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Bob Ford: Red Sox Nation: Scourge on the country

Someone find M. Night Shyamalan and get him down to Citizens Bank Park tonight. There's a horror story to be told.

Someone find M. Night Shyamalan and get him down to Citizens Bank Park tonight. There's a horror story to be told.

I see people. I see annoying people. I see annoying people wearing blue hats with a red B on the front.

And they're . . . they're . . . everywhere!

Yes, it is the seemingly annual invasion of the denizens of Red Sox Nation. (Motto: In Us We Irritate.) It is a nation whose currency is based on being cloying, self-important, pompous, overly loud and, regrettably, ever-present, and the economy is great. Axis of Evil? You make your list of nations that belong and I'll make mine.

Once, there was something appealing about the passion that Boston fans brought to the team that had broken their hearts on such a regular basis. The Red Sox played their home games in a quirkily interesting, if decaying, ballpark. The team offered a counterbalance to the corporate machine of the New York Yankees. Boston fans who were flung to the far reaches of the country came out to support the Sox, and that was fine.

That was then, this is now. Catch 'em, tag 'em, put 'em on the Northeast Limited to Back Bay Station if they like it there so much. The rest of us are tired of having them around.

The Red Sox, thanks largely to their streak-breaking championship in 2004, became cuddly, cute, popular, and attractive to great scads of casual fans who wanted to glom onto the gravy train.

There's nothing cuddly or cute about a team with a $133 million payroll. You can't be an underdog if you spend like the Kennedys. If the Red Sox - who struggled to draw one million fans under the penurious final seasons of Yawkey family ownership - were once a cold-water walk-up on Kenmore Square, they are now a gated compound on the Cape.

Oh, I know. The fans sing songs together and have other adorable rituals, and tend to overlook small things like the fact that Manny Ramirez is one of the most selfish, self-indulgent players in the game. Ah, c'mahn. He's a Sawk.

Well, self-indulgence loves company, so much so that somewhere around 15,000 fans nationwide have sent in their $15 to become official citizens in the nation, complete with membership cards and newsletters and probably a secret lyrics sheet.

Last year, the team held an election to select the president of Red Sox Nation. Nominations were received from just about every state in the union and several foreign countries, a total of 1,200 candidates in all. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were not among the exceptions.

For those who missed it, the winner was Jerry Remy, a former player and now a color analyst for the New England Sports Network. The run-up to the election included a debate among the leading candidates that was shown on NESN and moderated by Tim Russert.

Remy, no doubt, ran on a platform that called for more annoying sing-alongs, louder shouts from the stands in Boston accents even more fake than those presently employed and, of course, better turnout on the road.

That last pledge might be tough. The Red Sox led the major leagues in average road attendance last season (38,641) and, combined with daily sellouts at Fenway, played to an amazing 90.1 percent of seating capacity for the 162-game schedule. This season, the Sox trail only the Yankees in road attendance, but if they keep winning and the Yanks keep losing, that will flop again.

Earlier this year, Hank Steinbrenner, part-owner of the Yankees and son of legendary windbag George Steinbrenner, said he doesn't believe in Red Sox Nation.

"Go anywhere in America and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets," Steinbrenner said. "This is a Yankee country."

At the moment, judging by the national deficit and some unfortunate policy missteps, this actually seems to be a Kansas City Royals kind of country. But we'll leave that debate for another time and focus instead on this question for Mr. Steinbrenner: What in the world are you talking about?

There are Yankees hats out there, certainly. I see them in plaid and argyle and all black, and worn sideways with no bend to the brim. Those are prevalent, and I honestly don't know what they are, but they are not baseball hats.

Everywhere else are the blue hats with the red B on the front. Those are stained and weathered, and the brims are curved to keep out the sun. The people who wear them have a big team that pretends to be little, a team that won a championship in 2004 and then another last season. They are very happy with themselves.

Starting tonight at Citizens Bank Park, they will be back and, regardless of the outcomes, it will be a long three-game series.

Forget Shyamalan. Someone find William Peter Blatty. We need an exorcism.