Last night it finally hit home; the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. Funny that the I finally realized what a milestone the Sox reached on a night when it suffered a lackluster loss to its Empire State rivals. But the six-hit Sox of April 3, 2005 made me smile as I remembered the race against time that has epitomized baseball in Boston will haunt it no more.
Of course I didn’t want to see my team lose last night, let alone to its arch rivals; and I hardly need to mention it didn’t help that the Sox had fewer hits than the Yankees had runs. But, for the first time in my life, the loss last night was nothing more than that — a loss. There were no omens attached or proverbs being tossed around to cause one to either believe in or desecrate the season. For once I got to cheer for a normal team like a normal baseball fan without hearing my mom’s voice in the back of my head saying, “I’ll be dead before those Red Sox win a World Series.”
Here’s the thing about last year: it can’t be repeated. Everything about a championship season is unique and distinctive for that season, but, when a team ends an 86-year long drought and in dramatic fashion, no less, there is something extra special about that moment which makes it impossible to duplicate. I know this because I’m also — you may want to sit down for this news — a Patriots fan and while Super Bowl win number three was exciting because of all the dynasty talk and contract clocks that were ticking away on players and coaches that would watch their last game as Patriots, win number two was almost a letdown compared to the euphoria brought on by that first improbable Super Bowl run in 2002. It’s sad and at the same time somewhat reassuring that you can’t go back.
Adding to the singular sensation of the Red Sox’ World Series triumph was the fact that many had said that the Red Sox could only win the World Series once in a blue moon. It wasn’t exactly a blue moon, but there was a total lunar eclipse the night the Sox swept away the lackluster Cardinals. How many people get to enjoy the rare sight of a lunar eclipse while watching the even rarer sight of the Red Sox winning the World Series? Another image burned into my memory was the robust David Ortiz squeezing into a child’s size life vest on one of the Duck Boats that floated down the Charles River in last year’s monster-sized parade. Will my mom ever slur off more Austin Powers-esque quips about the Sox winning the World Series “once in a totally eclipsed moon”? Is there ever a time when it’s appropriate for a guy who goes by “Big Pappi” to be wearing an extra-small life vest on a slow moving Duck Boat? I just can’t imagine another scenario in which either of these events would happen — just one of the many reasons why last year just cannot be duplicated or topped.
Here’s the other thing that made last year so special: the Red Sox were not the most talented team in the MLB, at least not on paper. The 2003 season was one in which guys like Jason Varitek had banner years, and we all know the thing about banner years — by definition, they don’t repeat themselves. Slumps through the summer of 2004 indicated that 2003 had been the year to get it done and, with the Yankees acquiring A-Rod, the Sox faced an even tougher task. The Yankees’ lineup certainly didn’t disappoint either, especially in the ALCS Game 3. But the Sox still came back and won. Say what you want, but the Yankees didn’t choke as much as the Sox simply gave more than either fan base expected they had to give. The same went for the World Series. Most baseball fans heralded St. Louis as the most talented squad to take the diamond that year. The Cardinals’ line up was downright scary, considering the Sox’ pitching staff had allowed the Yankees to score 19 runs only a week before.
So, what can we gather from my nostalgic ramblings? Well, for one, I should probably watch my weight and my mouth in the years to come so I don’t suffer the fate of a particular Sox fan at Yankee Stadium yesterday. After being asked by a polite (albeit Yankee-backing) Yale track coach to sit down so he could watch the game, said fan decided the right protocol was to respond, “[rhymes with duck] you.” Apparently, her explanation for her behavior was that she’d earned the right to stand in Yankee Stadium. Funny, but I don’t recall her coming in to relieve Keith Foulke in the ninth.
Other than that cautionary note to all the young, female Sox fans reading this, last night I also realized how great it felt to be a regular baseball fan. Sure, the Sox lost, to the Yankees at that, but for the first time I was able to shrug it off. It’s just the first of 162 regular season games and I didn’t really have any inclinations to become a David Wells fan either. I can now enjoy the highs and lows on a more even keel. I never have to worry about my roommate comparing me as a Sox fan to a perfect wife whose husband constantly cheats on her, but who stays around and refuses to seek the help of a male prostitute. I never fully understood that analogy, but it did seem to strangely fit what I was going through at the time as a Red Sox fan after the 2003 ALCS. At least now though, you can call off the male prostitutes because this Sox fan’s heart is healed and excited to be just another fan.