New England is my adopted home but I’m glad that I grew in Pennsylvania for at least one reason: I gained enough perspective to know that “Red Sox Nation” is a psychological malady, not a description of reality. To hear people up my way tell it, Red Sox fans are the most “knowledgeable” fans in the game.

I’ve heard that load of hooey for over 25 years now and there’s very little truth to it. Much of the actual United States despises the Red Sox and thinks their fans are arrogant. There’s much to suggest they’re right. Red Sox fans are certainly loyal, but that doesn’t make them knowledgeable. (For the record, St. Louis Cardinals fans seem to know a lot about the overall state of Major League Baseball, not just what takes place within the parameters of self-created myths.) Look at the final fan tallies for the upcoming All-Star game. There can be little doubt that Red Sox loyalists “stuffed” the ballot box out of cult-like blindness rather than “knowledge” of the game.

Loyalty, of course, is part of the game. As a kid growing up near Baltimore the announcer Chuck Thompson proclaimed every Oriole a demigod, even if he was mediocre at best. But Chuck never claimed to be more than he was: a rabid “homer.” Red Sox fans may or may not be the least knowledgeable fans in MLB, but they are certainly Chuck Thompson-like in their blind devotion to the Old Town team. Let’s start with this: There is no way Dustin Pedroia should be the All-Star second baseman. Yes, he’s the reigning MVP and, yes, he’s a nice player. But All-Star status is for the best player during the first half of the year. Pedroia has been, at best, the fourth best. Ian Kinsler of Texas has top performer honors, followed by Robinson Cano or the Yankees and Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays. (You could argue that Brian Roberts of Baltimore is also having a better year than Pedroia.) Because Sox fans stuffed the ballot Cano isn’t even on the AL roster and Kinsler rides the pines.

I’m also not wild about Jason Bay as starting leftfielder. He has 70 RBIs, but his .260 batting average is hardly the stuff of immortals. One wonders how he’d fare on a terrible team like the Orioles, where the more-deserving Nick Markakis is hitting thirty-three points higher with just 15 fewer RBIs. Others at least (and probably more) deserving than Bay include Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu of the Angels, Carl Crawford of the Rays, and Adam Jones of Baltimore. Yet Bay got more votes than any other AL outfielder.

Pedroia and Bay are debatable choices at best, but let’s look at some real head-scratchers. Jed Lowrie got nearly one million votes for shortstop. He had just 18 at-bats before going onto the disabled list! Now explain why Jason Varitek got the second most votes for catcher. Must be that exalted .238 batting average. Or maybe it’s his vaunted leadership skills. Those with real “knowledge” of MLB know that there’s not a starting catcher in the AL whom Theo Epstein wouldn’t trade Varitek to secure. (He’s been after Victor Martinez of the Indians since spring training.) Varitek is as over-the-hill as Liz Taylor, for heaven’s sake.

All-Star voting is, of course, a joke. (Don’t get me started on the Mark Teixera versus Kevin Youkilis battle for first; Justin Morneau is the deserving candidate. And Josh Hamilton? Geddouttahere.) Most fans votes cast “homer” ballots. But can we please stop already with the Red Sox Nation crap!? I personally know several “knowledgeable” Sox fans, but the evidence is clear: they’re vastly outnumbered by dolts.--LV



Outside the Box
Compass 7-4488-2

Listen hard. Billy McComiskey pushes both literal and metaphorical accordion buttons. On the surface we hear the usual jigs, reels, and hornpipes, but McComiskey is about depth, not surfaces. The reel “Keogh’s” doesn’t just move, it gallops to John Doyle’s bold and robust guitar. The talent assembled on this album—including Doyle, Liz Carroll, Joanie Madden, Mick Moloney, and Athena Tergis—is so rich that many of the tunes soar to Bothy Band-like heights. Listen closely to “The Humours of Bandon” in which McComiskey maintains a sessions-like background role for about two-thirds of the set before leaping to the fore and blasting aside the piano, fiddles, banjo, and other instruments in his mighty wake. And then there’s the “Frances Keegan” reels that grabs you and won’t let go. The album also has a lullaby and a waltz, which you might need to bring down your blood pressure. McComiskey plays with a robust muscularity that lays low all who associate accordion music with Polkaville.