If you're a guy, a faded navy blue hat, especially one with a slightly frayed bill pulled tight, will work just fine. For the ladies, one of those white baseball caps with a pink "B" will do. You'll fit right in with millions of other folks around the country, most of them with little apparent connection to Boston.
It isn't just casual, popularity-seeking fans that jump on the Red Sox train. Back in 2004 when the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918, everyone foraged for family trees with even a minute Boston connection.
Two of my most sports-dedicated friends who, as far as I knew, had spent their entire fan careers in Seattle, suddenly sported Red Sox gear, claiming Irish heritage and an East Coast birth, respectively. The morning after the championship, they led a short and sparsely-attended pre-class sparkling cider celebration on our high school quad. Just because of the romantic Red Sox "curse."
As a sports fan, I understand the charm of choosing sides. It's much more fun to watch a game in the Pause when you create or perceive personal investment. Hence the immense popularity of Las Vegas sports books and fantasy sports. But who decided that it's okay to switch loyalties at liberty?
Yes, I'm talking about you, Mr. I-like-the-Packers-just-because-of-Brett-Favre-even-though-I'm-from-the-Twin-Cities (What's next for you, buddy?).
And you, Ms. now-that-I-live-in-New-York-I-think-it's-fine-if-I-forget-New-York-and-root-for-the-Lakers.
And you, Mr. angry-superfan-of-only-European-soccer-with-a-bad-Minnesotan-accent.
Bill Simmons, a brilliant columnist on ESPN.com, coined the term "sports bigamy" to describe those who neglect teams from their home city and choose new loyalties.
Clearly, there are exceptions. Say you're from Alaska or Montana. Who do you pick? Or what about a baseball fan in New York? You have two teams to choose from. You might have moved several times during your childhood, just when you're beginning to form loyalties.
Or maybe your team folds or moves.
Oh. That one. See, my hometown Seattle SuperSonics, the local NBA franchise, might move. A team with 40 years of history might leave behind generations of fans for Oklahoma City. It's a bitter situation.
I count the Sonics as my third favorite sports team, behind the Mariners and the Seahawks. Still, I can't fathom the Sonics' seemingly inevitable departure, and I certainly can't imagine choosing another team. I wouldn't boycott the NBA, simply because I enjoy good basketball, but I could never cast all my emotional marbles behind some random team. Don't even talk to me about the Oklahoma City Sonics.
Maybe my zealous promotion of all things Seattle blinds me. Well, nice Minnesotans, how many dedicated fans of your Minnesota North Stars embraced the Dallas Stars with open arms or blithely hopped to another team?
There's pain in loyalty. Sports teams are like unreliable dogs -- they get distracted and lose their way, but very, very rarely they bring back that trophy you asked them to fetch. And it's so rewarding.
For lifelong Boston fans, just imagine the joy, the wonder and the tears overflowing in a victory after 86 years of futility. 2004 perhaps didn't have the same power for other people who chose to follow the Red Sox because Johnny Damon looked "hot," or because they just fell in love with David Ortiz or even because of the lovable myth of a "curse."
Choose a team. Preferably from your hometown. Now's your chance to made a lifelong commitment.
Stick with your team, in any league, men's or women's, even through seasons where they feature a slogan like "Let's Build It" (the Timberwolves) that exudes hopelessness. Stick with them through bad owners, bad players and all the bad times.
Your good faith will make the good times so, so great.