A Return to Misery

The Trials and Tribulations of the Past Year in Red Sox

It was just about a year ago that I stumbled out of the Santa
Barbara Brewing Company blissfully starry-eyed on a cool October
night. The street lights twinkled a particular shade of red and a
gentle north wind blew at my back as a young man with a familiar
look on his face and a Boston T-shirt came running at me. “Yeah
baby!!! F@K yeah!!!” he screamed and I knew exactly what he
meant-the Red Sox had just crushed the New York Yankees in game 7
of the American League Championship Series, breaking the
86-year-old curse of the Bambino. Feeling like the world was
forever changed, I walked slowly toward the James Joyce, found a
seat at the bar, ordered a couple dozen Budweisers, and settled
back to enjoy the ESPN highlights playing on a TV above the bar. I
cried, I screamed, I borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to call my
family, and then I cried some more-the whole time passing out cold
Bud bottles to anyone who inquired what all my excitement was
about, assuring them that “that’s what they are drinking in Boston
right now.”

The beast had just been vanquished and a lifetime of ill will
toward all things New York had been usurped by a hoarse voice and
pure contentment-it was like the sweet spot of my soul was being
tickled by the gentle hand of destiny. The story is old news by now
but in case you were lost at sea last fall it goes a little
something like this: The Red Sox did the impossible and achieved
the greatest comeback in the history of sports, against their
dreaded arch rival the Bronx Bombers, no less. What had happened
next was unknown to all those who have lived in Red Sox Nation
since 1918; the team reversed the curse and bucked their
much-heralded history of snatching loss from the jaws of victory.
As a lunar eclipse darkened the skies over Santa Barbara that
wondrous night of October 27, 2004, the Red Sox swept away the
hapless St. Louis Cardinals and became World Champions for the
first time in nearly a century. I can honestly say I slept better
that night than I ever have before in my 27 years on this
planet.

Oh, but what a strange year it has been in the 12 months since.
Without frustration, anger, and the proverbial “wait until next
year” to fall back on, it has been an odd dreamlike existence for
me as a baseball fan in 2005. There was very little cursing this
summer, nary a nail bitten, and even less doomsday speculation that
the hometown nine would implode by July (even über Sox fan and
master of terror Stephen King’s new book, which he penned in the
afterglow of the Red Sox championship, is being heralded as
“philosophical and happy”).

The Red Sox were on cruise control-lovably defending their title
with their own brand of goofball baseball-and sitting comfortably
in first place. And for the first time in my life I wasn’t worried
about it. So confident was I that even as the wheels began to come
off the Red Sox bandwagon in late September-in an all-too-familiar
fashion of errors and brokedown pitching-I remained calm, cool, and
collected. I honestly believed that the likes of Manny, Big Papi,
and Johnny Damon would prevail. It was as if the innate suffering
and worry hard-wired in my Red Sox fan DNA had left the ballpark as
fast as a homerun off of David Ortiz’s bat.

That is until last week when, like a forgotten case of malaria
dormant in your nervous system, misery returned to Red Sox fans
everywhere as the Chicago-based Sox of a different color sent the
Beantown Bashers to an early winter vacation. As Edgar Renteria hit
a routine ground ball to shortstop to officially end the Red Sox
2005 season, I shouted something that can not be repeated and
kicked an inanimate object just a bit too hard. I suddenly craved
copious amounts of hard liquor and screamed at the television
demanding a change in recent history and chastising everyone in a
Red Sox uniform from the manager to the ball girl who missed a slow
rolling foul ball in the fourth inning. It was madness maddened
with a side order of bitter and God it felt good.

Buoyed by this feeling, I went for my cell phone and started
calling friends and family on the East Coast. With every
obscenity-filled rant and paranoid-tinged rave I was reclaiming my
status in the baseball universe. I was in a frenzied purge,
bemoaning things that had happened months earlier in the season,
questioning managerial decisions from a long-lost August night in
Tampa Bay and the pitch selection during a critical at-bat three
days prior; the spell of a World Series victory had finally been
broken and nobody was safe.

Gone was the feel-good fluffy, champagne-soaked Red Sox fan of
the Fever Pitch era and in its place was a familiar and hardened
veteran of seasons of heartbreak. After the first wave of rage
subsided, I heard a hushed aggressive voice, “The Red Sox blew it
this year and they have no one to blame but their own miserable
selves!” Looking to my left and seeing no one but my sweet San
Francisco Giants-loving girlfriend, I realized I was talking to
myself again. God it feels good to be back in the gritty grumpy
embrace of Red Sox obsession. Only 116 days until Spring Training
starts and already the worry has begun.

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