Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Identity Lost?

From the Archive:

October 29, 2004:
[Thoughts following the World Series Victory, the first for the Sox since 1918]

Do we regret it yet? Were we not careful what we wished for? By closing a window, have we opened a door... to hell? By trading Nomar and winning, have we opened a Cabrera's Box?

Many seem to think so. All this loss of identity and soul business, well, it's hard to deny that there is some amount of truth to it. But what may be more painful is the realization of the meaninglessness. Once the elation is gone, what is there still? Well, bills to pay, sickness to avoid, earlies to get up at.

Is that the painful part, the realization that we are not really the Red sox, despite our intimate and self-suspending attachment? The tenuous collective has dissolved yet again into individuals, who are back to trying and failing, and ultimately dying alone?

Geez, let's not get so dramatic here.

But what do we expect? What should happen? What did we think would be different?

Here's one proposal, from Pam Belluck of the New York Times: "Many wonder whether fans will turn into unseemly braggarts, in particular taking the opportunity to lord it over Yankees fans as payback for years of pinstriped abuse." (10/29/04)

You know, that ain't so bad. I think I can live with that. As someone who has been on the receiving end of beer missiles whose hate content could not be watered down by even the sleaziest Yankee stadium profit monger, I could sure use some ammo of my own.

I've been walking around Manhattan wearing my 2004 World Series champions t-shirt, staring at everyone to see if they notice it. It's great. Tonight, I’m attending a Halloween party. What am I wearing? My 2004 world series champions t-shirt. Not just because I’ve waited all my life to have one, and so I just don't feel like taking it off (which I don't), but because what could be scarier to a Yankees fan than a red sox championship?

But is that the point? If so, why watch the games in the safely homogeneous atmosphere of New England, why not come storming down I-95 and burn cars in New York?

Our problems run deeper.

We fancy our rivalry as the greatest in sports. That requires it to transcend regionalism, to attract and captivate those with no strong allegiance (like most Yankees fans).

Harvey Araton, NY Times (10/28/04) writes:"As a national entity, this team will not have the same cachet, after it is upgraded from perennial sad sack to parade-worthy supreme Sox. And in the long run, this cannot be a boon to baseball's broad appeal. Particularly at a time when baseball has been dealing with the sniff of steroid-related scandal, we have seen the tremendous promotional value of the everlasting loser these last two seasons... What will next years ALCS look like to America if it happens to match a Yankees payroll exceeding $200 million against defending world champions from Boston? What will the Red Sox represent now that they are no longer the networks' hope for another good cry? Fenway will always be cozy and charming but how can it be the same without its ghosts? No longer cursed, the Red Sox will be revealed as they truly are, one of the more blessed big-league franchises, with deep flowing revenue streams and, like the Yankees, an ever-changing cast of well-heeled mercenaries."

Jonah Goldwater, then columnist for, wrote on 10/10/04:

If nothing else, my claim that this cachet crap is for outsiders was corroborated by Araton. All that lovable loser shit, that's for tourists.

Let me refer to a neat dichotomy introduced by my father- that of roles and rules.

The rules are the difference between soccer and baseball. They are each self-contained systems. Roles are played for someone else- they are not thus self-contained.

The red sox played a role for the viewing public that they can no longer play. In this Araton is correct. But you know who else can? Anyone, in any sport or scenario you can think of. It doesn't matter who it is, but what their role is. Anyone can play Hamlet. The public can move on to the next lovable loser underdog in golf or soccer or some goddam reality show or horseracing. What doesn't matter in any of these situations is what rules they are playing by. So to that extent, Araton is again correct that this is bad for baseball's broad appeal.

But why should we have to bear the burden of loserdom? Go find someone else. I'm not martyring myself so bandwagon idiots in Idaho feel like tuning into fox instead of learning to read or voting for Bush. Let's be American, and say that that's somebody else's job. Roles are played for someone else. The bigwigs don't care who plays the role for them, they're just worried that there won't be anyone else to play it. But that's the bigwigs' and Idaho’s problem. I care who plays the role, because it’s me. And I don't want to play that losers role for someone else, not anymore, not ever. What do I get in return? Nothing. I'm no martyr.

And if you don't like it, and you want to make me, why don't you go and beat my team?!!

And if this role stuff is so captivating, why don't I care about reality shows or soccer of fucking horseracing? Because they are not baseball! If some stupid soccer team hadn't won the golden shin guard or the cherished Pennzoil addidas jersey or whatever the hell they win, in 86 years, and they were playing the bloated offensive juggernaut who scored a mind boggling 2 goals a game to set the all time record, I wouldn't watch. The roles aren't intrinsically interesting, the rules are.

Its not the existential anguish that we're stuck with. Its not losing cachet. Its not that something has changed and we can never have it again. Its not even all this Calvinist hooey, that complacency drivel that tells us to work real hard for no worldly gain, because gain is sin, and now we've gained so now we're confused.

What everyone is worrying about is that now we're stuck with baseball. But if that's not interesting to you, you can go fuck off, because you're not a real fan. I'm a red sox fan because I’m from Boston, yes, but I’m a red sox fan because I’m a baseball fan first, because baseball is the greatest thing ever.

It's a shame that the game can't sell itself, and that the story lines are required, rather than providing an exciting supplement to the game itself. But if you just want story lines, watch a goddam soap opera. Go see who the real boss is on that twist ending on that big fat obnoxious sadistic voyeuristic culture boss show.

The saga is over. The climax was even anti-climactic. We are now in epilogue. Of course, we'll do all we can to springboard it into a sequel. But we all know that the sequel is always inferior.

After having finally told the story, and having lived through it, we are changed. There was a moral, and an inspirational one at that. And we do get to stick it to the Yankee fans, and we do get to see if we can do it again, and see whether the Yankees will take it away from us like they did to Brooklyn in '56, just one year after the Dodgers finally beat the Yanks in '55, or how the Empire got back at the rebels just one movie after they blew up the death star. Stories abound, thankfully, for surely it is more fun that way.

But now we really find out something fundamental about ourselves. And that's whether we like baseball.

Pitchers and catchers report in 15 weeks.

Go Sox

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