A fan's notes for the ages, Faithful grew from an email exchange last summer. Filled with the heady mix of exhilaration and frustration familiar to all Boston Red Sox fans, Stewart O'Nan fired off a note to fellow Sox fan, Stephen King, who responded with his thoughts on Pedro, Nomar, Manny, Mueller, and Theo. From the supposed Curse of the Bambino to f###in' Bucky Dent to the recent off-season battle for Alex Rodriguez, Sox fans have seen it all since 1918...except for that elusive World Championship. Baseball history has transformed these fans into a "nation" -- not to mention the most dedicated, knowledgeable fanbase on the planet. Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King, proud members of Red Sox Nation, will chronicle the 2004 baseball season from spring training to the last game of the season -- the important plays, the controversial managerial decisions, the significant front office moves, and the spectacular finish (whether heartbreaking or joyous). Attending games together, keeping a running diary of observations and arguments, and occasionally evoking great or tragic events in Red Sox history. King and O'Nan will cheer on their beloved team with the eternal hope that this just might be the year. If you don't have season ticket box seats right behind the firstbase dugout, you can't beat Faithful.
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Fans watching the 2004 baseball playoffs were often treated to shots of Stephen King sitting in the stands, notebook in hand. Given the bizarre events on the field, from the Red Sox's unprecedented comeback against their most hated rivals to their ace pitcher's bleeding, stitched-together ankle--not to mention the Sox's first championship in 86 years--you could be forgiven for thinking King was writing the script as he went along, passing new plot twists down to the dugouts between innings.
What he was writing, though, along with his friend and fellow novelist Stewart O'Nan, was Faithful, a diary of the 2004 Red Sox season. Faithful is written not from inside the clubhouse or the press room, but from the outside, from the stands and the sofa in front of the TV, by two fans who, like the rest of New England, have lived and died (mostly died) with the Sox for decades. From opposite ends of Red Sox Nation, King in Maine and O'Nan at the border of Yankees country in Connecticut, they would meet in the middle at Fenway Park or trade emails from home about the games they'd both stayed up past midnight to watch. King (or, rather, "Steve") is emotional, O'Nan (or "Stew") is obsessively analytical. Steve, as the most famous Sox fan who didn't star in Gigli, is a folk hero of sorts, trading high fives with doormen and enjoying box seats better than John Kerry's, while Stew is an anonymous nomad, roving all over the park. (Although he's such a shameless ballhound that he gains some minor celebrity as "Netman" when he brings a giant fishing net to hawk batting-practice flies from the top of the Green Monster.)
You won't find any of the Roger Angell-style lyricism here that baseball, and the Sox in particular, seem to bring out in people. (King wouldn't stand for it.) Instead, this is the voice of sports talk radio: two fans by turns hopeful, distraught, and elated, who assess every inside pitch and every waiver move as a personal affront or vindication. Full of daily play-by-play and a season's rises and falls, Faithful isn't self-reflective or flat-out funny enough to become a sports classic like Fever Pitch, Ball Four, or A Fan's Notes, but like everything else associated with the Red Sox 2004 season, from the signing of Curt Schilling to Dave Roberts's outstretched fingers, it carries the golden glow of destiny. And, of course, it's got a heck of an ending. --Tom NissleyAbout the Author:
Stewart O'Nan's novels include Snow Angels, The Speed Queen, A Prayer for the Dying, and The Night Country. Granta has named him one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists.
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