Friday, October 22, 2004

Here we go again with talk of the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs and the immutable nature of the curse, however you define curse following the most stirring postseason comeback in the history of the sport.

Here we go again with a zillion camera shots that show the tortuous facades of the Red Sox fans, their fingernails bitten to the nub and their tickers beating on overwrought passion.

They want to believe in the Red Sox, if only they did not believe what they know to be true in their hearts.

The Red Sox cannot win the World Series, because it would be bad for business, because it would run counter to the story line that stretches back to the selling of Babe Ruth. They cannot win the World Series, because they are Charlie Brown preparing to kick the football being held by Lucy. They cannot win the World Series, because it would undermine a piece of the game that tugs on everyone.

The excellence of the Red Sox is always punctuated with disappointment. This is the glorious pathos of the Red Sox. This is who they are. This is their destiny. They are good enough to inspire. They are never good enough to complete the job.

If the poets of the game did not have the Red Sox, they would have to invent them. The Red Sox are a metaphor of life, eternally colored in shades of gray, doomed to beat their heads against the Green Monster. They are hardly lovable losers in the tradition of the Cubs. They are the hard-bitten souls who rest in purgatory. They are paying for the sins of others.

The Red Sox turned the baseball gods upside down by beating George Steinbrenner’s baseball empire as they did, make no mistake about that. They crawled out of a 3-0 hole and won two games in extra innings and put a human face on Mariano Rivera, and then they went into the most hallowed grounds of baseball and turned back all the monuments that celebrate the ghosts, and they tuned out the surly faces in the stands.

It was one for the ages, even if none of it comported with the delectable history forged between these two rivals. It was one that will haunt Steinbrenner until his dying day, perhaps even beyond.

Steinbrenner received batting practice pitches from Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez in Game7 after paying them top dollar. He deserves a million-back gesture from them.

By the end, it was not even close, not even a game, not even a doubt to the previously unthinkable following two swings of the bat of Johnny Damon, who has the hazardous waste site growing on top of his head.

It was a memorable payoff to Ruth and Bucky Dent and Don Zimmer, although it hardly purged all the anguish and frustration of yesteryear. The Yankees always will be No.1 overall, just not this season, just not when this season appeared to be all theirs.

All this material is destined to be mined anew in the days ahead. The Red Sox are going to be sent back to the national couch and placed in the care of a sympathetic psychotherapist. They have lifted history off their sagging shoulders, if only for a moment, but history does not succumb easily.

Could we really be coming up on the end of the Red Sox as we know them, and if so, what happens next?

Would this prompt the discarding of the “Curse of the Bambino,” the cute device of a Boston writer that stuck after Buckner misplayed the ground ball in the 1986 World Series?

What would it mean to the fans who wallow in the fatalistic vision of the Red Sox?

Their clutching of all the misery is a badge of honor, a way of thinking that reveals a certain character and strength. They are in love with misery. Yes, they are.

The Red Sox have an obligation not to break this sacred trust.

As sure as the sun rises from the east each day, the Red Sox must lose in the end.

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