How the Mighty Do Fall

FORGIVE us New Englanders this editorial indulgence, but who says it's just a game?In Boston, Red Sox baseball is a tradition - a way of life. In the popular film "Field of Dreams," what ballpark do you think Kevin Costner travels to from Iowa? Our very own Fenway. (Today, Costner would have to get tickets months in advance.) Fans know the Red Sox have trouble winning it all. But they always almost win it all. Except this year. Things aren't turning out for the Olde Towne Team quite the way the Sox executives hyped it this spring - after spending a colossal $60 million on player contracts during the winter. The Red Sox are losing, and losing badly. What started as a cocksure season, a bought championship, is turning into a tough morality play. Boston has gone from first to fourth. Minnesota swept - at home! Not even Sports Illustrated cover-pitcher Roger Clemens could stop a disastrous losing streak. Million-dollar batters hit a spindly .215. Former stars fall. Big renegotiators flub in the field. Nothing seems to work. The fans, the press, the Sox management go into ever more tortured analysis: Whose fault is it? Meanwhile the players go into an ever darker and more fatalistic tailspin with each strike out. This team is a Jonah in search of a whale. What are the lessons? Perhaps it's that big contracts should have a withholding clause for lack of performance. Yet the real lesson is about what you can't buy: You can't buy true success. You can't buy true leadership. You can't buy true team spirit. You can't buy the intangible - inspiration. True, Oakland bought quite a team in recent years. Yet look at that team of Goliaths today - in fourth place as well. By contrast, look at Cincinnati last season. This was a team with no big stars and few big contracts. Yet the blend of young players inspiring older players matched by players reaching their prime - won the Series! As the old saying goes, the team that is inspired has an extra player on the field. Go Sox!

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