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THE OBSERVER

Sob-storied history

Now comes the hard part.

No, not the World Series. The Sox will prevail in this contest and sport those fabulously garish championship rings before our pipes start breaking this winter. I'm talking about something infinitely more difficult for Red Sox Nation in general and the city of Boston in particular. I'm talking about the end of victimhood.

Victimhood is the most seductive, self-indulgent of feelings. It breeds sloth and failure. It is the mother of all excuses whenever a challenge looms too large. For Bostonians, victimhood has been a fun house mirror that has warped our true reflection. In it, we appear in every shape but the right one.

The Sox have performed an act of public service by demolishing our enduring symbol of victimhood, the Curse of the Bambino. We can now call it by its secular name: close-but-no-cigar baseball. Also known as not-quite-good-enough baseball. And life-isn't-fair baseball. That's all it ever was. The proper timbre in the voice of a Bostonian when wallowing in the Curse is a whine.

With the Large Victory in the Bronx early last Thursday morning, the Sox drove a stake through the heart of the bathos, shameless marketing, and sheer baloney of the thing. Thank you, Idiots all.

Through the long years it thrived, Boston's particular sense of victimhood against New York oozed into its every pore. We developed the defensive mien of the also-ran -- petulant, humorless, extreme. We thought our self-doubt was safely under wraps, but of course, it was lit up by our emotional klieg lights. Only victims chant ''Yankees Suck."

We could never gracefully concede the obvious -- the Yankees were, year in, year out, a better baseball team. We could never be comfortable as an honest second. Where's the problem? There's always a faster gun out there somewhere. That's life. New York City has vastly more throw-weight than we do -- not to be dismissed as a mere display of raw opulence -- yet we have the damnedest time accepting this reality.

Scribes and fans of all stripes across the country -- indeed around the world -- will be flocking to psychotherapists, traumatized by the loss of their cosmic analogies and frayed clichs, terrified at the prospect of having to find another baseball trope to ride. What they're facing is the daunting prospect of original thinking.

Boston has shortchanged itself in being the closest thing to America's Team that exists in baseball. Los Angelenos, known more for the thrusts of their shivs into the kidneys of competing movie producers, poured affection onto a friend of mine last week merely because she wore a Sox hat on Santa Monica Boulevard -- rather like the solicitous behavior of the French toward Americans on the Champs-Elysees after 9/11.

But then everyone loves an underdog. Pipe fitters in Duluth can love the Sox as much as high culture writers like Roger Angell of the New Yorker, who has adored the team for decades. Blowhards like George Will have added fuel to the fire by writing fatuous tracts about baseball as life, when, face it, baseball is just a game. Sox-loving became chic, and generations of new fans poured into The Nation.

Was there ever a better underdog than the Sox? The Cubbies notwithstanding, no. We luxuriated in The Unfairness of It All and, over the years, felt it grow as comfy as an old flannel shirt.

Now, the Sox are simply a great team. Now, Boston is simply the hometown of a great team. Neither can be judged anymore through tired metaphors. New York is no longer Boston's daddy.

As winners, the Sox will be much easier to dislike and respect -- after they win the World Series this fall to complete this fable. And as home to the world champions of baseball and football, Boston will be much easier to despise and respect.

The city, by the way, has never considered itself a winner. An aristocrat, yes, but not a winner. It has preened over its treasure of brains and culture, sophistication and history, yet lacked the appropriate chutzpah to go with it. Sort of the Adlai Stevenson of cities.

With the recent exception of the Patriots, Boston has never displayed the swagger of a place with all the marbles at the end of a season. Even when our Celtics and Bruins were great, our peculiar elixir of arrogance and insecurity simply denied our pride access to our DNA. Boston arrogance derived from Puritan arrogance -- pinched, tight, unfun. (That's why Brahmins consume so much gin.) We never afforded ourselves a loose swagger, and we've been the poorer for it.

We ridicule Texans yet know, deep in our hearts, that they enjoy life more than we do. There is something refreshing about their concept of If You've Got It, Flaunt It. (The Observer lived there in the oil boom of the early '80s -- I called it my first overseas assignment -- and found their infectious sense of the outrageous immensely refreshing.) New York carries its own brand of swagger, albeit more cosmopolitan. But not Boston.

So it's time for us to swagger a bit. Nothing tacky, mind you. Think Derek Jeter as he glides through life. (Some week, huh Derek?) With the end of victimhood comes the right -- no, the duty -- to have a proper sense of ourselves. That's how grown-ups behave.

Sam Allis's e-mail address is allis@globe.com. 

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