Brian McGrory

Welcome home, Agony!

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / April 8, 2011

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Zero and six? Seriously, 0-6? I’m sorry, but who do we have to thank for this picture perfect start?

No, really — thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you with every bit of my soul. Thank you from every facet of my tiny brain. It’s finally starting to feel like home again.

Sure, that whole Titletown thing was nice while it lasted, what with the three Superbowls, two World Series, an NBA championship, and the parades that were so constant that, as friend Dan Shaughnessy once said, the tires on the Duck Boats were going bald. But be honest with yourself, didn’t it all start to feel a little too easy? Didn’t it start to get a bit ordinary?

And didn’t it feel strange when the Red Sox spent the winter basically buying itself another postseason appearance by signing two of the most celebrated position players in the game. They are brilliant, the way they figured out that if you spend more money than everyone else, you get a better group of players.

Well, usually.

But the unvarnished truth in this decade of victory is that we lost our story line, our narrative arc, the very thing that defined Boston as a city and gave its residents a certain, self-celebrated identity.

So as we contemplate this team that was expected to set every record imaginable, leading from April to October, a veritable shoo-in for another World Series at Fenway, I have just one quick question: Who do you think we are?

I’ll tell you who we are. We’re Bostonians. It’s not supposed to be easy here. We’re meant to struggle. Our driving force, our reason to exist, is complaint, and from that complaint arises the occasional ability to overcome unfathomable obstacles to meet a destiny that we believe is inexorably ours: episodic greatness.

We have miserable winters so we can bask in the joys of summer. We have clogged highways so our destinations seem all the more welcoming. We have crooked politicians so we can be pleasantly surprised when anything of any virtue gets done.

And we always had sports teams, especially a baseball team, that too often tortured us, so that the seasons of success were all the more sweet. Our basketball team was the exception, but Red Auerbach didn’t outspend his opponents, he outsmarted them.

Our most memorable teams were often, ultimately, losing teams, but they had narratives that have been retold across generations. The summer of 1967 brought us the Impossible Dream. The fall of 1986 brought us haplessness, pulling adversity from the jaws of success. The ’04 team was one of lovable idiots, always coming from behind until the World Series became but a footnote.

Then, somehow, Titletown became Entitlement Town, and we lost our way.

So what was 2011 going to be — the best team that money could buy? The team that led right out of the gate and never looked back? The team that did exactly what it was supposed to do? How do you cheer a foregone conclusion — I mean, really cheer? That may be a storyline, folks, but it’s not ours.

It’s New York in baseball, Dallas in football (from the old days), Montreal in hockey, San Diego or Phoenix in the realm of weather. Boston is craggy. Boston is ornery. Boston is thick with plot twists, unpredictable villains, and unseen hands of fate that emerge at the end.

Now, 0-6, facing New York for three games at home, we are reaching back to the old and familiar script that defined this team for longer than anyone alive can remember. We are the underdogs, if only in our own minds. We are facing ominous odds, even if they’re just figments of our perverse fickleness.

But it doesn’t matter, because at least for the moment, we have something we didn’t have a week ago, which is a story line: Sox dig out of hole. Film at 11.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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