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Every year, when seasons change here in New England or holidays come around, certain foods or spices are introduced back into our diet. Fall brings pumpkin everything, the McRib comes out randomly, and Easter brings Cadbury eggs and Peeps.
Peeps are the candy found in your Easter basket where you aren’t quite sure what to do with. They are colored marshmallow in a basket that is headlined by a giant chocolate bunny and surrounded by the always appreciated jelly bean. The Peep never stood a chance.
Or did it?
According to InfoPlease, in 2012 Easter candy out sold Halloween candy. Easter appears to be more of a candy holiday than I thought. And to add to that, Peeps were leading the pack. Americans are buying over 700 million Peeps every Easter.
I used to leave the Peeps in the bottom of the basket, tangled up in Easter grass while I tried to dig out any hiding jelly beans.
Maybe I slighted the Peep. Maybe the Peep just got lost in the shuffle of a sugar rush morning. Maybe I should try a Peep, some thing I haven’t eaten in well over fifteen years.
My initial thought would be these would be gross. But, after eating one, then two, then another, they were much better than I remembered. They tasted more like marshmallow than I expected, and the sugar coating on the outside was surprising subtle and just enough.
I think maybe I snubbed the Peep for all these years for the wrong reasons. I can now understand the hype, the sales, and the cult status. Each year, the Peep is resurrected, and enjoyed by the millions. This year, I will fill my daughter’s basket with Peeps, and hope she will enjoy them more than I did as a kid.
This blog post is going to explore the cult hero. And because we in New England are clambering for spring to come as soon as possible, that means baseball is also beginning where the ground isn’t covered in snow. I am a baseball fan and have been my whole life. And for some reason, I was always drawn to the less than stellar players. I liked the “dirt dogs” or hometown hero’s that didn’t get mainstream attention.
I am also a Red Sox fan, and before 2004, that meant something different than what it means now. I had to endure many heartaches and bad seasons. Most of my childhood, I watched a losing team night in and night out, season after season. Being in that atmosphere, I had many favorite players who were fringe players and not very good.
Becoming a cult hero is essentially the same as a film becoming a cult film. The dictionary meaning is “a writer, musician, artist, or other public figure who is greatly admired by a relatively small audience or is influential despite limited commercial success.”
My person intangibles for propelling a favorite player of mine to cult hero status would be: cool nickname, plays for the Red Sox, not a superstar and no off the field issues. I know the last one might seem like something that wouldn’t be important to a kid or a fan but to me it was. My father always read the paper and told me stories about the players as we watched the games.
Mike Greenwell aka “The Gator”
My cult hero growing up was Red Sox left fielder Mike Greenwell. I was always drawn to the left fielders mainly because of the Green Monster.
The Green Monster is the Red Sox left field wall. My dad always commented on how left fielders “played the wall” and that no one played the wall like Yaz (Carl Yastrzemski). Those were big shoes to fill, as Yaz was the left fielder for the Red Sox from 1961-83. But when Greenwell came up, my dad said he played the wall good, not as good as Yaz, but he was solid. That drew me to Greenwell.
I also imitated Greenwell’s batting stance. We’d play whiffle ball in the backyard and mimic player’s batting stances. My go to was Greenwell. I was a lefty, same as Greenwell and I liked the way he held the bat near his shoulder and bent his front knee.
Everyone called Greenwell “The Gator” and I wondered why. So, I asked my dad, and he told me a story about Greenwell catching an alligator with his bare hands and stuffed it in teammate Ellis Burkes’ locker. They nicknamed him “Gator” and it stuck. I loved the nickname and the story, and it only added to the cult hero persona I had placed on him as a kid.
Greenwell never made it to superstar status. He did finish second in MVP voting in 1988 to a reported steroid user, Jose Canseco. Greenwell himself has made a case he should be retroactively given the MVP title from that year due to Canseco admitting he was a steroid user. Greenwell was a career .300 hitter but it ended at the age of 32.