Ask Me Another

Professor of History Margaret Creighton likes to challenge great American myths. She has researched women’s roles in the supposedly masculine preserve of 19th-century maritime life, and her new book, The Colors of Courage (Basic Books), reveals Gettysburg as immigrant soldiers, women, and African American civilians saw it. Staff writer Doug Hubley talks with Creighton bout her new Short Term unit, “Red Sox Nation.”

Q: Why “Red Sox Nation”?
A: It was born of the pain of the 2003 season. Once I recovered, I began to think about why this had been so hard for people like me. Why are we so captivated by baseball in general and the Red Sox in particular?

Q: Will masochism be a topic?
A: I was interested in the struggle of Red Sox Nation. Has it been about being an underdog or about the legacies of Puritanism? Does it say something about class and class identity, particularly as it’s framed in terms of the New York and Boston rivalry?

Q: What other themes will you get into?
A: Well, the Red Sox were historically seen as a racially exclusive organization. So, have they been able to reinvent themselves as a more inclusive franchise? We’ll also look at the fans. Are they predominantly middle-class whites from northern New England? And if a large degree of the fans are women watching a male-dominated sport, what does that suggest?

Q: Any field trips?
A: Oh, absolutely! We’ll observe fans at a game, and look at the accoutrements that go with it — what are the traditional things people do? What do they sing? What do they eat? — and think about what the experience adds up to as an expression of American culture.

Q: Americans tend to like winners, especially uncomplicated winners. Yet we loved the Sox long before 2004 . . .
A: Americans also like the idea of possibility, and we like underdogs. We like the idea that you can go from constant loserdom to be worldlevel winners. So it’s a very American story.

Q: And what happens now that they’ve won the World Series?
A: Actually, when I conceived of this project last year, I thought there could be one situation that would undercut the whole thing: the Sox winning the World Series. I couldn’t imagine what anybody would want to talk about. But I realized that people are just as willing to talk about winning as losing. Does it mean the end of the Nation as we know it? Have we become the Yankees, with all the socalled arrogance and hubris? It becomes more of a story about what winning does to people.

Q: You’re a longtime fan?
A: I am. And my daughter, who’s 17, has become absolutely passionate. People worried that they would be introducing their children to a lifetime of pain and suffering, but now we can at least know that for once they’ve experienced something different.