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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: October 31, 10:22 AM ET
For fans, nothing can compare

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Was the energy and excitement level at Game 6 on Wednesday night the highest it has ever been at Fenway Park? Who can say? After all, Fenway is the oldest ballpark in baseball and there have been a lot of games played here in the past 101 years.

So I don't know if Wednesday surpassed Jim Lonborg's 1967 pennant clincher, Carlton Fisk's 1975 home run, or the comebacks in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS. But I'll say this: If there had been this much electricity at the last Super Bowl, there never would have been that power outage.

Boston Red Sox
Early on, there were times when the game could have turned ugly for Sox fans.

The problem with the Super Bowl is that the NFL plays the game in a neutral, (usually) warm-weather city, filling a sterile stadium with businesspeople with corporate expense accounts who have no vested interest in who wins or loses, other than the team on which they placed their bets.

Baseball, meanwhile, plays the World Series in the very cities and parks where the two participating teams play all season, summer after summer, decade after decade and, in this case, century after century. This is the way it should be. Yes, late October can be cold in the northern cities. Yes, the games are sometimes rained out (or even snowed on). But the atmosphere, ahhhh, the World Series atmosphere simply cannot be matched by the Super Bowl, no matter how many Roman numerals you add.

This was especially true in this World Series, played in two of the country's most passionate baseball cities. St. Louis was such an ocean of red -- my cab driver to the airport not only wore a Cardinals cap but had five more lined atop the dashboard -- that I think the Red Sox were the only people in the entire city not wearing Cardinals jerseys. Boston, likewise, was a living mass of red jerseys, blue caps and black beards (yes, even on the women, though they wore fake beards -- at least, I think they were fake).

There was so much anticipation for a Game 6 clinch that when I got off a very crowded subway at the Kenmore Square T stop 3½ hours before the first pitch, the sidewalks were already so clogged with fans that I wound up walking in the street to get to Fenway Park.

No Super Bowl site can match Fenway for atmosphere. It is the oldest ballpark in the majors. It has the Green Monster, the Pesky Pole, the Ted Williams seat, the distinctive corners and all that rich history. It is so compact and the seats are so close it's almost like watching the game over Dustin Pedroia's shoulder.

Sox Fans
Sitting in your own park watching your own team win the World Series -- what can possibly top that?

With a championship possible, the Red Sox fans roared louder when John Lackey retired the Cardinals in the first inning than they did when he and Jon Lester did so in Games 1 and 2. They cheered David Ortiz louder than they did during any of his at-bats last week. And they sang "Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right" louder when Shane Victorino batted than when he did last week.

They stood and cheered for their Sox much of the game (and not just because so many of those seats are so uncomfortable).

And it wasn't just the fans inside Fenway. After the Red Sox took a commanding 6-0 lead, so many thousands of fans began making their way to Fenway that a mass police presence began lining the neighboring streets to maintain order.

After the 6-1 victory, the fans inside Fenway stayed as long as possible. They cheered the team as the championship trophy was presented, reached over the fence to scoop up dirt, and snapped enough photos to shut down Instagram.

"I think this city loves us. We love this city. It's special. Boston Strong," catcher David Ross said. "We've come a long way since that marathon, haven't we? This whole city has. Everyone is here together tonight. This is a special moment for us and a special moment for these fans."

Much has been made of the Red Sox winning at Fenway for the first time since 1918, but after the 2004 and 2007 championships, Boston fans will get no sympathy for their agony from fans in Cleveland, Houston, Seattle, San Diego, Milwaukee and the North Side of Chicago.

John Lackey
John Lackey's tip of the cap to fans after his winning effort reflected a relationship repaired by a redemptive season.

And I don't buy into the narrative that this World Series was more special to their fans than any other team's because of that 95-year wait for a home clinch. The World Series is always special to fans (well, not so much in Tampa Bay in 2008).

I fondly recall the excitement at Metrodome in 1991, the last time a team went from last place to the world championship, when Jack Morris threw a 10-inning, 1-0, Game 7 shutout miles from his boyhood home. The same was true at Busch Stadium when the Cardinals twice rallied from one strike away in 2011. And Toronto's SkyDome when Joe Carter homered in 1993, Philadelphia in 2008, Yankee Stadium too many times, and in so many other cities over the years.

What does make each and every World Series special is that it is played in the cities where the fans live and die with their teams. The Super Bowl is little more for a neutral city than a week of excessive partying by people with no dog in the hunt. The World Series is a near-religious experience for its fans when it is played in their city.

For instance, Michael and Mark Coggin were among the thousands who stayed long after the game to savor the moment. Within the past five years, their parents died of cancer and their younger brother died of a heart attack. When they walked up the ramp to their seats before the game, they were flooded with memories of when their father brought them to Fenway as children.

"I know this sounds sappy," Michael said, "but to be here now and remember our parents and brother looking over us, and the two of us, the last of a family, here enjoying the moment, it was really special for us."

Wednesday felt so good, so good, so good for the Coggins and all the Red Sox fans. Congratulations to them. Enjoy the feeling again.

Now, if only we can spread that feeling to Wrigley Field and Cleveland and Houston and Seattle and Milwaukee and San Diego. Heck, Chicago might be so electric they wouldn't need lights at Wrigley at all.