Finallyby Ben Jacobs
October 28, 2004
I never thought the Red Sox might not win the World Series in my lifetime. I'm only 23 years old and the Red Sox have pretty consistently been a good team as long as I've been a fan. And with an improved ownership group taking over and the emergence of Theo Epstein in the front office, I knew that sooner or later, the Red Sox would have to prevail.
I'm not part of a generation that went through Red Sox failure after Red Sox failure, wondering why these things kept on happening decade after decade. I'm part of the generation that had never seen a championship for any team I rooted for in any sport at any level until the Patriots defeated the Rams in 2001. That was the breakthrough for me. That was the victory that made me break down and cry.
This ... I'm not sure exactly what this was. It was great, I know that, but I didn't cry. I smiled, one of those big goofy grins that spreads across your entire face, a lot. I watched SportsCenter twice and my vision got a little blurry at certain points, even the second time around. I'm ecstatic right now, but I'm not sure it's completely hit me yet. It might take me some to realize that the Red Sox are the only team right now that can claim to be the best team in baseball. For me, this wasn't the instantaneous shedding of years of baggage.
It was for a lot of people.
My dad has been a Red Sox fan his whole life. He was at Fenway Park on August 18, 1967. It was a Friday, and the Red Sox won and my dad was miserable. It was the day Tony Conigliaro got hit in the head by a pitch. My dad was the pessimistic version of Red Sox fan. I think I became an optimistic Red Sox fan just because of that.
Every summer, when the Red Sox would be doing well, he'd tell me they're just going to choke like they always do. I would try to defend the Red Sox, and point out why that year was different, why that team could get it done. But they never did. My dad called me after the Red Sox finished their comeback against the Yankees, asking if I could believe it. He said he didn't even care if they went on to win the World Series, beating the Yankees was enough. I think that was just the pessimistic Red Sox fan, reluctant to get his hopes up too high again. I can't say that I blame him.
My mom has been a Red Sox fan her whole life. She didn't always know every one of the players and who they were, but it didn't matter to her. She cheered them all. I never heard her speak badly of somebody on a Boston roster. To her, every single player wearing the Boston uniform deserved cheering, and so she cheered them all whether they were stars or scrubs, recent heroes or recent goats.
My mom's friend has been a Red Sox fan her whole life. She was at Fenway Park 55 days after my dad saw Conigliaro get hit. It was October 12, 1967, and Bob Gibson pitched the whole game. Wednesday night, she got together with the friend she had gone to that game with and they got to watch together what they hoped they would see 37 years ago.
There are a lot of stories to be told about millions of fans who lived and died with the Red Sox over the years.
When I was growing up, the Red Sox were simply a part of life. We'd have the games on the radio throughout the house all summer long. The Red Sox were the only thing that could interrupt dinner. We couldn't take phone calls or watch TV once dinner had been served until we were all done, but the Red Sox could stay on the radio while we ate.
People say that so much of a Red Sox fan's identity is wrapped up in 1918 and the suffering that has gone on every year since then, but I never felt that. I just felt that it was a good thing to listen to the games, and a better thing when the Red Sox won those games. Even as I got older and realized the immensity of the period since the last championship, I never thought that being a Red Sox fan meant dealing with failures.
People who say that Boston fans secretly want the Red Sox to keep losing for whatever reason have no clue what they're talking about. I wanted the Red Sox to win so that I'd feel the joy of having set out at the beginning of the year with a dream, of having nurtured that dream throughout an entire season and of having that dream come true at the end of the season. That's all I wanted, and I got that this year.
Now, I don't have to care about 1918. I don't have to care about the "Curse of the Bambino." I don't have to care about Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone. I don't have to care about people asking what will happen to Red Sox fans if Boston ever wins, what will they do next?
You want to know what we do now? We enjoy this as long as we can, and then we go right back to rooting for the Red Sox to win another one.
My grandfather and I always make little bets on the Red Sox every year -- me for and him against -- and it's at the point where we don't even know who owes who money. My grandfather's running joke with me is that he tells everybody that he has "this really great grandson, except that he roots for the Red Sox and the Patriots."
My grandfather is 86 years old. The Red Sox have won two World Series in his lifetime. I want to be able to say the same thing soon.
Ben Jacobs can be reached via e-mail.
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