Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Still Cursed?

Every dyed- in-the -wool Red Sox fan said it before 2004: "If they win just once in my lifetime, I'll die happy."

Well, they won it. The Sox won the World Series in 2004. So why have I still been so unhappy following the Red Sox this year?

They won 95 games in 2005 and even tied the Yankees for the best record in the American League East. Moreover, they did it with an absurdly handicapped squad: no ace and no closer; only one starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00; a 39 year old set up guy who's been mercilessly overused; a center fielder so banged up he can hardly throw. Why did I take it personally when the Sox dropped two of three to the bottom dwelling Devil Rays in September, then split eight games with the sub-.500 Blue Jays?

Moreover, why am I in such robust company? There's been no let up in the sort of whining and recrimination heard on sports radio before the Sox won the Series. In fact, this year it seems worse. Callers are ready to pillory the first manager to win a championship in 86 years. For the good natured first baseman who has lost his power and the error prone shortstop, there is unrelenting bile.

So I'm thinking maybe the curse hasn't been lifted. Maybe it wasn't ever really about winning or losing. Maybe it was - and is - about addiction to the Wagnerian opera that is the Boston Red Sox: dramatic triumph in the face of certain defeat; perverse and even tragic losses snatched from the jaws of victory.

I can't tell you how often I've heard people say that they're happy the Sox won last year, but felt it was... well... a little anti-climactic. Other than the series with the Yankees, the Sox rolled over their post-season opposition in 2004, sweeping the Angels 3-0 in the ALDS and the Cardinals 4-0 in the World Series. As ESPN's Peter Gammons noted, Boston built the best team in the league by shoring up their pitching and defense, then just went out and dispatched their opponents. This was never more evident than in the World Series. The Sox had a sort of consistent excellence and confidence usually reserved for the old Celtics teams during their championship runs. It sounds funny to say, but the way they won was immensely satisfying if you liked baseball, but a disappointment if you were a "die hard" Red Sox fan.

This year, of course, the drama is back, partially due to bad luck and injury, and partially by design. Like the teams of old, these Red Sox win games 10-7 and lose games 10-7. Their pitchers are old, unproven or hurt. Their defense is spotty. They slug their way to wins, often with dramatic 9th inning hits from the astonishing David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

After getting myself worked up into a lather again, living and dying with Red Sox wins and losses, something different has happened for me. I realize that I'm not enjoying myself. One day the Sox look like they can beat the 1927 Yankees. The next, they can't beat the Devil Rays. It's not fun and exciting year after year like this. In 2004 I had a taste of the good stuff. Now the comebacks, the late inning dramatics, the walk offs, the "backs against the wall," and the "cowboy up" all just seem overwrought and tedious. I've no desire to return to 1946, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, or 2003. Desire? Hell, I've no energy for it.

At this writing, the Sox are down 2-0 to Chicago in the ALDS. I wouldn't be surprised if they came back and won the series. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they made it to the World Series again. I also wouldn't be surprised if the White Sox beat them 3-0. But I'm no longer watching their games, though I hope to tune into some of the National League playoffs. Give me the Cardinals or the Braves or even the Astros: teams that play the game well and do it consistently with pitching, good defense and timely hitting. The curse is lifted when I'm more baseball fan than Red Sox fan, I guess. Too bad it took me 31 years.


At Friday, October 07, 2005 8:25:00 AM, Blogger Chad Oldfather said...

I'm not convinced, Paul. It's not that easy to just walk away.

My first reaction to this post was to recall a line we threw around a lot back in the day. "Look at it, Paul. You can't resist it. Just look at it." (To be read, of course, with the appropriate George Michael accent.)

If they live to play another series -- and I'm skeptical of that -- you'll be back. You can't resist it.

At Thursday, October 13, 2005 9:33:00 PM, Blogger philfisher22034792 said...

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At Wednesday, October 26, 2005 6:13:00 AM, Blogger Paul said...

No man... really... I can kick this time... ummm... just give me a little taste of hot stove... maybe just some Billy Wagner gossip... then I promise I'm clean... just a TASTE, man!

The Dana Carvey as GM reference was CLASSIC.

BTW, how great is it for Chicago to be winning the World Series? What are the odds that the series would be won by a team that last won it in 1918, followed by a team that last won in 1917!


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