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Red Sox Nation breathes life into team

Alex Trickett, who was born in London, was raised on soccer and cricket, and currently covers those sports for the BBC Sport website. He took in his first World Series games at Fenway last weekend and came away a fan of baseball, as well.

Sheer force of will won Boston the first two games of the 2004 World Series. And, as a relative newcomer to baseball, it was remarkable to watch.

Sure, the Red Sox did their bit -- David Ortiz, Mark Bellhorn, Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling in particular. But, for my money, the home fans stole the show, breathing life into Fenway Park, sucking it out of St. Louis, and simply refusing to let their team lose.

As an Englishman, I am used to passionate sporting devotion on a grand scale. Our country grinds to an absolute standstill when England plays in the World Cup, and soccer teams across the land get unflinching support through even the most difficult times.

But what happened in Boston on the weekend was special, as I discovered while waiting near the players' entrance to pick up credentials.

A massive wall of sound almost swept me off my feet and gleeful fans scampered to look through chinks in a nearby fence. It was 3 p.m. ET and there were still five whole hours until the first pitch, but "Papi" Ortiz had arrived and the Game 1 party could start.

Father figures seem to be important in the Boston set-up right now, with Papi backed up by ace pitcher Pedro Martinez, who won back his "Daddy" status when the Sox stunned the mighty New York Yankees in the ALCS.

At the risk of laboring the family theme, the fans were at it as well.

From my privileged position, I overheard frustrated diehards discussing what they would do to get into Fenway for Boston's first trip to the World Series since 1986.

One man volunteered his own "semi-healthy liver" for a ticket, and another eager pair agreed they would sell their grandma and possibly their wife, with a couple household pets thrown in to the deal.

I guess the point is that the Red Sox Nation treats this group of players like family.

Protective groans of disappointment rather than anger greeted heinous errors like those made by Manny Ramirez and Bill Mueller in the first two games. Conversely, every RBI was celebrated as if the fans themselves had swung the bat -- with high fives all round.

Amid the deafening clamor for a Saturday hero, the fittingly named Bellhorn answered loudly, booming a home run past me in right field. The homer was his, but Sox fans were involved again, inhaling sharply to suck the ball fair when it threatened to go foul.

It was like that both nights -- a hugely hands-on experience for everyone in Fenway.

Questionable calls drew a chorus of disapproval that sounded a bit like a million mooing cows in a field. And St. Louis batters in the on-deck circle were picked apart mercilessly by Boston hecklers.

Through it all, the few Cardinal fans were almost voiceless.

That is a shame. One of my few criticisms of American sport is the lack of away support, an inevitable product of the huge distances between rival teams.

Unchallenged, home crowds make an impressive noise, but the creative component of their chanting suffers.

Where English soccer fans tailor fresh songs for every game and bounce them off equally vociferous rival fans to the entertainment of all, U.S. supporters have become lazy, relying on tried (some many say tired) and trusted classics like "Let's go Red Sox."

This is only a minor quibble, though.

From Aerosmith (whose Steven Tyler sang the opening anthem) to Yastrzemski (who threw out the first pitch), Boston's version of the World Series spectacle was fantastic, and there is plenty more to come.

St. Louis fans finally get their chance to answer on Tuesday and will no doubt be in fine voice. But will they want victory as much as the success-starved Red Sox Nation?

Somehow, I doubt it. On this evidence, that would surely be impossible.