What color
do you bleed?
< Back to front page Text size +

Sweet and glow

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff October 30, 2008 05:59 AM

They were so wrong, you know.

All of those real-life Ron Burgundys who, four Octobers ago, took smug delight in warning us that a Red Sox victory over the Cardinals in the World Series would result in another difficult loss — namely, of our well-established and torturous identity as baseball’s perennial hard-luck losers. (Well, co-identity. Next year, Cubbies. Next year. All right, maybe the year after.)

If they win it all, the Red Sox will become just another franchise, the Burgundys warned us way back when. Be careful what you wish for, they scolded, as if there was some meaningful value in perpetual sadness and misery, as if we’d actually miss the angst that gnawed at the insides of our bellies when our team was on the verge of another creative, agonizing, and inevitable betrayal.

They were so wrong. We suspected it then. Two Red Sox championships later — and, let’s see, quick count ... yup, six major pro sports championships since 2001 — we’re pleased to confirm the sheer ridiculousness of the notion now. In retrospect, Be Careful What You Wish For was the lazy man’s lament, a simple angle for those who found easy comfort in clichéd storylines and the status quo.

That fellowship Rick Pitino so memorably sniveled about? It couldn’t be further from miserable. There’s never been a more enjoyable or rewarding time to be a serious Boston sports fan — and more specifically for the sake of today’s rant, a Red Sox fan — and that’s not solely because of our teams’ habitual success.

See, it’s not only that the burden was lifted, but how it was lifted, and by whom. Papi, Manny, and that merry band of Idiots were the perfect foils for the franchise’s bleak history, characters worthy of a special place in our memories. In retrospect, the highlight video of that ’04 season — or, should we say, the documented proof that baseball miracles do indeed happen — had the perfect title: “Faith Rewarded.” Three years later, a more strait-laced but nearly as admirable crew of champs took it upon themselves to emphasize the Red Sox’ new status as postseason royalty rather than sad jokers.

But the joy comes from more than just the victories, parades, and trophies. It’s the small things, too. It’s refreshing to be able to turn on a Saturday Sox-Yanks showdown on Fox without being clubbed about the head with worn-out footage of Bucky, Buckner, and the Babe. After so many years of wearing the bull’s-eye, you finally have a comeback for that Yankees-loving, Jeter-worshiping drone in the next cubicle over — countless comebacks, actually. And it’s been a pleasure to confirm that it’s more satisfying to witness and write history than to relive it.

Ultimately, I think the Burgundys’ ill-considered theory was rooted in this: Those who claimed we’d miss our tired old identity simply forgot what it truly meant to be a fan. Do you remember how you felt in October 2003, how you felt during that precise soul-crushing moment when Aaron Boone’s home run sailed deep into the Bronx night and Tim Wakefield plodded off the mound with the saddest look you’ve ever seen on a pro athlete’s face?

I remember. I remember being so damn depressed in the following days that I seriously reconsidered my allegiance to this team, asking myself again and again why I spent so many hours on something that left my 33-year-old self in such a pathetic, childish state.

I remember being resigned to the fact that my generation’s experience following the Sox would mirror that of so many who came before, unfulfilled all the way to the grave.

I remember writing these words in the newspaper the day after: So we ache, and we curse, and we mourn and we fume. And although we know there is no crying in baseball, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also tempted to shed a tear or two. Silly, but sometimes it hurts to be a sports fan.

Hell, yes, I remember. How could anyone with any sincere emotion invested in their teams possibly miss that?

But the Burgundys were dead on in one sense. Our identities did change in the delirious aftermath of 2004, and though there might be a certain few among us who have developed an incurable case of entitlement, for the most part we’re so much better for it.

We’re fulfilled yet ravenously hungry for more. We’re as passionate as ever, yet clear-eyed and rational (all Friends of Ordway excepted, of course). We’ve learned to savor the pivotal moments rather than to quiver in fear as they unfold.

When our teams prevail, we celebrate, shake our heads at this blessed turn of fate, then celebrate some more. When they lose, particularly to a superior opponent such as the remarkably resilient Rays in this season’s ALCS, we might mutter to ourselves about one strategic mishap or another, but ultimately we tip our well-worn blue caps and head outside to rake the leaves, already looking forward to the warm promise of next season. And of course, we continue to sympathize with our Chicago brethren, for it wasn’t that long ago that we were the ones with slumped shoulders and aching hearts.

You bet 2004 changed us. Thank heavens it changed us.

The Burgundys may have been full of it, but a certain other cheesy icon, well, he delightfully caterwauls the truth, every eighth inning of every ballgame at a certain lyric little bandbox near you.

Good times never seemed so good.

Play it again, Neil. You, we’ll listen to.

OT columnist Chad Finn is a sports reporter for Boston.com and can be reached at finn@globe.com

9 comments so far...
  1. You captured it exactly, Chad. Even before 2004, we cherished the small things: a Cy Young win, a batting champion, an MVP. Now we continue to celebrate the kind of courage and determination it took to battle back in Game 5 of the ALCS rather than bowing down with a whimper. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.

    P.S. Perhaps the Rays themselves deserved a Championship, but their fans didn't. Congratulations Phillies!

    Posted by Jessie_1958 October 30, 08 10:25 AM
  1. Wow. What a superb piece. I had decided not to read any OT because of the first article I saw laced with ugly politics, but I gave this a chance and was not disappointed. So many times I told people around me that the ridiculous concept that Sox fans would somehow "miss" being tragic losers was a lazy and stupid reporting method, similar to the endless Buckner tapes we had to endure every single time the Sox would make the post-season. This CF piece absolutely reflects how I've felt about all this, and well said.

    Posted by Steve G October 30, 08 10:43 AM
  1. You almost gave up and you were only 33? Shame on you!

    Back in the Dark Days, a Yankees fan and co-worker opined that it must be miserable rooting for the Red Sox and asked if I was sorry I wasn't a Yankees fan. I gave a one word response: "No." She seemed to want more, so I explained, "You see, I get to be a Red Sox fan." She still didn't get it, not that I expected her to.

    Posted by PumpsieGr October 30, 08 11:37 AM
  1. Chad:
    Now THAT was a brilliant piece. Absolutely, positively, 100% spot-on, brilliant. You nailed it perfectly.

    Also a big thumbs up to Jesse_1958's response, particularly the PS!

    Posted by StartedIn67 October 30, 08 02:13 PM
  1. Beautifully stated, but I disagree on one point, sympathizing with Cubs fans. There is a small but noticeable percentage of Cubs fans who somehow think it's cute or adorable or charming or quirky of something that their Cubbies fall short every year. Throughout the Red Sox decades-long World Series drought, I don't believe there was a single Sox fan anywhere who saw anything cute in it. Cubs fans still haven't taken it seriously enough, and therefore haven't yet suffered enough.

    Posted by cspurgeon October 30, 08 02:18 PM
  1. Right on Chad. I went to game 4 and knew the game was over before the second out was registered. The quiet in the stadium was eerie as Longoria's moon shot disappeared into the night. Seeing BJ Upton motor to third on a little bobble by JD I and his almost sailing a throw over first from the deepest part of the park I was awed by their athleticism. Although I savored the comeback and the fact that it went to 7 games, I felt satisfied that the Rays deserved it. I suppose that is it in a nutshell: this time we weren't cheated, just flat-out bested. Hats off to the Rays, I thought.

    Oh what a difference 04 made!

    Posted by 04champ October 30, 08 09:18 PM
  1. Spot on. But I also agree with the point made by cspurgeon,; the Cubbies never seemed truly angst ridden by the drought. And it should be remembered that there were plenty of people in the Boston Sports Writing Community who were making a career out of promulgating the misery to the masses.

    Posted by Redsoxjambo October 31, 08 02:56 PM
  1. You nailed it, Chad. I would never want to go back to how it felt in October 2003 or after game 3 of the '04 ALCS. 2004 changed it forever for this generation. The cherry on top was that my father got to see it (he was convinced he never would after '86) and my son was old enough to enjoy it. So good.

    Posted by QJ October 31, 08 09:56 PM
  1. The '03 gut wrenching nightmare I remember is not the Aaron F'ing Boone moon shot but the image of Jorge Posada on 2nd base and Pedro belatedly walking off the mound. The very mention of "Grady Little" still makes me twitch.

    Agree that the Cubs fans in general are too easy to accept the "lovable loser" moniker. Ernie "lets play 2" Banks would have been run out of Fenway on a rail for not caring enough. However, this is definately changing since '04. And not the Phils are champs. Cubs fans don't have many more fellow travelers.

    Also agree that we were bested, not cheated, by the Rays. TB took the marathon regular season and the 7-game sprint in the ALCS. Good for them and for their 100 or so fans who know the difference between a safety squeeze and a suicide squeeze -- the rest are already in line for tonight's early bird special.

    Keep up the good work.

    Posted by dchusky November 1, 08 09:38 AM
add your comment
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

This week's OT cover

OT cover image

OT Columnists

Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
Tony Massarotti is a Boston Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. He is currently spotlighted as a featured columnist on Boston.com.
Tom Caron serves as studio host for NESN's Boston Red Sox coverage.
Bob Lobel was a WBZ-TV sportscaster for 29 years, anchoring more than 10,000 sports reports.
Chad Finn is a sports reporter at the Globe and founder of the Touching All The Bases blog. Before joining the Globe, he was an award winning columnist at the Concord Monitor.

OT beat writers

Maureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.

Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.

Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.

Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.

Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports


Browse this blog