There are few if any bonds in sports that weave as deeply into the fabric of a culture as the tie that binds the Red Sox and New England. It hardly suffices to call followers of the Red Sox "fans". For a New Englander, following the Red Sox is a way of life, passed from generation to generation, a father handing the torch to his son in a ritual conducted regularly at the quaint, little ballpark at One Yawkey Way. Cy Young played there, and so did the Babe, the Grey Eagle, Teddy BallGame, Yaz, Pudge, the Rocket. New Englanders don't know these Fenway heroes from The Baseball Encyclopedia; the tales are passed down in the family as first-hand knowledge. A New Englander can attest to a great grandfather who actually saw Smoky Joe Wood throw harder than Walter Johnson - or another relative who watched Willie Tasby take off his spikes while playing center field during a storm for fear of being electrocuted. It was oh-so-easy to be a Red Sox follower in the beginning. Launched 100 years ago as part of the newly formed American League, the team won five of the first 15 World Series. The Red Sox were the best baseball team in the world, playing in a jewel of a ballpark, citizens of "the thinking center of the continent, and therefore, of the planet," according to Oliver Wendell Holmes. Only an outsider could ruin this, and indeed a New York entrepreneur named Harry Frazee bought the Red Sox, found himself in need of cash to finance a Broadway play, and sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. Entering the 2001 season, the Red Sox had yet to win another World Series. They have been to the Series four times since the end of World War II, and lost each time in the seventh game. Such agony and pain would drive away mere fans. But there are no fans in Red Sox Nation - only New Englanders who are carrying on a rite of passage.Sporting News Staff is the author of 'Boston Red Sox 100 Years', published 2001 under ISBN 9780892046775 and ISBN 0892046775.