I admit it. Despite season-ending injuries to multiple key players, I still had hope. The fact is that the 2010 Red Sox were not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until September 28. Common sense would tell you to take a look at the lineup and admit they did not stand a chance by the All-Star break. I can’t help it. I was born and raised in Boston. Born to “Believe”. On the day I was born, the Sox played the Orioles in a doubleheader at Fenway. The Sox won both games. You can look it up. Was there something in the stars that day that forever connected me to the Red Sox? On the day of my birth, they were in fourth place in the American League, and there they would remain for the season.
My father was an avid sports fan. Weekends were full of football and basketball on television. He was passionate about the Celtics. He installed a hoop in the backyard and my sister and I were forced to practice our free throws. Although he did not dislike baseball, he would not go out of his way to watch it or listen to it on the radio. But for some reason, at around ten years old, I became enthralled with the game. I squinted at the snowy screen, fiddled with the rabbit ears, kept score, and kept tabs on all my favorite Red Sox players. In 1967, as a birthday gift, my dad took me to Fenway Park. It was my first time and, like a virgin, I fell in love. I could barely see my beloved players from our bleacher seats, but I never forgot the experience. After that, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would not say a nurse or a teacher or any of the responses expected from a little girl. I would say, “I want to be the first woman major league baseball player.” I could tell from their startled expressions that it was not the expected reply.
I confess that my love for the Red Sox waxed and waned through the years. So many years of high hopes ended with disappointment. The tragedy of Bill Buckner, Bucky #&%# Dent, Aaron #&!# Boone, the shame of the steroid scandal, the strike. I turned away. I would hear the scores, shake my head, and swear I didn’t care. I would catch glimpses of games on television, get to know the players. The hope would shine through. Then, there would be another bad ending…another crashing blow. “They’ll just break your heart”, I warned my brother-in-law; but he always believed.
Even the 2004 World Series win did not completely convince me. Oh, I celebrated like everyone else. I watched the Duck Boat parade from up above in a downtown office building, saw the crowds come in droves to celebrate. It was a fluke, I secretly thought. Those “idiots” had their day in the sun. Another curse will come.
It is funny how in my middle years I have turned back to the joy of baseball just like when I was a kid in pigtails. It started again a few years ago. I had an opportunity to go to a game at Fenway. Then the next year, I went to a few games. Then, in the winter of 2010, I found myself in a “virtual waiting room” for hours hoping to buy a few tickets online. My goal was one game per month from April to September. By the summer of 2010, I was scouring all the ticket websites in a frantic search for the best seats I could afford to “fill in” between those once-a-month game tickets. My husband, born and raised in New Jersey (thankfully not a Yankees fan), looks at me quizzically. He thinks it is better to watch a game from his recliner. Not me. Seeing the boys in their home whites against the brilliant green grass, the sound of bat on ball, the thump of the ball into the catcher’s mitt, the roar of the ever-hopeful Boston fans — It’s priceless. You can’t experience that from the recliner. I love that I know all the player’s songs. I love that I can look into the bullpen from clear across the field and know who is warming up by his delivery, his build, his stance. They are my guys, my team.
The 2010 season ended early for the Red Sox. By October, the boys had emptied their lockers and had gone home. Part of me said, good, now I can get on with my life and not be a slave to their schedule. I can stop dropping money on tickets in my quest for the perfect view at the park. Then something happened. I started to watch the playoffs — even without my Sox. I was content to watch other fans’ teams. The joy of the Rangers beating the Yankees; the brilliance of Roy Halladay’s no-hitter; the disappointment of watching the Phillies crash and burn; the excitement of two teams with long-suffering fans finally making it to the World Series; and the extraordinary pitching of Tim “The Freak” Lincecum and the Giants. I rooted for the Rangers, laughed at their “claws and antlers”, and had visions of Cliff Lee in a Red Sox uniform. I swore I would not care as much next year, but I will. I will cling to any hint of a rumor or bit of news, and I will wait. I will smile when the equipment truck leaves for Fort Myers. I will rejoice when I first hear those beautiful words, “Pitchers and catchers report to spring training”. I will read every bit of information I can find about the new players. I will shake my head and say, “What was Theo thinking?” But in the end, I will be there in my uncomfortable seat at Fenway with a hotdog in one hand, a beer in the other, and hope in my heart.
Watching the other teams in the post-season 2010, I began to realize that baseball is not just about the Red Sox. My passion for baseball is for the game itself. It is a game of loss, of imperfection, of disappointment, and of child-like joy. It is like life itself. It is no wonder it all feels so familiar.