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Stuck in Fenway traffic yesterday afternoon, I watched a swarm of humanity ooze its way down Brookline Avenue to Yawkey Way in a last ditch effort to support the home team.  Beyond marveling that people were still taking time out of their mid-day schedules to attend a Red Sox game when the team is in last place in the division, and second to last place in the league, I found it interesting that everyone was dressed in pretty much the same thing:  jeans of varying length, a Red Sox jersey, and a team hat.

Despite the spirit, the general comportment of the fans was slovenly, grungy and designed for maximum beer spillage and ketchup stains.  The only thing that really changes on Red Sox fans over the course of the season is the outerwear.  The puffy jackets, hoodies and mittens disappear in late April, and then reappear in the fall when we are fortunate enough to have an extended season.  It rarely occurs to anyone to dress in nice clothes for the games. Even a guest in a box or dignitary seat walks a thin line of looking too fancy if they show up in a sports coat at Fenway.

I don’t attend too many Patriots games, but the times that I have, the dress code has been similar:  dress down and dress warm, just don’t forget your team jersey.

I contrast this with college football.  My daughter attends a large Division I school in the south.  They take their sports (and their academics, by the way…) very seriously.  And the fans dress accordingly.

The first time I attended a home football game at her school her father told me to wear “…that blue silk dress that I bought you…”  My response was to laugh out loud and say I wouldn’t dream of wearing a silk dress to a football game. “Trust me” he said.  Attending my first Division I football game was like an experience out of the Twilight Zone.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was wearing the same shade of blue, either head to toe, or by way of scarves, neckties, vests or jackets.  And almost everyone was dressed as if they were going to a special event.  The girls wore dresses.  The boys wore pressed pants and bow ties.  The parents wore grown up versions of what their children were wearing.  The one exception was the young children.  Most of them were wearing toddler size versions of cheerleader outfits or player uniforms. I wore a blue silk chiffon dress that was intended for a fancy ladies luncheon, but ended up being just the thing for a southern college football game.

My daughter, who to the best of my knowledge only wore a dress to her prom and graduation, suddenly had an entire wardrobe of dresses for game days once she began attending college.  Her last minute text to me before I flew down to visit her for parent’s weekend was to make sure…make V E R Y sure… that my outfits contained no purple as that was the color of the opposing team. I felt compelled to open my suitcase and double check its contents before leaving the house.

I wonder if it’s a cultural or regional thing, this dressing for games.  Life seems more formal…dare I say…more civilized…in the South.  And the weather is certainly better by any standard. I suppose that may have something to do with the opportunity to dress in a more fashionable way when attending sporting events.  All it takes is one frosty spring evening at Fenway, or one blustery blizzard at Gillette Stadium to make you dress for the environment and not the event.  The enthusiasm and team spirit seems equal across geographic lines, it’s simply the way we choose to show up that is vastly different.

I’m heading south in a few weeks for yet another Parent’s Weekend.  I have my game day outfits picked out, and they are clean, pressed and neatly shrouded in dry cleaner bags. I have even cross referenced the opposing team’s colors to ensure that I don’t offend or incite.  And just this morning, an invitation to one of the few remaining baseball games arrived. I somehow doubt that I’ll be putting as much energy and effort into my wardrobe choice for that event, although I did check to make sure that my Red Sox cap was safely hanging in my closet, and not a dorm room many miles from here…

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