There is a billboard near Fenway Park, a huge green billboard featuring Manny Ramirez doing that Dominican-double-point thingy that has become such a hallmark of this 2004 Red Sox team. It reads simply, “Keep the Faith.” Manny is pointing at Boston, at all of Red Sox Nation.
Right at your heart.
Last week’s ALCS victory over the Yankees forever removed the Sword of Damocles from its place above the collective head of Red Sox Nation. We are reborn, finally Finally FINALLY rewarded for our unyielding Faith. No longer are we a Nation of pain, of hearing footsteps in the dark, eternally beholden to ghosts and doom. Those who say we will “lose our identity” if the Sox win the World Series are entirely correct. That identity of anxiety-ridden karma junkies which you so love to ridicule will be gone forever, replaced by an impenetrable psyche of ultimate belief and unwavering passion.
But we will remain a Nation of Faith.
My dad and his friend somehow got box seats to a game at Fenway Park when I was maybe six years old. The Red Sox were playing the Rangers. It was to be my first baseball game, and I was excited in that way that you get when you are six years old. I wanted to see the players, see that they were real and not just pictures on one of the hundreds of cards I had in my shoebox at home. I wanted to see their beautiful white uniforms. I wanted to see a fastball go really really fast and then be able to say that I saw it. I wanted to see the diamond and the big Monster wall, because monsters were still a very real thing in my world. I remember the field, and it was impossibly green.
But then the sky opened up. Cats and dogs. I didn’t want to leave, because they might start playing and I wanted to be there, rain be damned. Stay, Dad. Please, let’s stay. But you never win these arguments when you are six years old.
The game was cancelled and we went home. And so it was that my first experience with the Boston Red Sox ended in disappointment.
That’s been a theme, hasn’t it? The trials and travails of the Boston nine have been well documented, entire volumes of prose dedicated to 86 years of coming close. That’s precisely the origin of all this pain that those of us in Red Sox Nation share — coming close, so close that you can taste it. Four outs close. One strike close. You dare to believe. And then you have your heart ripped out.
What does this do you a young, impressionable six year old? Well, it profoundly affects every aspect of your life, forever discoloring your perception of the world and your interactions with others. Perhaps, there is always a rug to be pulled out from underneath you. Because when you are six years old and you fall in love with a baseball team, it is ever so much more than a baseball team. When you are six years old, everything is life and death.
But, what else does this do? It initiates you into a brotherhood, an ancient and venerable group of Those Which Have Been Epically Disappointed, a Nation whose members truly feel each other’s pain. And they help you to survive, to preserve the hope of a Next Year. It’s a support group. It’s a church. You hear stories from old-timers who swear Pesky never held the ball in 1946. Grown men become children as they tell you about every magical moment of the Impossible Dream in ’67. And no matter what age you are, you know what Bucky Dent’s REAL middle name is.
And together, you keep the Faith.
Unless you are a fan of the Red Sox, in your sporting life you will never ever Ever EVER be as happy as I am right now.
No, this is a kind of emotion that you cannot win with 26 championships or purchase with a $180 million payroll. The impassioned hooligans at Old Trafford will never feel this way, nor will the masses that huddle outside Centre Court on Henman Hill.
Nor will Cardinals fans, even if their team comes back to win.
This is not to say that the city of St. Louis wouldn’t rejoice if their Red Birds came from behind, or that Yankee fans wouldn’t break their arms patting themselves on the back if Captain Intangibles and Co. won a 27th world championship. And I certainly do not mean to insult the ferocity with which European sports fans cheer and celebrate (at the moment, I don’t have any health insurance. Put down the glass bottle). Please, do not take me wrong. It’s just that the emotions generated by such things would pale in comparison to what Red Sox Nation is experiencing now. By a factor of about a million.
And if the Sox can somehow win a fourth game…I cannot even describe or imagine how I would feel.
This kind of feeling comes exclusively with Faith, and only to those strong enough to keep it. It is my Faith, the Faith that I have in this team that is washing over me like a tidal wave. It is this Faith that drove me to weep like a child last week (after sustaining the most difficult of tests), able to say only, “We beat the Yankees…We beat the Yankees…We beat the @#$%ing Yankees…” We have closed the book on Mystique and Aura, washed clean the sins of our past, and are about to take a home run trot into history. I am watching the Red Sox play in the World Series.
Right now, I am six years old. And the sun is coming out.
Archived article by Per Ostman