Saturday, October 27, 2007

"I didn't know you were a Red Sox fan."

My status as a fan is debatable. I own a hat. If there is a game around and I am near it, I will watch it. The rules change in mid-October, though. If the Sox are still in the playoffs at that point, it's a whole new ball game.

For me, rooting for the Red Sox to win it all is a kind of ancestor worship. I have to sit still for numbing hours and consider the generations of people related to me who didn't live to see the miracle of October 2004. I think of their long years of suffering, knowing the Sox would lose, continuing to hope that they would win. My mother is from Massachusetts. I grew up learning about Salem witches, loving Hobbes's popcorn at Salem Willows, and hearing about how "next year" the Red Sox would take it all.

It's really unfortunate that the Boston franchise isn't called "Yankees" because the attitude of the team's fans reflects the true definition of the word--toiling, hopeful, New Englanders. Red Sox fans just aren't like other people. They're zealots. I watched half of this commercial before realizing it was fictional.

I sit. I watch. Admittedly, my devotion is a bit questionable. Where was I in the long hours of June (walking in Spain)? In the boring days of August (Loudoun County)? In the tense early days of October (Haiti--which is right near the Dominican Republic, which means I was pretty much attending a Red Sox game)?

Since 2004, have we become the behemoth overtalented enterprise that we despised? Are we just a big money franchise with overblown personalities? People try to pick fights with these claims. I shrug. Probably. Who cares? We're in the Series.

A friend who is a Yankees fan physically assaulted me last night and tried to confiscate my baseball cap. She's small and has a hurt knee. I wrestled her to the ground, ignoring her fake cries of pain. Others came to her aid, but I took my hat and left her lying there, whimpering. I forgot to ask what she and the other New Yorkers were doing tonight.

Yesterday someone asked me, "Do you think they're going to sweep it?"
I stared back blankly. "My Red Sox? No way."

I don't watch because I need to see them win; I watch because I feel like it's my responsibility to watch them screw it up. When it’s 11:30 at night and I have to get up at 5 and the Red Sox are up by 10 runs in the 7th inning, I can’t go to sleep. Please. That game is not over. Ten runs? Any Red Sox fan would understand how profoundly our team can implode in a mere 2.5 innings. Twenty runs is not a sufficient lead for them. Forty might be okay.

We might have won once, but we haven't lost our defining spirit of inevitable doom laced with hope. Red Sox fans know that we are not winners; it's part of our identity. We aren't exactly losers, though, not anymore. I'm not sure what the word is for us, though I'm sure the Germans have one.

Red Sox fans believe through clenched teeth, shaking our heads woefully. We believe right up until the moment when we bite it. But we doubt with the same vehemence. I think it will take generations before Red Sox fans start acting like winners. Perhaps I’ll sit a child on my knee and explain one day, “In 2004, when I was 30 years old, Nana and I sat together and cried when the Red Sox won it all . . .”

For now, it doesn't matter how much money or talent we have, we know that we'll probably crash and burn. Losing that pessimistic optimism would be like taking away a little of my childhood, like killing off Santa Claus. The Red Sox are never one out away from winning. They are one out away from fucking it all up.

As for 2007, we're bound to screw it up soon and begin breathing through our beery breath the muttered chant of New England: "Next year. Next year."

I'll be watching for you, Papa, just in case it's this year.

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