21 October 2004

Bliss... Sheer, Utter, Complete Bliss...

In 1986, I was 5 when the Red Sox won their 10th AL Pennant and went on to face the New York Mets (losing in 7) in the World Series.

In 1986, my sister was 3.

In 1986, the Broseph was but an apple in Johnny Damon's eye.

In 1986, the Woman was 5 and had no interest in baseball.

In 1986, my grandfather was 67 and was preparing for another huge series.

And now, in 2004, we're back into the World Series- the first time in 18 years- and it's in the prime of my fandom, my brother's fandom, my sister's fandom, my girlfriend's fandom. I have SO much I want to write, so much I'm thinking right now, no many images floating through my dazed head. I don't know where to start.

This is, with no doubt, the greatest and most impressive comeback in modern sports history. None even comes close- the breadth, the size, the daunting task spread over 4-5 days that had ample opportunity to stumble. We were losing in the 8th inning of Game 4. We were losing in the 9th inning of Game 5. We sent a pitcher to the mound in Game 6 with blood draining from his ankle, an ankle sutured up in order to hold a tendon in place (a performance that ranks with Pedro's bullpen charge in Game 5 of the '99 ALDS as one of the greatest and inspiring in franchise history), we sent a pitcher out in Game 7 on two days rest, a guy who'd been written off and ridiculed, a guy that pitched his heart out and his team into the World Series.

We did it in their house, we did it with our backs to the wall when any sort of mistake would have lost it, and we did it because of the freakish, preternatural ability to believe in their ability to win games, and to go out and play that day's game, and not yesterday's or tomorrow's.

We won because of ALCS MVP, David Ortiz. We won because of our resilient bullpen. We won because Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Curtis Leskanic, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Timlin, Mark Bellhorn and Johnny Boom Boom Damon pulled themselves off the mat and did what they'd done all season. I've never been as proud of a baseball player, never as happy for one as I am/ was for Johnny Damon in that game. One of the AL's top 5 players during the season finally proving his worth. Astonishing.

We also won because Terry Francona managed Joe Torre's pants off, always being a step and a move ahead, constantly sticking by an informed, well thought out game plan. Our late season run for the division helped tire out Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera, as well as exacerbating Paul Quantrill's knee issues with overwork. This team never stopped moving.

We won because we wanted it more, because even down 0-3 we never resorted to punching balls out of player's gloves and feigning disbelief when being caught (something Robert Fick did last year to the Cub's 1B in the ALDS, and was vilified for it).

This win was an exorcism of every Red Sox collapse in the face of the New York Yankees. The Red Sox never hold an early lead in that game. The Red Sox never get a bounce on a play like when Esteban Loaiza's attempt on Bill Mueller at 2B was kicked away. The Red Sox 1B never makes a pick like the one made by Doug Mientkiewicz, a clean, no-sweat play on the hardest throw for a 1B to handle. The Red Sox never shut the door on potential rallies late in a game like this. The Yankees never go so quiet at the end.

The Red Sox never win this series- NO ONE does down 0-3. This was not as much a collapse as it was a stunning, beautiful, heartrending comeback. The single greatest sports moment of my life so far- and we're not even at the World Series yet. It's not over, we're still rolling.

To all that paint the Red Sox fans' in an unfavorable light after this win- from Rob Dibble saying that the Red Sox "celebrated too much" (really? for winning a pennant in Yankee Stadium?), to Michael Kay- par for the course- claiming that if the Sox win it all, us Sox fans will lose our identities...


Condescension from a loser is pathetic, and there's no better word for Kay.

But at the end of the day- who cares? We won. We did it. Theo Epstein was ebullient in the locker room where a year ago this same team lay stunned, some sobbing at what they'd let slip from their fingers. He paid homage to all thos Sox teams from the past before hoisting a Budweiser to his lips. "This is for all those great Sox teams that just couldn't get by the Yankees- Williams, Doerr, Pesky, Dom DiMaggio- the 49 team, the 78 team, last year's team- this if for those guys. Cheers!" John Henry was excited, proud- and in disbelief. "Those last few innings I kept thinking- wow, there's going be a World Series in Boston this year! Amazing." Henry then shook his head in bemused shock.

I'm proud of my team, and I love being a Boston Red Sox fan. After the game, after the interviews, the MVP presentation, Nike aired a really wonderful, beautiful ad that summed up the Red Sox culture and experience wonderfully. My mom cried. I might have come close. Here it is. The wallpaper available is a nice touch, too.

So many wonderful images too- Damon rounding the bases on both HRs like he hadn't done anything- because he knew he really hadn't yet. He wasn't celebrating yet. The image of Brian Cashman violently cursing to himself after the grand slam. The sight of Kevin Youkilis, Dave McCarty, and Rick Gutierrez being the first out of the dugout on a big play despite not even being on the roster. Derek Lowe coming back to the dugout to a hug from Terry Francona after 6 astonishing innings. Jeter pleading to his teammates from 1st base- "come on!" ARod's look of bewilderment and defeat. Pokey easing that ball into his glove, off his fingertips, into Sierra's glove. The celebration. I'll really never forget screaming at the top of my lungs as Ruben Sierra got out in front of an Alan Embree slider, sending it sputtering to 2B, jumping up and hugging my brother, screaming also, watching my mom talk about her dad and seeing her eyes water. My girlfriend, the best girlfriend in the whole world, treking out to CT to watch, not complaining once about missing the last train back and having to take a 5AM trip back. Calling my grandmother, hearing her happy in disbelief, having stayed up hours past her bedtime to see it happen. Talking to my sister who had no words for her experience at Fenway Park after the final out.

And it's not even over! More memories surely await.

So in the end, they talked shit, they bragged, they swaggered, they slapped at balls in gloves, they got out to a big lead... but we won. We shut up, played, and won. An imminently likeable group of baseball players, an astonishingly talented baseball team- the greatest in franchise history- and a team that has all the makings of one that can certainly win 4 more games before all's said and done.

Hey, all you gotta do is believe, right?

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By Blogger Emily, at 10/22/2004 1:15 AM  

Hey, Emily- die in a fire.

By Blogger BS Memorial, at 10/22/2004 1:45 AM  

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