25 March 2008

Opening Day

My beloved Red Sox started off the season on good footing with a ten-inning victory over the A’s in Japan. The Tokyo fans were treated to a good game; their national hero, Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t fare too well in the first couple of innings (though he settled down), but the Sox reliever, Hideki Okajima, got the win.

On a more general note, I wonder how long this adoration of the Red Sox by people outside of the Boston area will continue. I expect that the “tall poppies” syndrome will begin to kick in, especially if they continue to dominate as they have. It has already happened to the New England Patriots, who went from lovable underdogs to (three Super Bowl victories later) hated champions in about half a decade. Champagne in 2002, die Schadenfreude in 2008.

This expansion of “Red Sox Nation” into all areas of the country - indeed, of the world - surely has to do with a tragic past that is unparalleled in any sport that I know of. (Naturally, when I speak of a tragic past I mean prior to October 2004, when the Red Sox quenched the eighty-six year drought by winning the World Series, an achievement they repeated last year.) If this pre-2004 story were told in a novel, it would strain credibility to present such a succession of improbable losses, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as it were. The best comparison I can think of to the cruelty experienced by the Red Sox fan is that of Charlie Brown, who continues to try to kick the football, and really believes he will finally do it, no matter how many times Lucy van Pelt pulls it away at the last moment.

So what is it about the Red Sox? It’s more than simply losing; after all, the Cubs have gone even longer without a championship than the Red Sox had. But the Cubs almost always... well, stink. They are lovable losers. (My apologies to Cubs fans.) The Red Sox weren’t losers - they simply couldn’t win it all. They were almost always good, sometimes very good, fielding teams that got oh so close - but in the end, they would fall like Achilles. They worked so very hard, only to fail in the end, and often because of a fluke or a bad decision. There’s something so deeply rooted inside the Boston fan, I think it would be hard for someone who didn’t grow up with this to understand. All I would have to say is “Bill Buckner” or “Yaz pop up” or “Bucky F’ing Dent” or “Aaron Boone” and these small tags, these leitmotifs of the Grand Tragic Opera that is Red Sox history, will strike the soul of a Boston baseball fan like Thor’s hammer. I guarantee you that of the people now reading this post, you could easily distinguish the Bostonians by observing how that last sentence has caused them to grind their teeth and tug at their hair (hair that perhaps went a little gray in October 1986), while everyone else is apathetic or bewildered by the references. (“Bucky F’ing Dent? Oh, ‘f’ing,’ I get it.”) Let’s put it this way: if SOX makes you think of Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, you’re probably not from Boston.

Go Sox!


C. August said...

Hey SB, I see you're now on the OBloggers Blogroll. Welcome! I have it set up on my feed reader (iGoogle, which I have as my default homepage in my browser) so I can see any time a new O-post comes up. A very nice little tool.

Regarding the Sox, I've been in Boston for 11 years, and still can't get into baseball. I watched more of the playoffs last year than ever before, but I just don't have the stamina or love of the game to watch 342 4hr-long regular season games.

I'm a Pats fan, and I still haven't recovered. I actually don't want to talk about it. I shouldn't have even brought it up. Ugh.

SB said...

Oh, I know. I can't even think about it without shuddering.

LB said...


It happened. Move on.