Friday, November 01, 2013

Redemption: Red Sox win it all!

I’m a sports fan.

Basketball isn’t my favorite sport. A hoops game is not something I’m likely to turn on unless my husband wants to – it’s “his” sport. But I enjoy watching the Celtics, follow the NBA playoffs, tune into a game or so during March Madness, and even get to go to an occasional ‘Cuse game at The Dome when I’m in Syracuse on business.

I always forget how much I like hockey – the absolute best sport to see in person – but was reminded a couple of years back when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, and again this year when they came close, that this is a fun game to watch. Bobby Orr remains the most thrilling and other-worldly professional athlete I’ve ever seen play “live.”

Following football is something of a dirty little secret. Watching football is, in this regard, somewhat akin to eating veal: I enjoy it while I’m doing it, but if I actually thought about it, I a) wouldn’t do it; b) couldn’t enjoy it. All that brain damage, all those thugs… Since I probably won’t think about it this weekend, I will no doubt be tuned in on Sunday to watch “our Tom” and the Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Soccer is not anything I grew up watching. While I don’t generally find it all that interesting, I vaguely follow the Revs, and have enjoyed the soccer games I’ve seen in person, including one last year at Fenway Park. I generally keep a partial eye on World Cup doings.

I’m never obsessed with the Olympics, but I’ll always watch bits and pieces, especially the winter games, where I get to become an instant expert on sports like snowboarding that I know absolutely nothing about.

Race cars and boxing I don’t do.

But, yeah, I’m a sports fan.

But mostly I’m a baseball fan. And, having grown up in these parts, that makes me a Red Sox fan. (Baptized a Catholic, but born a Red Sox fan, as they say.)

So this has been a very good year. And this has been a very good week.

I’m delighted the Series didn’t go seven games – my heart couldn’t have taken it.

And I’m glad that the sixth game was pretty lopsided. (Come on: when does a base runner caught in a pickle actually escape? Thank you, Jacoby Ellsbury.)

Last year’s Red Sox were just terrible. Losers, but not lovable losers.

The high points for me of the 2012 season were two.

One, it was easier to get a ticket than it has been in the past decade.

Two, I was at the game when the news that the Sox had unloaded Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett onto the Dodgers became public. As the game started, my sister Trish and I were wondering just who was playing first. What happened to A-Gon. Much as we didn’t like him – whiner pants! boo-boo-baby! excuse-monger! – he pretty much played every game. Trish googled and came back with the news of the blockbuster trade. We were just delighted. Beckett had lived out his usefulness with the team, and Gonzalez and Crawford were just not cut out to play under the fan and press klieg lights of Boston.

In 2012, the best thing I saw at Fenway Park was Bruce Springsteen, by far and away.

But last year’s debacle had an upside: it made getting tickets this year very much easier than it has been.

Pink Hats be gone! This was  a year for t10ducklings1023-JPGhe real fan.

Midway through the season, it began to strike us all that this team was not just good, they were actually likeable. (Nasty beards and all.)

They were having fun. We, the fans were having fun.

I will confess that, although I watched at least a few innings of pretty much every game, I continued to take to my bed, covers up over my head, when things appeared to gang agley during an important game. Fortunately, my husband – however much he groused about watching so much baseball – could always be relied upon to stay tuned, and would report back in when it was safe to come out from under the covers.

Even on their worst days, the Red Sox remained likeable. They were gamers. They were dirt dogs. They seemed to really like playing baseball. They were just plain fun to watch.

This was the year of redemption for a team – heralded early-season as possibly the Greatest Baseball Team ever - caught up in the Popeye’s chicken and beer scandal of 2011; for the lackluster take-don’t-swing 2012 edition that couldn’t even play their way to 70 wins; for the once despised – and rightfully so – John Lackey, who came back as a near-hero.

The ducklings pictured here are just across the street from where I live.

Their shirts and beards are gone now, no doubt taken by souvenir-seekers who grab “their” piece without thinking that they’re taking something away from everybody.

Who knows when the ducklings will be back in uniform. Not for the Pats, at the rate they’re going this year. Not likely for the Celtics, either. Maybe the Bruins…

In the meantime, “we” are enjoying “our” win.

To paraphrase Big Papi in his memorable speech after the Marathon Bombings, “This is our fucking team.”

Thanks, Red Sox, for a great year.

The only downside I can see is that the Pink Hats will be back in full force, and it will no doubt be more difficult to get tickets than it was when the team was awful.

In terms of a trade-off, I’ll take it.

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