Today marks the last game of the 2018 regular season. And while it would be nice to see the Red Sox go out on a winning note, I’ll happily accept the theory that they’re gonna save busting their asses until next week. As we know, Alex Cora is the master of deception, well-versed in the art of war, and he is likely making sure that the Yankees don’t get too good a look at our firepower until the ALDS. Assuming, of course, the Yankees can overcome Oakland.
But let me ask you this, fellow Sox fans: if the Red Sox go down swinging in the first round — or go down stumbling, as lifeless as they’ve looked their last two times in the postseason — would you consider this season a success?
Honestly, it’s a question I struggle with. On the one hand, any time you have a record-breaking season, as the Sox have done with their highest number of wins in franchise history, you want to believe you’re seeing something special. But what if this is the Red Sox’ version of 19-0? What if everything comes crashing down around us in the ALDS?
As an old motherflipper who’s been around to see some epic Red Sox failures, and who still hasn’t quite recovered from the 2003 ALCS, I obviously want to see them go all the way. But after witnessing three more World Series victories than I ever thought I’d see in my lifetime, it’s less about the trophy. It’s more about extending the season. When you fall in love with a team, you want to watch them every night. You want to breathe in their excellence day after day. You relish the fact that some of the most reputable casinos have launched recently in the UK because you want to bet every ounce of your hard-earned cash they can keep moving. You don’t want the roller coaster to stop. You want it to keep on keepin on, off the rails and into the Charles.
As spirit-crushing as the 2003 ALCS was, what burned me the most was not being able to see that band of self-proclaimed, shaved-headed idiots on my TV every night. It was like Netflix giving you one season of your favorite show, then pulling up the tents without giving you a season two. It’s the itch that nothing else can scratch and you just have to sit there and suck it up and watch the circus roll on without your favorite team.
The worst thing about 2003, if I may go there, is how quickly it all fell apart, melted away like the spires of a snowflake, piece by agonizing piece, so that even before Boone’s home run happened, you could see it coming. Boiling to the top. An unstoppable freight-train of failure that was coming to drag us all back to reality. A reality in which the Red Sox never won. Never got the breaks. Never tasted ticker-tape and choice hookers and sweet champagne. It was a barrel of horse shit tossed on your birthday cake, the fat kid sitting on your sack lunch, the quarterback stuffing you in your locker, your dream girl telling you she really just wants to be friends, and your best friend leaving you and your ghetto Atari for the kid down the street with the sweet ColecoVision hook-up.
In an instant, it was gone. And suddenly, everything your dad told you was true. Some women are worth fighting for. The best thing you can teach yourself is how to change a spare tire. And the Red Sox are going to break your heart.
It took days. Weeks. Months before I’d be over it. Until Dad talked me off the ledge. “They’ve gone home to their teenage wives and million-dollar mansions,” he said. “And you’re the one getting an ulcer.” And it made sense. Because Dad knew.
Then, as if in response, 2004 wiped it all away. Suddenly sunshine and banjos and Scarlett Johansson and Brie Larson arguing over who’s gonna take me to the dance. Free beer and hamburgers for all. And the feeling that you’re not gonna have to go to bed shaking and angry and cursing the Gods. Amazingly, we got to experience it two more times after that.
“So what?” you might say. “Failure is failure. And if they can’t win it all this year, they’ve failed.”
In some ways, I agree. Once you’ve invested so much emotion in your team, especially across the length of 162 games, you want some kind of return. But the whirlwind of 2004, 2007 and 2013 have taught me that every extra game, extra inning, extra at-bat is a gift. And it’s important to appreciate it.