AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was originally written for Fire Brand of the American League, which is the official Red Sox Web site for ESPN’s Sweetspot network, but that entity appears to be either frozen in time or gone with the Internet wind, having not posted any new content since July 27th. An e-mail to their 20-something editor has gone into a similar black hole, so screw it, I’m posting my blog here instead. They don’t pay their writers anyway.
At some point during the 2003 season, months before a Yankee bastard son of Bucky Dent named Bret Boone drove another postseason home run nail through Boston’s heart, I had what I thought was a good idea for a baseball novel/screenplay. Three Red Sox fanatics, losing their minds because of the 80-plus years of their team’s futility, enter a time portal to the winter of 1920 and kidnap Babe Ruth to prevent him from being sold to the Yankees. I had the thing fully outlined and was working on a treatment when lo and behold, the 2004 Red Sox happened. Bosox Anonymous was stuffed in a drawer, never to be contemplated again.
So now it’s 2015, and the Red Sox are working on their third last place finish in four years. On most nights their pitching staff is an eerie hybrid of a cesspool and lava pit, and Don Orsillo is saying “Sox strand two” after so many innings it’s become a masochistic mantra.
Am I at my wit’s end, though? Do I need to find another time portal? Not at all. ’04, ’07, and ’13 were so spectacular, fortunate, and triumphant that they’ve reduced my anxiety about the team a thousandfold. This isn’t to say I don’t get upset if they blow a late lead, Clay Buchholz goes on the DL, David Ortiz grounds into two double plays in one at bat or Rick Porcello serves up five piping hot meatballs in the first four innings, but the feelings of desperation, of gut-punching pain, and of a lifelong curse have been erased forever. Realizing that the Cubs still haven’t won in 107 years, it’s not a bad place to be.
When today’s teams have a long losing streak going, I have no qualms about giving up their telecasts for a re-watch of the 2004 ALCS—a comeback I still can’t believe happened eleven years later—or the last three games of the ’07 one vs. Cleveland, or Game 6 of the ’13 series with St. Louis, a game I just can’t seem to erase from my DVR. It’s not that their losing isn’t painful to watch, it’s that I have confidence in the team’s management, love many of the young players they’re bringing up, and believe they’ll be good again in this decade, as opposed to another fifty years. While we’re waiting for the next good Sox team, why not enjoy the new excitement in places like Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City, and Toronto? Wrigley Field is even more fun these days, and nothing would be sweeter outside of another Sox title than one for the Cubs.
Since winning in ’04, Boston fans have acquired a reputation as spoiled whiners, and while I think it’s mostly been misdirected frustration and jealousy (Who says you’re supposed to stop caring for your team after they win?) there is some truth to the idea that we have very little to complain about. We have Mookie Betts, Xander Bogearts, Brock Holt, and a wonderful historic ball yard. In a down year for most of the AL East, it would be nice if we had some real good pitching, but that tends to come in cycles. Hate to sound like an old guy on his porch, but I started rooting for the Sox in 1963 in the days of Bill Monboquette and Jack Lamabe, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s patience.
Growing up with Channel 22 in Springfield and later with Channel 38 in Boston, watching Sox games was not just a ritual but our only TV baseball option outside of a weekly national telecast. The concept of watching any team you wanted on your satellite or computer or pad or phone was straight out of a Ray Bradbury novel. We were stuck with the Sox for better and worse, day in and day out, and it was only natural to become obsessed. Seriously, if I didn’t happen to be camping in the San Gabriel Mountains the night a ball went through Bull Buckner’s legs, forcing me to miss seeing that happen live, who knows if I’d still be here today? My remains they found at the bottom of that 2000-ft. gulley would still be sporting my faded Dewey and Pudge hat.
I guess I feel I’ve earned the right to take every Red Sox loss this season with a full pound of salt, to not give a crap and be fine with it. And if you look at the standings, it’s easy to recall that back in 1978, the Sox had a 14-game lead in August on the Yankees—
Oh right…The Yankees. Forgot that they’re in first place. No, no. This can’t happen. Someone has to beat them. If not for the division title than the wild card. Or in the playoffs! Damn it to hell.
Forget everything I just said. THIS SUCKS!!!!