We were born into this hot, sticky quagmire. Told from day one to expect nothing but heartache and silver-toed boots to the nuggets. Our grandfathers rolled out the anatomically-correct dummies [hold your Jose Offerman jokes, people], sat us down, and used one of those gradeschool pointers to indicate precisely where the stress-induced tumors would sprout, and the trajectory they’d take around our organs with every passing season. Our dads, far too hip for anatomically correct dummies, simply took us for long strolls in the forest, explaining that boys were boys and girls were girls and if Bucky Motherf–king Dent had never been born, we’d all get free ice cream. Forever.
And we believed it. And we watched the ball spin through Buckner’s wickets like some demented gerbil and saw Aaron Boone launch that Tim Wakefield bloopie into the cold New York sky. And we agreed that until someone exhumed the Babe or fished his f–king bass guitar and trombone from the bottom of the Atlantic or went back in time to explain to Hollywood that Caddyshack 2 was the mother of all shit ideas, we’d just have to wallow in the torment, never knowing the wet kiss of victory or the feeling of tickertape on our naked balls.
And then, right before our eyes, a goddam miracle.
And it wasn’t just an, “Oh, by the way, here’s your answer to 86 years of pain.” It was all holymotheroff–kinggod and tearing out your hair and changing your pants after every inning because we were weaned on failure and everytime the rollercoaster screamed down the hill, we were certain it was going to jump the track. Because that’s what the Red Sox do to us. They find the most horrible, excruciating, Kiss Meets The Elder-kind-of-bad ways to siphon our hearts from our chests. So we watched in sick fascination, wondering how they were going to do it to us this time, and we couldn’t go to bed or flip the channel because we knew that we were on the precipice of some new bad thing — 2004’s answer to Buckner and Bucky and Boone — and we had to be there to witness it.
But there was nothing but good. Mad hot good, like the single greatest comeback in the history of the sport. And against the team that so often fired the arrow through our championship aspirations? We’ll take two of those, motherf–ker, so package that shit up at once. And by the time we even understood what was going on, we were jockeying for position on the parade route and watching Alan Embree and Mike Timlin on the Tonight Show.
So there we were. World Champions. In our lifetime.
And I’ll admit, ladies and germs. It left me fat and happy.
The 2005 season had been an oddity thus far to those who know me best. An oddity because after a particularly harrowing loss, I wasn’t punching out windows. Or running from a Police cruiser down the VFW Parkway. In short, I was too high off the fumes of 2004 to get all hot and bothered when Foulke and Embree shat a game away or Edgah grounded into his umpteenth double play with the winning run at third. My eyes were watching the games, but my appetite for destruction had been curbed.
Then I watched Wednesday night’s game. And it all came back to me. The fingers on the chalkboard tension. The hands clenched in prayer. The kicking over the nacho bowl when hope looked lost. The dropping to the knees when Olerud went yard.
It was, at least in my fevered head, the single greatest game of the season, and it stirred up the passion that had been all too content to hang in the past.
So here I am again. It is 2005. I am screaming. I am jumping. I am slapping my nuts with a banjo. The Red Sox are one half game out of first place. And on a night they sit idle, the Yankees and Orioles take it in the shorts. Tomorrow night, the first beer pours at 7:05 as our boys take on the Philadelphia Phillies.
It’s good to be back.