Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Ground Game

Fair warning.  This post will most likely amount to a purely sentimental and cliched discussion of baseball.

I did not catch the Red Sox's incredible comeback from the brink of elimination on Thursday night.  I had tuned into the game periodically, but had started to feel that I needed some emotional distance from this.  And I had also observed that when I turned off the game throughout the Division series and now this ALCS series, the Sox seemed to oblige me by winning.  So in the spirit of carefully considering the jinx, I tried to get some badly needed sleep.

Of course, all of this has resulted in my missing incredible plays and incredible mistakes by the other team.  And really wishing I could have seen them.

I have been convincing myself all morning that having been one of the Faithful (as we multi-generational Sox fans have been dubbed) has prepared me well for the seemingly insurmountable obstacles life has thrown at me.  Where else do you get it?  

My brothers and I watched the games we could all summer on TV, and listened to most of the away games on the radio.  If the game was on TV, we could stay up and watch it because it was summer.  If it was on the radio, we could listen in bed.  My radio was a primary blue, and I've forgotten the brand name, but it was very 70s: shaped like a donut with one piece of the circumference quite thin and building rapidly around both ends to a thick section opposite.  The thick section split open to reveal the tuner, and when you rotated the halves of the circle, the radio looked like an 's.'  And the real selling point of this pre-Nintendo device was that the radio was engineered to act as its own antenna by twisting the halves.  

We followed the season diligently.  The Sox would start out strong, build to the All Star game, often in 1st place in the AL East, and then unravel slowly until the end of the season.  Often just a couple games back from the Yankees, who were mean.  Their fans taunted us and we ineffectively tried to insult them back.  We felt, as kids, somewhat guilty as the day the great Yankee catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash, we had developed what we felt was a particularly good epithet for him before hearing the news.  Then, of course, there was Bucky Dent, the Yankee shortstop, and his home run that ended our hopes in 1978.  His name, of course, lent itself to insult easily, although it was all sour grapes resentment on our part.

One of my brothers particularly admired Carlton Fisk.  My other brother seemed to like the really cute players, like Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans--because they were cute.  I was fond of Carl Yastrzemski, who played left field and knew the Green Monster (the big, pitted plaster wall on which the scoreboard is located) like the back of his hand.  

For a while, I lost sight of baseball.  I went to college and graduate school, and the Red Sox began to seem like that bad boyfriend who leads you on and then tells you that you have some kind of emotional problem.  But you keep tuning in occasionally to see what he's up to--sometimes to confirm that he really is as bad as you remember, sometimes because you know you still have the crush going on.

What I like about the current team is that they are come from behind players.  They're at their best when the chips are down.  Which doesn't always mean they're going to win, but it means no one can ever count them out.  And no one can deride you anymore for being one of the Faithful, because you've earned your scars, you've stood your ground, and when it really mattered, you proved yourself.

And that is sometimes the problem with neurologists: they see things as Steinbrenner Yankees, in terms of records and statistics and known quantities and dollar amounts.  But Robert and I see life from the perspective of Red Sox fans and the ground game.  

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