Monday, November 19, 2007


Mikey stays with the Sox. Quite f-ing thrilled about this -- baseball needs more guys like Mike.

Been putting off a post about what it's like being a Sox fan these days...always had an excuse not to do it. Mainly because it's hard to put into words. It's a feeling I'm unfamiliar with.

For 86 years, being a Sox fan was about rooting for the underdog. For decades, fans were fully, physically invested in their team winning each game. Losses made them physically ill and emotionally repellant (at least temporarily). But they'd become used to this and remained proud of their adherence to a constantly losing team that fought its ass off and fell short, time and time again.

But the team's been winning recently - a lot - and has made it to the postseason in four of their last five seasons, winning the World Series twice in the last four. The reaction by most longtime Sox fans has been a resounding, bewildered "WTF???"

In full disclosure, I have to admit that while I was inducted into Sox Nation by virtue of my birth, as a third generation Sox fan who sat on my grandfather's lap in the Seventies watching the boys fumble their way through another decade of shame, I've veered from the duty of watching them religiously from time to time. For one thing, I grew up in upstate New York. There was no such thing as NESN or the MLB Extra Innings cable package. We couldn't watch the games, and they weren't on the radio.

Most of my friends were Yankee fans, and while I got my first Sox hat in 1980, I had no idea what it was like to sit in the shadow of the Green Monster in Fenway until April 27, 2002, when Derek Lowe coincidentally threw the first no-hitter in Fenway in 35 years. Until then, I was a huge fan during those summer weeks when we made our annual trip to Maine to hike, watch the games, and eat Nana's insanely delicious tourtiere pie.

Otherwise, in the Eighties and early Nineties, I was more of a Padres fan obsessed with San Diego and Tony Gwynn. Tony was the shit, and I'm drawn to great ballplayers who aren't assholes. But my AL team was always the Sox, so my move to Boston in 2001 finally gave me NESN and a prime spot to root for the home team and shift my attention from Tony, who'd retired that year after a lifetime batting average of .338 -- second only to Ted Williams in the live ball era.

Ah, Boston. Now I could read the Globe every day, develop a distaste for Dan Shaughnessy and a deep love for Jerry Remy and Sean McDonough, discover Sons of Sam Horn and Boston Dirt Dogs and Extra Bases, and see the Sox actually play. And although the Sox were typically crap in 2002, they made it to the postseason in 2003 and won it all in 2004. So I was a lucky bastid indeed, being able to swoop in at the last minute and avoid the daily suckitude of being forced to watch the post-All Star decline that seemed to be the tragic annual chorus of the 20th century Sox.

Still, I haven't been able to wrap my head around this winning business. When you've rooted for a team that's historically come so close so often and always managed to fail, you're at a loss as to how to handle your disbelief when they manage not only to not fail, but to completely lay waste to the competition. I'd liked rooting for the underdog. It felt right, and I was used to it. They'd always come back next season. It was a David & Goliath kind of thing, dealing with the almighty Yankees every year. Even though the Cardinals screwed us over in the World Series more often, the Yankees were always there, perennially, shoving their superstars and their pocket change and their Series rings down our throats in the AL East. We still get riled up at Fenway when the Empire's in town. We always will.

But the tables - almost in 2003, and definitely in 2004 - finally seemed to have turned.

Each season is a struggle, and it always comes down to the last month, the last week, and in the Mets' case this year, the last day. Not to mention the postseason, which is literally a whole different ballgame. Simply put, it is hard as hell to win the World Series.

And so, as everyone knows, the Sox did it. And did it again. And in the process, the backlash began with gusto. People say Sox fans have become as cocky and obnoxious as Yankee fans. The horror. So how does one become accustomed to being part of the hated fanbase of a suddenly hated team? Is it wrong for Red Sox fans to enjoy some pride? Some f-ing hard won confidence?

Sense that defensive tone? We're on edge. It could be another 86 years until the next one. Who's to say it won't happen? But at the same time, we've got to enjoy it while it lasts. It's this crazy vortex of hope, despair, elation, disappointment, cockiness, and appreciation that's got us all riled up. During the season, it happens daily. And it wears you out.

While J loves the Sox, loves Mikey, and loves me, she's thrilled the season's over, whatever the outcome. It's a weird time.


Sara said...

I will never forget the morning after that last World Series where they blew it before they won the last two, where D. went catatonic and wouldn't speak to me because I had said I was going to watch the game and that his superstitious practice of turning the TV on and off and watching each play in replay because he believed if he watched it live they would loose. It was obviously my fault that they had lost because I had messed up his pattern. I remember telling you about his appalling behavior and how crazy he was and all of this over a silly game. I remember your disgusted words distinctly, "I can't talk to you right now." Then you walked away without saying goodbye. That was the first time I understood about the Red Sox. It had little to do with sports and so much to do with legacy. I can tell you that D. feels no guilt in being on the top of the sports world. The other day when the Patriots crushed some team, again, I said, don't you feel a little bit bad that they are destroying everyone? He scoffed and said, "Not at all. We did our time."

So in other words. Enjoy. They will be the underdog again, no one stays on top forever.

millionsuns said...

Everyone's got their voodoo. The one and only time I've ever worn a rally cap (hat upside down on the head), they rallied from a 5-run deficit in the 9th inning to win the game.

Not even joking -- it was called the Mother's Day Miracle. I've been too spooked to try it since.

I can't remember saying what you said I said - shock - but I'm sorry.