Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My brief life as a Red Sox fan

I’ve made only two sports bets in my entire life. In 1969, I got a little crazy, and bet on the Jets to whip the Colts in Super Bowl III and on the Mets to take the World Series from the Orioles. These are, of course, two of the most celebrated upsets in sports history. I was quick to realize that I’d already expended most of my life’s quota of good fortune on these two events, and retired from any further wagering.

Everyone who knows me well knows I’m a lifetime Yankees fan, so there’s something kind of funny about winning a bet on the ‘69 Mets, a team I’d never rooted for, and have never rooted for since. I was even faithful to the Yanks during their extended decade of mediocrity from 1965-1975, but the Miracle Mets were fun, I was going to school in Boston at the time, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to win a fin from my New England-bred roommate with an in-your-face long-shot bet on the other New York team.

During most of the time I lived in Boston, from 1966 to 1979, an enjoyable substitute for watching the Yankees win was watching the Red Sox lose, with all the attendant drama that entailed. I was there for the Impossible Dream loss to the Cards in ‘67, the failure against the Big Red Machine in ‘75, the late-season collapse and one-game playoff loss to the Yankees in ’78. Their defeat by the Mets in ’86 was also sweet, but by then I was living in Seattle and couldn’t experience it first-hand. In any case I hadn't rooted for the Mets in particular, just for another Red Sox loss. Better was seeing the Sox lose to the Yankees in 1999, but it wasn't much of a contest, and I was living in Georgia at the time, so the subsequent sweep of Atlanta was much more satisfying.

Then, of course, there was the playoff loss to the Yankees in 2003, another full-on drama. I was now living in Durham, NH, rabid Red Sox territory. My resulting satisfaction was enormous, although somewhat blunted by the Yanks’ failure to win the World Series that year. And then there was 2004. I have to admit that by this time I’d grown to respect, even like, the Sox. So I had to respect, and yes, even like, the greatest comeback/choke in sports history. Most everyone I know here agreed that the World Series was an anticlimax, but it’s a good thing they won. I’m particularly glad that Red Sox fans can now be just like any other tribe of homo sapiens whose team has won a World Series, ending decades of sports-induced psychosis.

There is one more confession to make. The photograph below was taken in August 1956. I vaguely remember the occasion, a rare extended family picnic. One of my Boston/South Shore relatives hung the Red Sox garb on me; I doubt at the time I really had a clue what it signified. Shortly thereafter, while many of my friends were gnashing their teeth over the announcement that the Dodgers were leaving Brooklyn, I realized that I didn’t care, because (a) I lived in Queens, and (b) I’d lately become aware that I rooted for the Yankees, the team of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Moose Skowron. When I showed this picture to one of my colleagues, a loyal Sox fan, he remarked that it represented my last Summer of innocence before being seduced by the Dark Side. My theory is that Red Sox Nation and Evil Empire are inseparable, complementary principles of the Universe, Baseball's Yin and Yang, each less than whole without its opposite Other. How could my life be complete without both?

(Note: This article was originally posted on 02 December 2006, and is being reposted now because the original author attribution was lost in the changeover to Google.)

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