Thursday, June 3, 2010

Red Sox Faithful

Back before 2004, I used to say that Red Sox fans made the best spouses (or partners, or friends). The reason was simple. The Red Sox had not won a World Series in eighty-six years. EIGHTY-SIX YEARS! They started the twentieth century with five World Series wins, but after 1918--nothing. My dad was born, educated, served in a war, married, raised children, retired, and died without ever seeing a Red Sox World Series victory. 

It's not that the Sox didn't make it into the World Series. They did--every so often. In 1946 they lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1967 they lost in seven games . . . to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1975 they lost--in seven games--to the Cincinnati Reds. And in 1986 they lost--yet again in seven games--to the New York Mets. 

They always made us think that they had a chance. In '86, with two out in the ninth inning, the ball rolled through the legs of Bill Buckner at first base. Buckner was injured and should have been on the bench, but the manager wanted him on the field to celebrate the first World Series victory in (then) sixty-eight years. But it didn't happen.

Still, year after year, the Red Sox fans stuck with them.

The Sox had many successes. The last player to bat .400 in a season was Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. The last player to win baseball's Triple Crown (leading the league in home runs, RBIs, and batting average in a single year) was Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski. Countless others have distiguished themselves in legendary Fenway Park and gone on to the Hall of Fame. No wonder fans around the country have flocked to games, making up the "Red Sox Nation" so dubbed by Boston Globe feature writer Nathan Cobb.  And the Red Sox usually made it interesting--getting into the playoffs, or just missing them, or dramatically folding in September after a hot summer season. 

But they broke our hearts. Year after year after year. 

We still loved them. We still watched them. We still believed in them. 

That's why Red Sox fans make good spouses. They know how to hang in there through all the ups and downs. And they are loyal beyond all reason. 

Now the Red Sox have given us not one, but two, World Series championships in this decade--one in 2004 (in four games against the St. Louis Cardinals), and another in 2007 (in four games against the Colorado Rockies). 

Today's children are like those of a century ago--being brought up in a world where "Red Sox" is a synonym for "Winner" (despite what Yankee fans might say). The Red Sox currently hold the record for most consecutive sell-outs at a home game--and it is growing every game.

But this year the Red Sox are not doing as well as the Johnny-come-lately fans have come to expect. Their hitting is not as overpowering. Their fielding could use some work. And their win/loss record to date is an un-awe-inspiring 31/24, putting them third in the American League Eastern Division.

So, what will happen now? Will all the new fans brought in by the wins of '04 and '07 stick with them? Will they become imbued with the same irrational loyalty of the fans of old? Or, as many predict, with the sell-out streak end--as all streaks must--and the once robust "Nation" retreat into more of a "city-state?"

Time will tell. But I, for one, will remain loyal and true . . . as will my spouse.

1 comment:

  1. The moral of this story... we lose the World Series in the fifth game, but don't know it until the seventh :)