Magical Thinking My friend Saul is a big time Red Sox fan. We met in the late 90s when we both worked for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Since I grew up a Cleveland Indians fan, we bonded on playoff disappointment. We shared a desk and a computer which always had a baseball news site up on it as we tried to not think about why the Yankees HAD to win ALL the time.
After I moved out of New York, I kept in touch with Saul via email. Usually, I emailed him in the early summer when something optimistic happened to the Red Sox and to remind him that Manny Ramirez use to play for Cleveland back when the Indians were a major league team (and not some farm team for the majors. . .but I digress).
Saul usually responded somewhat pessimistically to my emails with ‘well, wait til the post season' or ‘a lot can still happen'. Then, usually something did happen, and the Red Sox crashed, burned, and watched their ashes blow away in the bitter October wind like an Aaron Boone homerun.
This year, I decided not to email Saul when the Red Sox got free agent, Curt Schilling. I didn't email about the Garciaparra trade or about acquiring Dave Roberts from the Dodgers. As Johnny Damon's hair grew longer, and the batting line-up expanded into an offensive bouffant, I did not email Saul. When Boston won the wild card, not even an instant message. When Boston beat Anaheim, I was Ireland (and couldn't find a USA Today anywhere in Athlone), so no emails.
Then came the ALCS against the dreaded Yankees. Cue the Empire Theme from Star Wars. Da-Da-Da Da-De-Da Da-De-Daaaaa. And sure enough, the Red Sox lost the first three games in the best of seven series.
Here is the email I almost sent to Saul:
Hope all is well. Sure the Red Sox are down three games in the pennant series. Sure no team in the history of baseball has ever rebounded after losing the first three games in a best of seven series. Sure they have to win four games in a row against the Yankees (and win the last two in Yankee stadium). But history can be changed. Never say never. Never count them out until the last out. Remember the Hobbits, Saul, remember how they may have been small but they never gave up. They climbed Mt. Doom, and when Frodo couldn't go on, Sam carried him. They did it, they completed the impossible task. The Red Sox are like the Hobbits. They can do it. Look to the rings.
Even though I was quite moved by my Hobbit imagery, I did not email Saul. I figured I would email him after game four.
Then, in twelve innings, the Red Sox won game four. Woohoo, run Dave Roberts run! Then! In fourteen innings, Boston won game five. Then they all went back to New York, and Boston won again! How about that Curt Schilling. How about that David Ortiz. And what the heck is up with that girlie slap from A-rod. It was as if he wanted to say, no, don't tag me, I'm too pretty.
So then, Game 7, and well, you probably know by now. . .THE RED SOX WON THE PENNANT! THE RED SOX WON THE PENNANT!
And yes, I will write what has been written a thousand times since that day:
No team in the history of baseball has ever come back to win a best of seven series after losing the first three games. In fact, in all of professional sports, out of 233 times when a team had lost the first three games, only twice (twice!) has a team come back and won the last four games---both times in Hockey. This is freaking history.
Potential Saul email:
Boy, I'm glad the Dodgers gave up over-priced and extremely fragile Kevin Brown. And how about Johnny Damon---he sure picked a good time to start hitting the ball. I will admit that the Pedro 7th was a little scary---what was he doing out there---confronting his demons???? It's nice to see all the little breaks not go the Yankees' way for once. And speaking of the Yankees, they seem to have a split personality as a team. There are the old Yankees (Jeter, Williams, Rivera, Mussina, Posada, etc) who do what they have to do to win. Then, there are the new Yankees who think they just have to show up. I don't see a lot of team unity there---professionalism, sure, but not much unity. Meanwhile, who do you want in the World Series---the Astros or the Cards?
But once agan, I did not email Saul. After all, there was still a World Series to be played. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Cardinals won the NL pennant the next night. I saw the mighty St. Louis team when they played the Dodgers. Even though their bats are something scary, they are not invincible. Their pitching can get a little iffy at times. It should a good series with a lot of runs.
Then came Game 1. Both teams have just played a seven game series. Does anyone have anything left?
In Game 1, the Red Sox had four errors and still won the game. I like this Sox team. They're crazy. They're sloppy, but they play hard. When shit happens, they roll with it. It's not clean-cut, polished play with the rightful assumption of dominance. It's going to be dramatic. At one point, my Uncle (who grew up in Boston) had to leave the room because he couldn't take the 9-9 tie. But yet, it all worked out. Bellhorn hit a two run homer off the foul pole (which rang out like a bell horn).
During Game 2, I was at a poetry reading. I know, how can I ignore them, but words are important too. I got home to see the ESPN highlights of the Curt Schilling spectacle. How he pitched brilliantly with pulled tendons in his ankle. How the sutures were straining and turning his white sport sock red.
Wait! It's the blood. The blood of Curt Schilling on the sock makes it a red sock, so he is a true Red Sox. He spilled his blood for the team. His blood wipes away all curses. Yes! Oh yes! Ohhhh, that's so Catholic. However, Curt himself said he couldn't have done it without the big sports trainer in the sky. Or maybe that was iodine on the sock.
I decided not to email Saul with my blood theory. Besides, the next games are all going to be in Busch Stadium, and St. Louis has a better post season record at home. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Anything can happen.
Game 3. I was in a bar. Down at the other end of the bar, a girl in a foam Cardinals cardinal hat and a Pujouls T-shirt yelled at the television screen:
"THAT WAS LOW! WHY DID YOU SWING?"
She was ready to jump into the TV and step into the batter's box against Pedro. Ah. Pedro. It wasn't pretty at first, but then he fell into his Pedro groove, and it is still so cool to watch him pitch when he's in his groove.
After the Red Sox won game three 4-1, the guy next to me asked how I liked it. I told him that they still have to win one more game, and it can still all go horribly horribly wrong.
Wait, I'm starting to sound like a Red Sox fan----worried even when they're up 3 games to zip, still very worried. Very worried. Look at what happened to the Yankees. (Insert choking noises here). I am definitely not emailing Saul.
Okay, it makes sense for me to be a Red Sox fan. I was born in Rhode Island, my Dad worked on the John Hancock building, and my grandmother thought Wade Boggs was the bees knees.
By the way, the Cardinals girl really rubbed it in to all the Dodger fans in the room. She said she had been partying since the beginning of the playoffs and won't sleep until it's all over. I respect the Cardinals girl, and that Pedro pitch was low.
Gosh, there seems to be a lot of Red Sox fans all of a sudden. Maybe it's because they are such underdogs. Maybe people look at the Red Sox and think, ‘if they can win, maybe I can win too.'
Cliché Boston Red Sox Player Response to Post-Game Questions:
"We're just going to play it game by game, pitch by pitch. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. This team is something special, and we're going to go out there, play hard, and try to win."
Game four. I was at the gym, then in the car, then at home. Game four. What can I say? Ummmm.
They did it! Oh wow. They did it. Last out: a chopper to Foulke who ran to first to carefully throw it to Mienkiewicz. It was a simple 1-3 groundball play, and they didn't fuck it up. Now, I will type in bold and caps:
THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!
What a pitching performance by Derek Lowe. You know, we talk so much about how good pitching shuts down good hitting, and the Cardinals are a good hitting ballclub. Wait, I'm sounding like one of the announcers. Eeek!
What the heck happened to St. Louis? What happened to their hitting? This is a great team and it looked like a steam roller rolled over them.
And Manny Ramirez got World Series MVP. Former Cleveland Indian. Wahoo!
And Red Sox fans are crying tears of joy. It's been so long. Soooo Lonnnng. Lifetimes have passed.
Still, this whole win feels a little anti-climatic. The clouds didn't open up. Lightning didn't strike. A strange mist didn't appear in right field. The ghost of Ted Williams didn't appear at home plate. Instead, the Red Sox howled their jock howls and doused each other with champagne. The commentators commented. That's that.
I still think Schilling's blood ended the curse. That's just my theory.
You know what would be really crazy? The Red Sox win it all again next year. They become a dynasty like the Yankees. They become the Yankees. Okay, that's a little scary. Don't think negative thoughts, Jen.
These days, I am trying not to think so many negative thoughts. Oh! I gotta email Saul---not that I rationally believe that me emailing or not emailing affected the outcome of the playoffs, but still, it is the Red Sox. You never know.