Dear fellow Red Sox fans,
Isn’t this collapse just a little bit fun?
I mean, we’ve had an incredible run in the past decade with John, Larry, Theo and Terry.
Sure, it started with the agonizing Game 7 loss to the Yankees in 2003 when Grady Little left Pedro in too long and Aaron Boone, of all people, went yard in extra innings off of a valiant Tim Wakefield – a blow that led my brother Mike to call from California, and say, with absolutely no hint of irony or hyperbole, “The Holocaust. Rwanda. The Yankees over the Red Sox. Must evil always triumph over good?”
But the next year the self-described “bunch of idiots” who did what no other club had ever done before in winning four straight from the same Yankees of A-Roid, Jeter and Matsui, then sweeping the Cardinals for the first championship in 86 years.
The retooled lineup that in 2007 got down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians. Yet rather than believing the series was over, we felt we had the Indians right where we wanted them. Seven games later, a second championship came.
Beyond the victories, the team moved over the years beyond the racist roots of the Red Sox, who were the last team to employ a black player and who were routinely listed as the least desirable club for black and Latino players.
To me, it all started coming a bit easy for us.
The bandwagon fans who joined the mythical “nation.”
The endless spending that placed us in the very upper echelons of teams.
The arrogant expectation that we would simply win every year.
You see, I came up in the 70s and 80s. While there were a lot of adjectives you could use to describe Red Sox fans of our vintage, smug was not in the top 10.
I’d venture to say it wasn’t in the top 100.
Insanely informed and knowledgeable? Yup.
Intensely passionate? Check.
Hoping against hope that things would work out, but somehow knowing that it would all come down in the end? You got it.
I grew up that way.
I turned 10 years old the night Carlton Fisk waved his Game 6 home run fair, then barged through the fans who had stormed the field. It was a classic moment that lives on to this day, but the fact remains that Joe Morgan’s Game 7 single won the series for the Reds, not us.
I was 12 going on 13 in the summer of ’78, and remember as if it was yesterday scoffing at my mother, a Brooklyn native, when she said in July the race was not over when the Sox were 13 games up on the Yankees.
I lived Bucky Dent and Yaz flying out to end the 5-4 playoff game with Rick “the Rooster” Burleson in scoring position.
I had just turned 21 the night that the hobbled Bill Buckner let Mookie Wilson’s ground ball go through his legs. I knew then we didn’t even need to watch Game 7, which, if you care to think about it, also saw the Red Sox take an early lead that we somehow knew would go away.
I remember the agony, and, while it was tough, it was part of me. It formed me, made me grittier, just that bit more skeptical toward the world.
This September has brought that back.
The Sox didn’t just lose, they collapsed in unprecedented fashion, blowing a nine game lead and playing .259 baseball the entire month.
The aftermath has been even uglier, as management has leaked unseemly details about Francona’s life: and former wunderkind Theo Epstein, another Brookline native, is apparently preparing to come here to Chicago to help another historic franchise break its curse. And Big Papi, the ultimate Yankees slayer, is making approving comments about our enemies-a potential first step, some say, in what could be the ultimate betrayal.
It’s been ugly.
It’s been toxic.
Yet it’s also gotten us back in some ways to our roots.
The epic failure revives some of the gut-level insecurity we carried with us for generations.
The ownership dysfunction brings back the worst of the Yawkeys and Haywood Sullivan era from the 30s to the 70s combined.
And, as always, the haunting specter of the Yankees looms.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not happy we lost.
I think the way ownership treated Tito is reprehensible.
I’m definitely sorry to see Theo conclude he has to go.
But I am glad that the smugness is gone.
And, if we had to go down, I’m glad we did it in memorable and classic Red Sox fashion.
One of the questions Red Sox fans asked for generations was, “What will we do if we actually win?”
We’ve found out.
Now it’s time for a different chapter.
I, for one, am excited.
I hope you are, too.