It is one part romance, one part worship and at least three or four parts raw psychosis, all played out in a provincial cocoon where one must hail from New England and speak with a funny, drop-the-R’s accent. The culture of the Boston Red Sox once was characterized by gloom, with tortured fans convinced their team was cursed — by the Bambino himself, Babe Ruth — because they couldn’t win a World Series for 86 years.
Now, the Sawx are poised to win their third title in the last 10 seasons, almost making it worth all the previous agony, wouldn’t you say? If that isn’t precious enough, they have an opportunity to clinch in the baseball cathedral known as Fenway Park, for the first time since 1918, in what would be one of the wildest spectacles and unlikely scenes we’ve witnessed in sports. If this occurs, tonight or Thursday night, it means a Boston sports fan never, ever can complain again about sports woe. Since the turn of the century, the city has won three Super Bowls, an NBA title, a Stanley Cup and, now, this, the ultimate New England fantasy. Not even Stephen King, an ardent Red Sox fan, could sabotage it with an evil script in reverse. It’s going to happen — and if you don’t think so, consider the Cardinals were stuck on a tarmac in St. Louis with plane trouble on Game 6 eve, with manager Mike Matheny and pitcher Michael Wacha forced to do media interviews by phone. It doesn’t matter that the Cardinals overcame a 3-2 deficit two years ago and beat Texas, the fifth time in six tries they’ve done that to win a World Series.
Fate has overtaken all else.
“I guarantee it’s going to be wild,” said the grand master of the proceedings, Mr. David Ortiz. “We’ve got the best baseball fans and we enjoy this. Hopefully, this will get over (Wednesday) and they’ll get to enjoy it like they always do. Party time.”
And when it does, I’m thinking the Green Monster falls down. Better that than a riot, which Boston or no city needs in its time of civic joy. Remember, the Red Sox have played all season with a much larger purpose, for the victims of the Marathon bombings, emphasizing a mantra of Boston Strong and growing those bushy beards as a sign of unity. This is no time to let idiots invade the memory. There was a death in 2004, after the Red Sox finished off their historic comeback against the Yankees, when police shot a pepper pellet and killed a 21-year-old college student. And there was a death in 2008, when a 22-year-old man was taken into custody and stopped breathing after the Celtics’ clincher. By now, with seven championship celebrations in less than a dozen years, Boston should know how to do this party thing the right way. Besides, President Obama will be in town in the afternoon, trying to explain health care reform. Mayor Tom Menino, known for botching athletes’ names and other malaprops, is sending all office workers home at 4 p.m.
“The city is ready,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of great success. … We’ve had challenges and some tragedies,” said Boston Police Superintendent-in-chief Daniel Linsky, per the Associated Press. “We’re hoping that fans have grown and got accustomed to the championships, and we’re hoping that they realize that there’s no reason to destroy property to celebrate a sports victory.”
Tickets? If you have a spare $24,000 lying around, you can have two seats behind the dugout. This is a passionate event, you see, with the Red Sox having clinched in Colorado in 2007 and in St. Louis in 2004, when the Cardinals showed high class in letting ticket-less Red Sox fans enter old Busch Stadium in the final innings. When a region is as parochial as New England, and that generational pride has embraced the Red Sox long enough to involve sons and daughters and fathers and mothers and grandparents and great-grandparents, well, you get it.
You must be there — the fan, the Red Sox and Fenway as one. Denver? Who remembers?
The players know what’s coming. They can’t wait. “Nineteen-eighteen,” said Jonny Gomes, per ESPN.com. “There are some people who have been waiting a lifetime for what possibly could happen. And you can’t say that about a lot of cities.”
“I’m excited,” David Ross said. “You know, we’ve got a lot of work to do. So I haven’t thought a lot about the crowd or the environment. It’s one of those things where you’re trying to stay on the task at hand. But I think the association with the town is something special. I think the town has learned to love us as much as we love playing there. You know what I mean? I think it’s mutual, a two-way street. They see how much fun we have. And I think we’ve made baseball fun for them again. And in return, they bring that energy to us. And they like the characters we are. And that’s a warming feeling.”
It’s bigger than that, bigger than this team, even bigger than Ortiz, who not only has become the modern Mr. October with his continuing slugging exploits but has galvanized Boston with two speeches: at Fenway after the Marathon explosions and in the Red Sox dugout during Game 4, both effective. This is about families going to a special ballpark for decades upon decades, waiting for their Olde Towne Team to win. Remember 1975, when Carlton Fisk waved the home run fair at Fenway? The Red Sox lost the Series the next night to Cincinnati.
“With no disrepect to history or Carlton, you know, it’s an iconic video and a highlight that is shown repeatedly, and one of the more memorable swings that probably has taken place in this ballpark,” manager John Farrell told the media. “But hopefully there’s somebody (Wednesday) night that can wave their arms just the same.” Big Papi, for instance.
So now, the poetic narrative finally comes full circle, with the Boston Red Sox finally poised to clinch in Boston. Don’t play “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway tonight. Let the crowd be the soundtrack.