It isn’t like the old days, you know.
Of course you know.
It used to be all about suffering and agony, and loving this team meant pain. There was no other way, and though heartbreaking autumns were the only end to even the most beautiful summers, still we held on.
There was hope too, or we swore that there was. We assured ourselves it didn’t count as lying. Ultimately our saga was the sports world’s take on Hamlet: a long, long play, and while the scenes might be real classics, you know up front that in the last act everybody dies.
In 2004, all the corpses stood up, and Hamlet said, “Great duel, guys. Shall we do it again? How’s next Tuesday work?”
There’s been one postseason appearance after another, a second World Series, all manner of titles and awards for the players…“Next Year” came and went, and came again. Now when we say, “This team could go all the way,” we have the nerve to actually mean it, full in the face of all we once knew to be true. There are those who think that the old ways are gone forever.
Clearly, they don’t know.
Perhaps it’s that nearly nine decades have honed our skill, but I find that we Red Sox fans are still suffering just fine, thank you. More subtly, perhaps, and with more effort, but we haven't lost the talent. Red Sox Nation will always find a way.
As evidence, I submit tonight’s game: a win would have clinched Boston's spot for October. What we got was a 4-3 loss to the Indians, in which two Red Sox runs could not score because Jeff Bailey’s hit bounced off an umpire. Really.
The sixth inning line drive ricocheted off third base ump Gerry Davis and, instead of heading down the left field line for a probable double, it caromed over to third baseman Jamey Carroll. Bailey’s extra bases were cut to a single, and in place of two RBIs, we saw the homeward bound Bay caught in a rundown. Inning over.
There were, of course, other opportunities. After scoring one more run with one out in the seventh the Sox loaded up the bases, and even a walk would have tied the game. They left them loaded. They also got two men into scoring position with two outs in the ninth. Neither made it home.
But it was really the Umpire Billiards that gave me the familiar feeling, as if this headache I’ve got had been wished on me by the universe itself. Somehow victory was close enough to taste, but not to touch, and the wild card will wait another day.
In fact, it was not unlike these weeks and weeks of flirting with first place and falling just short, sometimes by thousandths of a point. (That “virtual tie” last week? We knew what that meant. Even then we were still in second place).
So take heart, Red Sox Nation!
Yes, the Curse is broken now, twice over, and yes, a postseason berth is all but ours. But just because the Red Sox have been good these last few years, that doesn't mean the fates can't still mock us. Somehow or other, they will always manage. Some grand traditions never die.