November 5, 2004


THE CURSE OF CURSES (Roger Angell, 2004-11-08, The New Yorker)

The Red Sox comeback from a three-game deficit to the Yankees in the championship series was not just unprecedented in the sport but near-unbearable—a five-hour-and-two-minute fourth game, settled in the twelfth inning, was followed, the next day (the same day, actually), by a five-hour-and-forty-nine-minute fifth, in fourteen—and along the lengthy way national audiences became aware of the Sox’ raunchy, joyful élan at the very same time that they began to comprehend the hovering deadly odds against their survival. The mass hug-ups, Johnny Damon’s Bible-movie hair, Pedro’s headbands, Manny Ramirez’s childlike smile and pistol-pointing riff after another hit or goof, and David Ortiz’s dusty hand-clap before he picked up his black bat again and stepped back into the box may have had nothing to do with the glorious Boston outcome, but they charmed you even if you were rooting for the other side, and brought you aboard. Eventually, the baseball gods were charmed as well, and forgave the Red Sox their outrageous four errors in each of the first two World Series games, and then threw a magical torpor over the dangerous Cardinal batters for the remainder of the swift and one-sided sweep. Enough of this suffering, someone had decided: time to lighten up.

All baseball is local, and what this historic surcease means to lifelong Red Sox rooters was expressed by a friend, a newspaper man in his late fifties, who called the morning after the Series ended and said, “I’m so elated. I’m surprised at how happy I am. It’s not like anything else I can remember—or maybe not since the birth of my son. I thought of him, and then I thought about my mother and my grandfather. The baseball genes in my family all come down from those two. He was a retired Brookline cop who lived upstairs from us on Nottinghill Road, in Brighton, and his whole life was the Red Sox and White Owl cigars. If my brother or I messed up, he would say, ‘Error, error.’ He was a big fan of the old manager Joe Cronin—he’d met him somewhere and shaken his hand. My mother was the same way. You’d hear her ironing and listening to the game in the next room, and you could tell if the Sox were losing by the way she slammed the iron around.”

The friend interrupted his train of thought, anticipating a question. “Of course, I’ve been worried about the loss of innocence and involvement,” he went on. “But now we Sox guys will just be regular fans—and what’s wrong with that? We won’t need the superstition and suffering anymore.”

Baseball is the only game that’s played every day, which is why its season often seems endless, right up to the inning and the out—the little toss over to first base—when, wow, it ends. Politics should be so lucky. Perhaps there was a time when a close and angry election like this one could be expected to produce some easy joy and a rough, semi-polite unanimity when it was over, and a little space when the candidates and the pollsters and the focus groups and the voters went home and thought about what it was that first hooked them on such passion, but it does not come quickly to mind. Now the imminent world, with its round-the-clock, round-the-hour schedule of crises and casualties and unfolding disasters, does not permit even a two-minute timeout. What we all could use right now is fifteen weeks till pitchers and catchers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 5, 2004 2:35 PM
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