Amongst sports fans -- if I can even be considered a sports fan -- I am rare in that I feel no sympathy for the Boston Red Sox, their whiny fans and their damned curse. As far as I'm concerned, the Red Sox and their fans deserve all the agony that has been dealt their way. Want to know why? The phrase, "Get that nigger off the field," sums up my ambivilence toward the Olde Towne Team.
Check out my friend Howie's book Shut Out, better yet, buy it, if you want to understand the real history of the Red Sox. Contrary to popular media mythology, the real curse has nothing to do with Babe Ruth. Instead, the fact that the Red Sox refused to integrate for more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color line screams volumes.
Sometimes, I even root for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox. To me that means that everything is OK in the world. If the Red Sox were to somehow figure out how to win it all, the earth might spin off its axis and prople itself into the sun.
For good measure, screw the Chicago Cubs too. Real teams figure out how to get it done.
Anyway, the magnitude of the Red Sox's victory in the ALCS still has not sunk in. Rarely are two extremes even contained in the same variable in that the victory was both the greatest comeback and greatest collapse in baseball history. The fact that it happened with two of the most mythologized francises in the sport just makes it even more immense and legendary. However, there are a few things that a lot of people are forgetting about the two teams.
Firstly, the Red Sox were actually favored to win the series. After the Sox swept an Angels team that was much better than the Yankees, the consensus was that the Sox would win the ALCS in six games... maybe even five. But when the Sox lost the first two games and then were embarrassed 19-8 in the third game, it was the same old, same old for Red Sox Nation.
Nice try. Hurry up and lose so we can move on.
So when they came back from three games down and three outs away from a sweep against one of the best three closers in the history of the game, it was easy to see that something was up.
Interestingly, the Red Sox also overcame a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 series deficit with just one strike to go before they were eliminated the last time they went to the World Series. And we all know how that one ended.
I'm sure Fox will have a blast playing and replaying the ball that went through Bill Buckner's legs. That image still sends chills up and down my spine every time I see it even to this day. But we'll chat about that later.
Anyway, back to why I don't like the Red Sox.
Surely, I should be able to ignore the idiocy of the whiny fans, egghead literati and elbow-patch blazer wearing professors as well as the knee-jerk media that obsess over the Sox, but I can't. I'm shallow. I'm also one of those people who is too cool to be attached to common fandom because I get to go into the clubhouse. Yeah, that's right. I'm so cool.
But when I was boy and easily influenced by the media -- especially television, newspapers and those jock-sniffing tell-all books -- I loved the allure of the Red Sox. Johnny Pesky is a family friend, so how could I not root for the Sox. Since they are the lovable losers always knocking on the door but never getting an answer, how could a young kid not be influenced by that? Enticing it even more was the fact that the were always so close to it finally being the year. They always did the right thing by adding the piece that they needed, and always had a band of complex and complicated stars.
Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Jimmy Rice, Wade Boggs, Oil Can, the Rocket, Freddie Lynn, Boomer Scott, Eck, Fisk, Remy, el Tiante, Nomah, Mo Vaughn, Dewey Evans, Zimmer, Steamer Stanley, Dave Henderson and Billy Buckner. Who couldn't like those guys?
Well, they couldn't, I would later find out. Much later, I learned that that 25 cabs for 25 guys ethos that had defined the team and was later embraced by Nomar Garciaparra doesn't work. The Golden Boy had to go if they were going to make a serious run.
Regardless, I find myself curiously interested in these Sox because of an unappreaciated element called Terry Francona. Old Tito, of course, was the first manager I ever dealt with on an everyday basis. Tito is a guy who I associate with my dream of covering a big league team. His office was the first place I went when I finally became an insider. I'm sure if it had been anyone else other than kindly and classy Francona that I would not want to have anything to do with baseball. By being a good guy -- which to me is more important than being a good player or manager -- my love of the game and desire to be near it was enhanced. So for that, I hope Francona wins the World Series every single season.
I don't even care that he manages the Red Sox.
* One name missing from everyone's lips as the Red Sox go to the World Series is Nomar Garciaparra. Apparently, the deal to send him to the Cubs to get Orlando Cabrera from Montreal and Doug Mientkiewicz from Minnesota worked out pretty well.
* Check this out: My grandmother was born on Jan. 10, 1918. She was nearly eight months old when the Red Sox won their last World Series in Sept. 1918. My son was born April 15, 2004. If the Red Sox win the World Series this week, he'll be close to the same age as my grandmother was when the Sox won their last title.
I wonder if my son will have to wait as long as my grandmother did to see another Red Sox title... yes, I just assumed the Sox will win. Now they're really jinxed.
* Lost in the shuffle of the Red Sox-Yankees series has been a marvelous NLCS. Tonight is Game 7 of that series, which has had much better ball and even closer games than the ALCS. If the Cardinals win, the World Series will be a former Phillies convention.
* Along the former Phillies line, wdid all the Philadelphia fans know that Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling and Francona would one day make it to the World Series. Now ask those same Philly fans if they are surprised that they did it with St. Louis and Boston.
* How cool would it be to see Roger Clemens pitching in the World Series against the Red Sox?