At this point, being a Boston sports fan feels like gluttony.
Four World Series championships in the past 15 years. Five Super Bowl rings since 2001. The Celtics and Bruins have reached the mountaintop, too, in recent years. That’s 11 major team championships in the new millennium. We’ve won so much I’m almost getting tired of winning. Almost.
When I cheer for my beloved Red Sox on social media, I try to keep it under control. Maybe even a little understated. Because I know what it feels like to get close – super close – and watch the anticipation of victory slip away.
My first baseball memory is from 1967, the year of Yaz and the Impossible Dream. I was a grade-schooler, and my dad absolutely loved the Red Sox. He was from Chicago, and had given up on his hapless Cubs the moment he moved to Boston for grad school in the late ’50s. That ’67 series against St. Louis went 7 games, and alas the dream remained elusive. But we never gave up.
Then came 1975, and the indelible memory of Carlton Fisk waving that home run fair, and Ed Armbrister interfering with Fisk and the ump not calling it. Another loss in seven games, this time to the Cincinnati Reds. In 1978, when the Sox faced the dreaded Yankees in an American League East tie-breaker, there was that home run by Bucky Dent, depriving the Sox of a chance at redemption.
And in the fall classic of 1986, when I was in New York City on a reporting assignment at the United Nations, I had to suffer in silence as Bill Buckner’s legs became croquet wickets. (In retrospect, I know he suffered much more.) When the Mets won the World Series, in seven games, of course, horns honked through the night - a special kind of torture aimed just at me, I was certain.
By 2004, a whole new generation of Red Sox planted the team flag at another World Series, and the “Curse of the Bambino” threatened again. But who really believes in these so-called curses? I shouted to myself. They’re just a sports-writer’s crutch – and an easy explanation for bad breaks or bad play.
In the end, the curse proved to be just an illusion, and the Red Sox' 86-year drought finally lifted. My dad finally did get to see his Sox win a World Series. When the Cubs finally won the World Series two years ago, ending their own 108-year “curse,” I celebrated with my Chicago-native friends – and in my dad’s memory.
Add, too, the Washington Capitals, in my adopted hometown, who finally won their own well-deserved championship this past spring, breaking the city’s 26-year championship drought for its four major teams.
But as I have reveled in all this “winning” in recent years, I have come to realize that it’s not really about the city or the fan. It’s about the players and the team.
I’m thinking about all the players who had never won a big-league championship – until they got to Beantown. Also, you have to love Alex Cora, the Red Sox’ rookie manager, taking his team to a record-breaking season, and asking if he can bring the World Series trophy to show the folks back home in Puerto Rico. Props, too, to pitcher David Price for slaying his post-season demons. Another nonexistent curse, banished. And Steve Pearce, journeyman player and lifelong Red Sox fan, hitting all those home runs and winning the MVP award, and that big red truck. And Andrew Benintendi’s balletic catch.
Unlike my younger self’s feelings of animosity toward the opposing team – even hatred, when it came to the Yankees – I now feel empathy seeing the disappointment of the losing team’s players and coaches. I mean, poor Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, getting trolled by President Trump during that heartbreaking (for LA) loss in Game 4. So maybe he shouldn’t have let pitcher Rich Hill hand him the ball and walk off the mound. Easy for us armchair managers to say.
And how about that masterful pitching performance by young Walker Buehler in Game 3? He delivered seven scoreless innings on the way to Los Angeles’ only victory in the series - that crazy 18-inning duel at Dodger Stadium that ended at 3:30 in the morning eastern time. No one can take that accomplishment away from him, or the Dodgers.
Maybe it’s because I’m a mom, and remember my now-adult children’s days in youth sports, where every kid got a trophy. I want every player to do their best, and be a team player, and may the best team win. I want everyone to feel the thrill of victory, but I know that can’t be – at least all at once. So if it can’t be Boston, I hope your team is next. Your time will come, someday, because there are no curses.