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THE CELESTIAL HELL OF THE SUPERFAN
George Plimpton
September 13, 1965
When allegiance calls, the archaficionado of pro football sheds the trappings of normal life and, caped in the bliss of his daydreams, flies forth to worship Sunday's sweaty demigods. That is the author above, taking off with pigskin and firewater—a man far gone on the Detroit Lions (for whom he once had the terrible joy of playing quarterback) but a keen observer of his fellow acolytes
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September 13, 1965

The Celestial Hell Of The Superfan

When allegiance calls, the archaficionado of pro football sheds the trappings of normal life and, caped in the bliss of his daydreams, flies forth to worship Sunday's sweaty demigods. That is the author above, taking off with pigskin and firewater—a man far gone on the Detroit Lions (for whom he once had the terrible joy of playing quarterback) but a keen observer of his fellow acolytes

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Sproatt's voice baying encouragement is memorable, but it is rivaled in California, if not eclipsed, by that of a San Francisco superfan named Les Boatwright, another restaurateur, who is popularly known as Lovely. He is a familiar figure at 49er games—such a ferocious rooter that he forms an eddy of discontented spectators around him. Twelve years ago his voice sagged half an octave during a game and never recovered. Though it was still awesomely powerful, Boatwright saw fit to back it up with an air horn. Recently Boatwright has conceded that the air horn is for rooters without class, and he has lowered his decibel potential to that which emits from an old Model T horn squeezed when the mood strikes him, which is often. Visually Boatwright presents as startling a figure as he does vocally, often wearing oversized overalls and a Harpo Marx wig. He usually carries a homemade sign or two (JAM THE RAMS would be a typical banner for a Los Angeles game) that he unfurls at appropriate moments, blocking the view of the people behind him. San Franciscans who arrive at Kezar Stadium to find themselves in a seat near Boatwright often pack up and go home.

"How was the game?" they're asked.

"Never saw it. Went home just before the kickoff."

"What on earth for?"

"Found myself sitting next to Lovely Boatwright."

"Oh well, then, naturally."

When the 49ers play away, Boatwright's neighbors have been known to take umbrage, and they lead Boatwright a lively life. His banners are in shreds by the end of a game, his Harpo Marx wig is askew and his voice begins to flag as he shouts back jibes across the wall of debris that has grown up around him. But even in the enemy camp Boatwright prefers to be up in the stands. Some years ago, in Detroit, the late Vic Morabito, the 49er owner, ran into Boatwright in the hotel elevator and invited him to sit in the owner's box.

Boatwright was Mattered, but he said: "Vic, I've come more than 2,000 miles with my air horn, this big sign and two jugs, and I don't think the owner's box is the place to put them to use."

In New York a number of superfans own restaurants—Toots Shor, of course, Joe Allen of Allen's, Danny Lavezzo of P. J. Clarke's and Mike Manuche, who owns a restaurant in the West 50s. Manuche's case is interesting. Four years ago he acquired the status of a talisman. He had turned up at a Giants' practice on Thursday afternoon, then the following Thursday and the Thursday after, and someone noted that on each of the following weekends the Giants won their game. The winning streak was equated with his appearance at practice, and the Giants, who like so many athletes are a superstitious lot, began to expect Manuche to turn up on Thursday to help insure victory the Sunday following.

Manuche performed his role rigorously: he was on hand every Thursday, he often went to team meetings, he traveled with the team, and as time passed and the winning streaks went on through the championship years he evolved a carefully worked-out system of custom and procedure that he adhered to in order to keep the winning streaks alive. He wore certain clothes (on one occasion a battered though lucky pair of underpants got thrown out by his mother-in-law and was retrieved from a garbage pail just as a disposal truck was coming up his Scarsdale, N.Y. street) and ate certain foods during the week.

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