When the Red Sox played game seven of the 1986 World Series, I was in Rhode Island. Watching at a friend’s apartment. Head dizzy with booze and the creeping fear that the downward spiral that started two nights earlier during the “Buckner game” might just consume me.
And, slowly but surely, it did. The Sox put up a three-spot early, but by the eighth, it was 8-5 Mets with nowhere to hide. When Marty Barrett struck out to end it, I crumpled to the floor in a heap and lay there for what must have been a solid hour. People casually stepped over me, a few even checked to make sure I was still breathing. Most folks just steered clear of me.
I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t swearing; in fact, I wasn’t feeling anything but exhaustion and disappointment and that empty void that my Dad warned me about. For the first time in my young life, I realized what it felt like to have my heart smashed to pieces by the Boston Red Sox. And as I lay there, face to floorboards, images of Ron Darling and Mookie Wilson taunting me, I wondered if we’d ever get that close again.
Turns out I had to wait eighteen years to get back to the World Series. In the interim, we’d had a close-call in 2003, and a not-so-close call in 1999. But 2004 changed everything. Showed me that faith could be rewarded. And that sometimes, the very best things are, in fact, worth waiting for.
Tonight, the Red Sox have the chance to win their third World Series title in 10 years–a fact that would have been inconceivable to the young jerk lying on the floor of that Rhode Island apartment. And the storyline leading up to this has been every bit as epic as that fabled 2004 season. The Bobby V era (error?). The Beckett-Crawford-Gonzalez jettison. The Boston Marathon bombings. “This is out f#$king city.” The beards. The come-from-behind victories. The Ortiz Rebirth. The John Lackey Redemption Tour. From worst-to-first. The ALDS. The ALCS. And now, one game away from another World Championship.
You could not have written a more stirring sequel to the worst Red Sox season of our lifetime. And tonight, I’m leaving nothing off the table. Beating Wacha won’t be easy. But I’m pulling for seven sterling innings from Lackey, a standing ovation as he leaves the field, a couple big hits for Stephen Drew, and, hell, maybe even a redemption moment for Jake Peavy (who’s gotta be available to throw an inning if need be, a la Pedro in game seven of the 2004 ALCS, right?).
Of course, the downside to a Red Sox victory is that our season ends tonight. But I’m willing to forgo game seven for the sight of David Ortiz hoisting a World Series MVP trophy, or a shirtless Mike Napoli riding a horse through the Fenway outfield.
Tonight, we’re one win closer to what we never thought would happen. Not in 2013. Not even in our wildest dreams. And we owe it all to a group of hairy bastards whose resilience echos one of my favorite lines of dialogue from The Usual Suspects: What the cops never figured out, and what I know now, was that these men would never break, never lie down, never bend over for anybody. Anybody.
Just a few hours away from game six. Hold on to your hats, Boston. And your beards.