-yi Zhu

SPORTS COLUMNIST

Now batting, number 18, Johnny Damon.

With those words, the fans all around Fenway Park erupt with screams of support for their own center fielder, the center fielder who has suddenly brought about a whole new dimension to the love that Red Sox fanatics have for their team. I had heard much about the Damon phenomenon before, but did not really believe all the hype behind it. After having gone to the Sox vs. Orioles game, I do believe every bit of it now.

Ever since Johnny Damon walked into practice during spring training, there has been much commotion surrounding his newly grown hair. Apparently, he had not shaved all off-season and wore a great big beard along with a full head of long, flowing hair. The hair reminded me somewhat of Jason Giambi in his Oakland years, while the beard brought about a mixed image of Santa Claus and a caveman. But the comparison everyone loved to make was with Jesus Christ.

Evidently, Damon’s hair sparked enough of a religious image that he is now being treated as a religious figure. One of the best shirts being sold outside of Fenway Park is one asking “What would Damon do?” (I guess I’m just a fan of subtle humor, as much as I may enjoy slogans like “Yankees suck, Jeter swallows” and “Foulke the Yankees.”)

An even more telling sign is the reaction of the fans to everything Damon does, especially the fans in the center field bleachers. Every break between innings, when Damon is out throwing with Manny in the outfield, the fans will stand up right next to the railing and scream for him. They absolutely love it when he tosses a ball out to them, as they frantically try to get a memorabilia bestowed upon them by their leader. Whether he struck out the inning before or hit a grand slam, he will be met with great applause as he finally makes his way back to deep center field. In fact, the clapping does not stop until Damon raises his hand to recognize his followers’ adulation. It becomes even more rowdy when a ball is hit to center field, as he is expected to catch anything coming his way. Perhaps the belief is that this Red Sox savior will perform a miracle right before the spectators’ eyes.

When Damon steps up to the plate, the fans all the way out in center field yell all sorts of comments to him, hoping that he would be able to hear their requests and prayers. Just like Jesus, sometimes Damon delivers and sometimes he does not. Damon, too, works in mysterious ways.

Of course, with Johnny Damon being the head of this religious sect, we have to have other religious factions as well. But there factions must be protested again by any means possible. After all, what would Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and all the others do if there were no conflicts between them? That’s where the opposing team’s center fielder comes in. To the eyes of the fans in the center field bleachers, any non-Red Sox center fielder is like the devil himself.

The crusade that night I went was against Luis Matos, the young, innocent Oriole. Even early on, there were taunts directed to Matos. The phrase “you suck” was also popular among the fans. As the game wore on, the comments became more frequent and more profane, as the fans became more frustrated and drunk. Losing whatever respect he had among the fans, the devil Matos made a great catch at the warning track to save the game for the Orioles, a game they would later go on to win. I just hope Bernie Williams prepares himself every time he comes out to Fenway.

So just with a little bit of laziness in not shaving, Johnny Damon is able to win over a ton of fans. After all, nothing else about the man really changed. Boy, how devoted the fans of the Red Sox can be. All we need now is for Derek Jeter to grow some horns and the Red Sox equals heaven; the Yankees equal hell analogy will be complete.