Monday, October 20, 2008
at 8:47 AM Posted by futuremrsrickankiel
Appropriately enough, it was over breakfast this morning (at Starbucks, natch) that I overheard the following exchange:
Guy 1: Well, I guess it's officially football season.
Guy 2: After last night, yeah.
Guy 1: I'm happy for Tampa Bay, you know?
Guy 2: Me too. And at least we made it interesting.
Guy 1: Yeah.
The brevity of this conversation belies how oddly powerful it was -- these were two men in their late 50s or so, mind you, both with thick Boston accents, who'd clearly been Boston fans for decades. The kind of men who, like my dad and uncles, probably remember going to see the Boston Patriots play at BU's Nickerson Field and watching the Bruins win their last Stanley Cup. Here it was, the morning after a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay in the ALCS, and it was all par for the course for them. They'd been there. They'd seen Boston teams fall on their faces time and time again. It was just another loss to them. Time to root for the Patriots. We'll be back next season, Red Sox.
It really made me happy in a way I can't quite articulate to hear that reaffirmation: that reminder of the fact that the heartbeat of the Boston fan base thumps steadily on, whether we're screaming from the high of another championship or sitting numbly in our seats as another team moves on. This is a city that's seen the most glorious victories and the most cringe-worthy failures over the last century, and I think it's important to remember that even losses still belong to the pantheon of Boston sports moments, to be woven indelibly into the rich tapestry of lore we pass down to future generations of fans. I've expounded before on the fickle nature of fandom and the curious notion that sometimes it's the losses that make you truly appreciate your teams, and I'm fairly certain that applies today.
I am happy for the Rays. Really. You can't possibly claim to love baseball and not be happy for this team. They're proof that the system works: that small-market teams can still contend with the big dogs; that great play and inspired managing will be rewarded despite imbalances in the league's organization; that youthful vigor, hard work, and natural talent can win the day even as MLB still reels from the sordid aftermath of the steroids era; and, most importantly, that redemption isn't just a sports myth perpetuated by Dennis Quaid, but is tantalizingly and gloriously within reach for those who seek it. (Take heart, Pirates fans!) So congratulations, Tampa Bay, and good luck in the Series. I hope you beat the damn Phillies. They don't deserve it. You do.
But enough of that. I came to praise the Red Sox, not to bury them. This, after all, is a team I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to live glog on Opening Day in Japan. This season was nothing if not memorable, and I'm proposing that we open the morning by sharing our favorite Sox moments from this past season.
Here's mine: August 1, when Jason Bay made his Red Sox debut. After a tumultuous week of severing emotional ties with our beloved dreadlocked righty, I was watching this game alone in my apartment while I was getting ready to go out. Bay, ever the quiet Canadian, stepped up to bat in the second inning to a roaring ovation from the Fenway faithful in attendance. I promptly burst into tears: partly for the sake of catharsis, I think, and partly because it was just one of those moments that struck a genuine chord with the fan in me. Things change, players leave, Johnny Damon cuts his hair... Red Sox Red remains as vibrant as ever, and you go on cheering for the team you love no matter what you've lost. Whether or not you choose to buy into the fanaticism surrounding sports and their fans, I think, on a day like today, that we can all admit that there's something deeply valuable in being reminded that no emotion makes us human in quite as powerful a way as faith.
Go Patriots. Go Bruins. Go Celtics.
Go Red Sox.