Johnny Damon put it this way, as quoted in this morning’s Boston Herald: “We get to live another day.”
He’s referring to Boston’s 12th-inning 2-run win over the New York Yankees last night at Fenway Park. Our boys were home, struggling to head off an imminent 4-game sweep by the Yanks, a disappointing turnaround to the Sox’s own sweep against the Anaheim Angels that started off their post-season.
If the Sox are staying alive, they can thank their human respirator, hard-hitting David Ortiz, who clinched the the longest game in ALCS history* with a two-run homer at about 1:22 am this morning. It’s not the first time Ortiz has knocked one home to save the Sox, and he smashed this one right into the Yankee bullpen.
You could feel the anticipation rising in the city this morning; the blood warming in our veins when the win finally came after three disappointing losses in a rivalry that stretches back to the days when the Sox were just the Pilgrims. This didn’t start with Babe Ruth.
As I read the Herald on the subway this morning , people peered over my shoulder and crowded in to catch another glimpse of Ortiz immortalized on its pages, giddy as a schoolboy after saving the Sox’ skin; the headlines confirmed what people hoped wasn’t a late-night dream: “ALIVE AND KICKIN’,” “POPPY, SOX SHOW NY WHO’S DADDY.” So it was true; they really had pulled it off.
And so we sigh, our knees wobble as if we’re learning to walk again for the first time, our spines all-a-tingle with new life. The fans are resuscitating; the Sox are not the only ones on life support.
What is it about this series? Last year at this time, the whole city was pulsating with vibrant life, a faith only known to Red Sox fans. You couldn’t go into a supermarket without being reminded to “Cowboy Up!” Mike Timlin’s t-shirt slogan had become the city catch-phrase, and no one could tell us the World Series was out of reach.
But this year has lacked that vibrant faith. The enthusiasm has waned amongst the fans and the players, it seems. It’s not that we don’t care; but for some reason, we don’t seem to believe. At least not with the same fervency that marked the ’03 post-season.
But maybe we’re not up for another disappointment. My grandfather used to say, “Once again, the Sox have refused to win!” Sometimes a fan can’t help feeling he’s been betrayed. The Sox have the talent, but maybe lack the committment when it matters most. They finished second in the nation for total wins this season, and started off the playoffs strong enough. But when it came to facing the one team we’d all like to see crushed into the turf, it seemed like they were going to go, and gently at that, into that not-so-good-night of yet another quenched victory. Last year they fought hard against the Yankees from game one. It was fun to believe; this year, Boston turned off its tv’s and radios and went to bed innings early, unable to face the embarrassment of a team that, despite its ability, was going out without a whimper.
But, as I reminded my Pastor last night after Bible study, “With the Red Sox, you just never know…” At 12:45am, I thought I knew. I switched off my radio and gave in to the utter weariness most of the fans were feeling by that point in the series.
But you never do know, and I was wrong; there was–hopefully, is–life in the old Red Sox, still.
That’s not to say it’s over. They’ll have another chance to give it all away today at 5:10pm. And though it’s debatable whether or not Red Sox fans are in touch with reality at all, most of us would admit that it’s likely the Yankees will take this series, after all.
But that’s okay. We’re breathing again, and anything’s possible. It’s the thrill of hope, of an emotional gamble, rooting for the underdog. Part of the Sox’s appeal, at least to me, is their ability to keep you guessing. They’re the Mighty Ducks of Major League Baseball. They lift you up, let you down, but they’ve never turned into a boring, well-oiled winning machine, like the Yankees. They maintain a certain raggedy personality, the personality of a commoner–a little guy fighting against a souring establishment–and what true Bostonian can’t relate to that? Maybe we won’t win this one, either, but there’s always the hope of another revolution.
*Note: They broke this record again in game 5 the next day.