I believe in the Boston Red Sox. In my lifetime, I have found no better way to experience hope, despair, emptiness and exhilaration. Every April, hopes arise for a season of excitement culminating in the indescribable joy of a championship. Every July, doubts of glory arise after the annual post All-Star slump. Every September, prayers are muttered to let the Sox topple the Yankees just once in the decade. And then, until recently, six months of heartbreak, second-guessing and commiserating with friends and family. Like the seasons themselves or the stages of life, being a Red Sox fan is a real-world example of the lessons taught in any Sunday sermon.
I stayed up late as an 8-year old to watch Pudge Fisk will the ball to stay fair against the Reds, only to be crushed in game 7. As a college student in Boston, I lived a mere 3 blocks from Fenway Park. Bill Buckner, the scapegoat for that generation, stoked the fires of “The curse of the Bambino” for another 18 years. My roommate that year, a Mets fan, made it hard for me to follow the Golden Rule.
I come from a long line of die-hard Red Sox fans. My grandfather was only a teenager when Boston won the World Series in 1918. My father lived 73 years, and never once experienced the euphoria of cheering on the champs. He watched Williams, Yastremski, Fisk, Clemons, and many others throughout the years, but could never call his best friend Doug on Long Island to gloat just a little.
Dad died at the All-Star break in 2004. His last days were spent like so many others in his life, catching the game on TV. When we’d talk during his final weeks, he would avoid talking about the cancer slowly taking his life. Instead, he’d mention the last start by Pedro Martinez, or the late-inning heroics by David Ortiz the night before. I think it was his way of telling me to never give up hoping against all hope.
Mom called after the World Series was over. She stayed up late that night in October, and wanted to share the joy with her kids. Like so many others who lost loved ones that year in New England, she felt that Dad had something to do with the victory. Based the near miraculous win over the Yankees that year, I’m not willing to disagree.
Now I live in Phoenix, but I will always be a Red Sox fan. It may be another 86 years, but at least the next couple of generations are covered. My son has already sensed the joy of a Red Sox championship, but I have a feeling he will have some similar trials and tribulations in his life. After all, he’s an Arizona Cardinals fan.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.