Up on the roof

Will Sox Appeal appeal to Sox fans?
By MIKE MILIARD  |  August 27, 2007

RED SOX OVERLOAD: This show will seem pretty silly if we somehow miss the playoffs.

On August 15, the Red Sox were down 6-5 in the bottom in the ninth. Having been handcuffed for most of the game by a Tampa Bay pitcher with a 6.35 ERA, the good guys had mounted a comeback in the late innings. And with two outs, Julio Lugo at second, and David Ortiz at first, Manny Ramirez strode to the plate.

Caps were turned inside out. Fingernails were gnawed. Clasped hands were held to lips in silent supplication. And, after fouling off four pitches, Manny struck out.

It was the kind of loss that makes one want to crawl under a rock. Or drink heavily. Or both. But immediately after the game, NESN programmers wanted Red Sox fans to bury that leaden despair and be happy. For it was time to turn our thoughts to the first fluttering of love’s silken wings. It was time for the third episode of Sox Appeal (NESN, Wednesdays after the game).

Given the relentlessness with which it was hyped in the months prior to its August 1 premiere, you’re probably familiar with the concept. Three blind dates at Fenway Park. Each lasting two innings. Sitting in sunlight on the right-field roof deck, chatting up each prospective paramour over a $7 beer while paying sporadic attention to the on-field happenings, the love seeker is faced with a choice during the seventh-inning stretch: which suitor will he/she be sitting with when the final out is recorded?

For Laurie, a 33-year-old financier who commutes between Boston and the Evil Empire, the choice is a tough one. Tim, the software salesman with the wide smile and quiet confidence? Or maybe Josh, a vanilla golf pro with a faux hawk, who still counts a seventh-grade smooch on his Top 10 kiss list. Perhaps goofy, hipster-ish Micah, a stand-up comedian who can nonetheless claim he’s got a “pretty face [and a] pretty soul” without falling over laughing.

The truth is, I didn’t much care. On that particular Wednesday, I was more concerned about whether Eric Gagne, who’d blown two saves the previous weekend, would be safe in the bullpen from a wild-eyed fan wielding a broken bat and thirsting for vigilante justice.

Credit where it’s due: Sox Appeal is a good idea on paper. And the occasional Statler & Waldorf heckling from announcers Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo can be funny. But I wonder whether the show may not represent the apex of Red Sox overload. Lately it’s often seemed that the game itself is taking a back seat to a plethora of peripheral programming.

I set my TiVo to record anything with the team’s name in the title. So every week I’m spoiled for choice. Red Sox Monster Monday. Red Sox Stories. The Red Sox Report. Red Sox Rewind. The Ultimate Red Sox Show. I understand NESN has programming blocks to fill. But that’s a lot of laundry.

The first episode of Sox Appeal aired immediately after the game. Instead of getting post-game analysis from Dennis Eckersley and his feathered ’70s hair, we got Sox Appeal’s narrator. (Whose exaggerated accent, in the correct estimation of the blogger at pinkhathell.blogspot.com, “sounds like he just got off the night shift at a South Boston packie.”)

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