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Don't be fooled by all the culture in Boston and the staid Victorian era buildings: Boston is one of the oldest cities in America, but by far she's not austere and dour when it comes to sports. In fact, she's a dyed in the wool lunatic for sports and has been for 150 years. America has been in the international press lately for a bulging waistline, but actually Boston ranks low on this list. 20% of the city is overweight, a better figure than most other cities in the Northeast, and one of the most common morning sights is people wearing sneakers and yoga pants going for a run before work.
There are plnety of opportunities for physical activity. If you inspect the city parks, you will notice plenty of tennis courts, basketball hoops, open fields where people play pick up games of American football and frisbee, and from time to time a game of baseball. In some of the bigger parks immigrants from Latin America and small children playing for school teams are having a go at soccer. The local YMCA's have large swimming pools, where the city community learns to swim, forms swimming teams, and gets a workout. On the roads and where permitted, you'll see skateboarders and people on roller skates of some kind in warm weather, and bicyclists-you can even rent one in the summer through the fall to use yourself. During the autumn, the colleges across the river in Cambridge take part in crew and some even compete with local athletic teams, meaning Harvard scullers will compete with city boathouse members for a friendly race down the Charles River, with the MIT bridge as one of the boundaries. In winter, you might even catch someone on the street with a pair of cross country skis on so he can get through the snow faster, and perhaps even warming up since Boston is a short day trip from the ski lifts in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Western Mass.
A typical outing to a game in Boston is good clean fun and a great way to get some entertainment, as well as people watch. A visitor will have to have his purse or backpack inspected by security before entry, but after that it is smooth sailing: locals are friendly and most are in a cheerful mood, and there is plenty of personnel available to direct you to your seat. The arenas are loud and riotous, with people waving foam pointed fingers with the team logo on it and plenty of ball caps and memorabilia flying around, but also entire arenas, thousands of people, cheering their particular cheers for the teams: in basketball, a popular one is waiting for two thuds over the loudspeaker and calling for DE-FENSE! At a baseball or American football game, the locals will attempt to do the wave, where one will stand up and sit down quicky in succesion to make the whole section and the section after look like it is waving. In hockey games, the fans will shout CHAAAARGE!! and bang on the glass surrouding the ice if they are close enough. And everybody everywhere has signs they made at home raised so the players can see them.
The hooliganism of Euro football is very much frowned upon, and security has no problem with ejecting troublemakers who are just there to use the game as an excuse to ruin everyone else's fun, and management reserves the right not to sell tickets to people it doesn't want to return. Security is taken very seriously. There are video cameras all over TD Garden, Fenway, and Patriots Stadium and all of the above have their own security detail covering every inch of the premises. On top of that, the Boston Police Department is usually on hand to keep the peace, and on horseback they assist with crowd control. Both the cops and security carry radios, so they can have a hooligan out the door quickly and in the case of the cops can easily locate a lost child.
Alcohol is served, mainly beer, but as with all cities, the age to drink is 21. Most people wait until they are inside the stadium to drink, and concessions can refuse you if they think you have had enough: Bostonians like a good time drinking, but don't accept the excuse ”I was drunk” if a visitor gets so inebriated he vomits, and there is a limit to where they will not drink at all. Games are very family friendly and even small babies are strapped lovingly into their parents baby carriers to watch the big bright lights and cheering faces, wearing tiny little ball caps supporting Boston and concessions selling onesies (baby vests) with the team logo on them. Because all the major sports are played by females as well as males, it is a very common sight to see girls and women at games: in many cases they make up half the revenue of ticket sales, and are dancing in the aisles with the crowd. Dad often has his baby girl on his shoulders teaching her how to wave her little pennant, or Grandpa teaching his granddaughter how to throw a knuckleball pitch. Even in the bars during important games, sports are not a boys club with a group of men on jerseys hogging the spae. A woman bellying up to the bar with her hair in plaits, her old pair of jeans and sneakers on, her favorite team shirt and paint on her cheeks and ordering a Sam Adams or pint of hard cider to go with her jalapeño poppers is not unheard of, and the boys are expected to give the lady room, even argue stats with her.
Boston has all four major professional sports: the Boston Red Sox for baseball, the Boston Celtics for basketball, the Boston Bruins for ice hockey, and the New England Patriots for American football, although the last of these has their stadium out in the suburbs in Foxboro and would require a car to see live. The Celtics and Bruins play at TD Garden, a big sports and entertainment complex located near North Station with a huge arena that gets used not only for hockey and basketball, but for concerts and conventions. Though it does not have the live-and-breathe-it culture of Canada, ice hockey is fairly popular here and has been since the late 1800s. New England as a region has a rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, and otherwise the weather is nice and cold in winter and provides opportunity to play the game on the frozen ponds, with Boston as its capital city. Many children of the region including the area surrounding Boston are on school squads, both male and female players, and rinks often have a local civic league, with roller hockey being taken up in the off season; even the rink that opens up on the Frog Pond on Boston Common around Christmas rents ice hockey skates for those who want to go fast. Local colleges also have teams, and every year at TD Garden they have something called the Beanpot Tournament, in which local universities get together, eat junk food, and cheer raucously for their boys to win, and after that's done, the girls have their turn. As for the Bruins, they are a good team that often makes the playoffs, and because Boston is a drive over the mountains for Quebecers, keep your ears peeled to hear Canadian French...and the arguments in between in Boston and French accented English.
The Celtics share the same arena as the Bruins, and are a team for basketball. For the unfamiliar, this is a game with two hoops at either end of the court. One team is trying to move to the opposite side of the court and put it in the opposite net above their head, while the other is trying to steal the ball and keep the opponent team from scoring, and put a ball in the opponent's net. Naturally, Bostonians also have several amateur teams in and around the city and several parks where people play friendly games in warm weather, and the tram mascot is a caricature of a 19th century Irishman balancing a ball on his index finger, a nod to Boston's past.. Two of Boston's biggest heroes were named Larry Bird, a very big blonde man who lead them to several titles, and Bill Russell, who has his own statue near Quincy Market and is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history. Both men have won gold medals at the Olympics for their country, and ever since 1992 the Celtics have been one of the teams that often sees at least one of its players recruited for the USA squad, and has won several titles, most recently 2008. (Just don't mention the New York Knicks or the Lakers-they are rivals.)
The Red Sox are the oldest team in Boston and one of the original teams of the American League. They are arguably the most beloved: followers of the Red Sox are dubbed "Red Sox Nation", since in truth they are truly the team's army of crazy, rabid fans. Wearing a blue hat with the little crimson red B is more than a fashion statement-just like wearing a hoodie with a growling bear on it identifies you as a Bruins man to Canadians, wearing the B means you are a member of the Boston tribe to all other baseball fans. (Since baseball is second only to American football in overall popularity in America, it is no surprise that this kind of hat now has about thirty different permutations across the land, one for each team.) That being said, whenever the Sox face off against the Yankees, it may not be safe to wear the B if you have been convinced by the crazier elements of Red Sox Nation to make a day trip down to New York City, since for a hundred years there has been a very heated rivalry between Boston and New York City in baseball: fights have broken out in both Fenway and Yankee Stadium for the entire length of that time, and at Fenway during a Yankees game you may hear the entire stadium chorus the words " Yankees s-ck!" When the Yankees built a new stadium to replace their old one, a worker found somebody had planted a Red Sox jersey in the foundation of the building to curse it. Little ruffles New Yorkers' feathers, but this evidence of misrule by Red Sox fans fired up the internet for days. (New Yorkers still haven't found a Boston hat in the ground, but cross their fingers that one was not placed.)
Famous members of Red Sox Nation include Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who occasionally come home from L.A. to their native Boston. With a good pair of binoculars you can sometimes see them and their children, screaming their guts out near the dugout. To illustrate the depth of devotion to this team, Damon made a sojourn back to Boston during the last World Series title in 2013 just to watch them play the Cardinals. Because of his loyalty to the Red Sox goes back to before he was famous, and because of his and Affleck's well documented commentary on the Sox over the past fifteen years, he was greeted by Bostonians of Red Sox Nation as their chief, and Affleck was reported having his rally cap at the ready! (It worked, since the Sox won.) When Boston had the Marathon Bombing in the spring of 2013, it was at Fenway where much of the city gathered and paid their respects. Fenway Park is the oldest standing baseball stadium in America, completed in 1912. She has most of her original early 20th century features, she has a thriving district around her of small eateries and she's well appointed for transportation of all kinds; at least three branches of the Green Line get close to her. Fenway's tickets are not cheap, but she regularly sells out anyway and has a large amount of supporters that watch the game online and on television. She also has the unusual feature of selling local street foods in addition to the usual burgers, fries, and ice cream; meaning the lobster rolls, sausage and pepper sandwiches, and steak bombs are a feature of Fenway as are Fenway Franks, grilled hot dogs with everything on it. Try any of these, and don't forget to stand up in the 7th inning to sing: the loudspeakers will play Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond.
Most of the sports bars are clustered near Fenway Park, home field of the Boston Red Sox, and TD Garden, the sports/entertainment arena that's home rink to the Boston Bruins and home court to the Boston Celtics. Any one of these venues are worth checking out as a good way to enjoy a game when you cannot get a ticket.
What makes a great Boston sports bar? Plenty of big high-definition screens, sports memorabilia, good brew, and the occasional spotting of a home town team member.
Near Fenway, McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon on Boylston Street more than fits this definition. The original McGreevy's opened in 1894 in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Owner Michael "Nuf Ced" McGreevy was a baseball fanatic and a founding member of the Royal Rooters, the first Red Sox fan club and perhaps the beginning of modern day Red Sox Nation. Babe Ruth and Cy Young lifted a few pints at the bar and contributed to the growing collection of memorabilia. Although Prohibition closed down the bar, along with every other bar in the U.S., present-day Red Sox fanatics Ken Casey (also a member of Celtic/rock/punk band the Dropkick Murphys) baseball historian Peter Nash, and a great-grandson of McGreevy revived it in 2008.
This bar is a nerve center for Boston sportsfans: and most especially the Red Sox; it is Red Sox Nation's de facto headquarters along with the nearby Cask and Flagon and Jerry Remy's. Whenever a Boston team is in contention for the title, the bar is packed with people wearing their team jerseys, drinking beers and cocktails, and cheering loudly with their eyes glued to the flat screen televisions. Occasionally even team members show up, and drunkenly singing is a tradition here.
On a less crowded day, ask about a song called ”Tessie,” and try to pop a nickel in the jukebox if you see it available for playing. It has several connections to this bar. You see, when the original owner Nuf Ced was a Royal Rooter, so was his best friend, John "Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald; he was their treasurer. For history buffs, John Fitzgerald was the grandfather of President John F Kennedy, activist Bobby Kennedy, and Senator Ted Kennedy, all of which were fans of the Red Sox and brought to games by Honey Fitz as children. Before their mother Rose was dating their father, Honey Fitz would get up to mischief. He and Nuf Ced used to lead processions up Huntington Avenue from the saloon to the then- home of the Red Sox. The Rooters had a reputation for rowdiness. At games away from Boston, they used to hire a brass band in the stands to egg on the competition, and one of their favorite songs was "Tessie.” At home games they used the same songs to rile up the crowd. One time, during a World Series game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the management mistakenly sold the Rooters' tickets. Normally, a baseball team has nine positions. Boston's honorary tenth and eleventh team members would not be denied, stormed the gates, stopped the game, got in a brawl until they got their seats back, and found the team was losing to the Pirates. They tried a whole bunch of songs, and got to Tessie. The team came back from a huge deficit and won the game.
When the Red Sox went through an 86 year drought in World Series titles after the sale of Babe Ruth's contract to the Yankees, and after several humiliating situations wheret hey came close but always failed at the last minute, current co-owner of the 3rd Base Saloon Ken Casey and his band created a new version of the song. It was 2004. That year, the Red Sox made it to the playoffs ( a series of games where the American League champion is determined and which team shall go play the National League champion in the World Series.) and were set against the dreaded New York Yankees. The New York Yankees were killing the Sox; since the series is played as a best of seven the Sox had lost three games and were losing the fourth. But the Sox did what no other team in history to date has done. They rallied and came back to clobber the Yankees, winning the American League title and soon after won the World Series Championship; to date they have won four more titles and they play this song at the end of games where the Red Sox win.
Bleacher Bar is also at Fenway - in fact, its location under the Green Monster may make it the ultimate sports bar. What makes it particularly interesting, though, is the open garage door that enables you to look directly out across center field toward home plate. You can see a picture of Bleacher Bar here. When games are underway, a glass door drops down so that the players can't see you, but you can still see them. The food and drink - basically Sam Adams in plastic cups - is good and reasonably priced, but pales in comparison with the view. Bleacher Bar is a fun place, specially when you see the players practicing on the field.
Around TD Garden (usually just called "the Garden" in Boston), you'll find plenty of big screens and plenty of memorabilia, but the sports bar with the biggest collection of all is The Fours, named in honor of the Bruins' legendary #4, Bobby Orr. The Fours, open since 1976, has been called the "best sports bar in America" by Sports Illustrated, and has the most extensive collection of sports memorabilia in Boston. This kid-friendly bar/restaurant also has 42 screens - so if you're visiting Boston with your sports-obsessed children and don't have a chance to visit the nearby Sports Museum in the Garden, this is a great place to visit.
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