I guess I’m just naïve.
Like a majority of Red Sox fans, I have lived the last three years under the apparently false pretense that the miraculous comeback against the Yankees and subsequent World Series victory in 2004 had chased away the demons of failure’s past and that the future was bright. I should have known better.
I was a hardcore baseball fan as a kid, in large part due to an addiction called “baseball cards”. I stopped following the Sox with every day intensity round about 1997 when I moved into my first apartment and didn’t bother to get cable. I would occasionally listen to games on the radio, and I’d follow the scoreboard in the next day’s paper (and in later years online). I became somewhat of a casual fan. I still loved the team, but by not watching them on a nightly basis, I wasn’t quite as invested in them. This sabbatical lasted until sometime around 2002 when NESN suddenly became part of the basic cable package that I by that time had. Suddenly there I was in October of 2003 having my heart ripped out by Bob Boone’s bastard son Aaron, remembering what it was to be a Sox fan. To be truthful, the 2004 season might have killed me had it not been for the fact that in August of that year I once again found myself living without cable. Superstition forbid me from watching any of the miracle comeback that year (a story unto itself), although I managed to catch the entire World Series. The last two years have been a bit up-and-down for the Old Towne Team, but they’ve existed in the afterglow of that glorious 2004 run. Plus, without an outlet to watch them daily I never got to caught up in the ebb-and-flow. By the time I finally knuckled up and got cable again last August, they were free-falling out of the playoffs so I didn’t waste my time.
Which brings us to 2007. I would venture to guess that I’ve either watched or listened to 80% of the Sox games this season, a definite increase for me over years past. Doing so has reminded me of one of the main reasons I wasn’t entirely heartbroken to have them out of my life in those years in and around the turn of the millennium – namely the way I allow the fortunes of a professional baseball team to effect whether I’m going to be in a good mood or a bad mood. This past weekend rammed that point home.
The Sox have been mostly dominate this season, jumping out to a big division lead early on in the season while the hated Yankees tripped all over themselves, struggling to stay above .500. The Sox eventually leveled off and their division lead slowly shrunk over the last couple of months, but nothing to really get worried about. When the July 31st trading deadline passed and the Sox seemingly bolstered their bullpen with the addition of Eric Gagne (while the Yankees did next-to-nothing), I – like most Sox fans – figured the final two months of the season were little more than a warm-up for the playoffs. I didn’t take into account the fact that these are, after all, the Red Sox.
Thanks to Mr. Gagne, the Sox gave away two victories this past weekend to a Baltimore team they should have destroyed. The Yanks have cut the division lead to a frighteningly small 4 games. Panic is beginning to set in among those of us in Red Sox nation. For my part, I was a miserable prick most of the weekend. I arrived at the karaoke bar on Friday with the Sox leading 5-to-1 then watched in horror as they blew the game in the time it took me to drink a beer. By the time the rest of the party arrived, I was on beer number two and NOT a happy camper. After butchering my song and basically moping all night, I actually left the place before last call for the first time, I think, ever. Fast forward to Sunday, where a 3-to-1 lead disappeared off the bat of Miguel Tejada and my evening was more or less shot. When you’re relying on a trip to McDonald’s to cheer you up, you know you’re in trouble.
Through it all, the thing that REALLY gets me is the fact that even when they are playing well, there isn’t much about this team that’s likeable. They’re a fairly colorless group, all things considered. David Ortiz has been surly for most of the season, Curt Schilling morphed into a full blown a-hole before they even broke spring training, and most everybody else is bland at best. They don’t score a lot of runs. They don’t play well in the clutch, which means there have been almost zero late game comebacks this season. Yeah, their pitching has been superb, but unless it’s something electric like the heyday of Pedro Martinez, a well pitched game is rarely exciting. When one of the highlights of the season is Julian Tavarez rolling a ball to first base to record an out, well… you know the days of “The Idiots” are long gone. Plus, when you’re scoring *just enough* to eke out a win on a daily basis, you’re doing serious nerve damage to your fan base.
Tampa Bay comes to town tonight and I hope to heaven that the Sox can turn things around and begin playing with some level of fire and intensity. By all rights they should pound the crap out of the lowly Devil Rays. And you know, I can even live with the Yankees keeping things close for the rest of the season so long as we don’t *completely* choke the division crown away. But if I’m going to continue to devote as much time to this team as I have so far this season, they’re going to have to show me something. Because this past weekend nearly did me in, and I’m not about to throw away another summer being depressed about a bunch of ballplayers.
I gave you my youth. You can’t have my adulthood too.