New Sox refrain: There never was a curse

By the measure of the Red Sox myth, Wednesday night was perhaps the most shocking of all possible endings: the World Series championship - a dream denied for decades of dirge and drama - clinched at last with the ease of never trailing in a four-game sweep. By the measure of reality, however, it made perfect sense.

In the end, this Red Sox run was not about overcoming a curse. Rather, it was proof that there never was a curse to overcome. Manny Ramirez needed no séance to finally get his bat going to devastating effect. Derek Lowe needed no help from the supernatural to write a nightly story that bordered on the unbelievable.

For the first time since 1918, the Red Sox were simply better than every other team they played.

Again and again, there were opportunities to add fresh verses of frustration: ace Curt Schilling pitching virtually on one leg, the three-games-to-none Yankee lead, eight errors in the first two World Series games.

But this team was not built to walk tentatively on the razor edge of failure. From the early days of last offseason, when the Sox signed Yankee-killer Schilling, this year was designed to be a bull charge at the Bronx and all baseball - headfirst, nostrils flaring.

For the better part of a century, the Sox had essentially kowtowed to the Yankee machine, unwilling to match its commitment or cash. This year, that changed. So did the result.

"The curse is a terrific hook, but if there's any curse, it's the curse itself, which endowed the whole franchise with the expectation of loss," said Red Sox historian Glenn Stout before Game 4. The curse allowed people to not think "about the real reasons why [the Red Sox] lost."

Mr. Stout calls it the "but" factor. Yes, the Red Sox wanted to win, but on their own terms - with certain players at certain prices. The Yankees, meanwhile, burned a swath so broad through the major leagues that the second most successful team in history, the St. Louis Cardinals, would need to win every World Series until 2021 just to tie the Yankee total.

So in years past, perhaps, last season's dramatic extra-inning playoff loss to the Yankees might have sent the Red Sox into a decade-long spiral of doubt and despair. But this was a new regime with new owners, new management, and a new resolve. It stood toe to toe with the Yankees in offseason spending, nudging the payroll to a Steinbrenneresque $120 million.

These were not your father's Sox - the club that looked down their nose at the crass Yankees but up to them in the standings. No, these Sox were just as ruthless, trading Nomar Garciaparra, their most beloved player, when his glove and his attitude spoke more toward petulance than primal desire.

Not since the late 1930s and 1940s, when new owner Tom Yawkey went on a positively Yankeelike spending spree - building a team dubbed the "Gold Sox" - have the Red Sox made such a concerted effort to end their title drought. World War II and Enos Slaughter's "mad dash" scuppered those earlier plans.

But even then, some 30 years removed from their last World Series win, there was no talk of a curse. After a Game 7 loss to the Cardinals in 1967, 49 years removed from their last World Series title, there was also no talk of a curse. Even after Bucky Dent hit a home run to defeat the Sox in a one-game playoff in 1978, the Yankees were cursed in Boston, but there was no talk of the Sox being cursed because of the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920.

That emerged only after the 1986 World Series, when the Red Sox were one out away from the championship, only to see that best chance slip through Bill Buckner's legs. Indeed, in a way, this win has been more about exorcising the echoes '86 than the futility of 86 years.

Now, it must also be about a new beginning. For 18 years, the Sox have been inseparable from the so-called "Curse of the Bambino." With Wednesday's win, "Much of Red Sox history as we know it ends," says Stout. "That story is written, that chapter is over. It remains to be seen what the next chapter is."

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