SPORTS

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November 1, 2007

Magic gone in Sox win? Fans don't think so

The Red Sox have won their second World Series in four years, and I feel as elated as any fan would. There was jumping, screaming, and running around the halls. I called my family and friends back home and played “We are the Champions” and “Dirty Water” on my laptop. Yet something was missing: that time-pausing, earth-shattering, apocalypse-announcing feeling of sheer joy at the impossible being made possible; that spectacle of watching hell freeze over. This is something every Boston fan feared: becoming like a Yankees fan, a fan accustomed to victory and hated by other fans of the sport. Amid this fear, another victory has occurred, not only rapidly and predictably, but over a genuinely likable opponent. The 2007 Colorado Rockies were the ‘‘Red Sox’’ of this year, the unexpected Cinderella story, the team with character, the team with heart. And for whatever reason, fate has once again smiled down on Boston. Moreover, Boston is dealing with what could be a banner year for the rest of its home teams: the Patriots remain undefeated and are the odds on favorite Superbowl champions, the Bruins have a winning record, and the Celtics have a rejuvenated organization that could be well on its way to another title.

This raises an important question regarding the future of Boston sports. We are a humble city accustomed to losses, accustomed to last-minute defeats. We are a city whose very sports culture is defined by losing, defined by this masochistic need to watch our hometown heroes fail before our very eyes. Perhaps it is because we are a predominately Irish and Catholic city besieged with multi-generational guilt, inherited cynicism and depression, and a wee bit of alcoholism. Or maybe it’s because we turn our envious eyes toward grander cities like New York and Washington, D.C., cities that stole our revolutionary thunder and personify the America we feel we created. For all these reasons, it is quite unclear whether the city can handle four world champions under its roof. Go into a working-class bar anywhere in my fair city, and you’ll see a bunch of average Joes, no world champion among them. Maybe this is why we like our teams to be underdogs, to be little guys. That is how we view ourselves, and it seems very odd to tackle the responsibility that comes with victory, the responsibility of being someone to envy.

All this soul searching, all this philosophizing, is irrelevant, since what matters most in sports is winning games. It is more enjoyable to watch teams succeed than it is to deal with the gut-wrenching pain that accommodates a spectacular failure. Failures that have names like Buckner, like Boone, like Buckey Dent. Failures that evoke memories of relatives who never lived to see those championships, memories of a city united in grief and agony. When I question the price and validity of my team’s victory, I think back to how it felt to be a lovable loser, an inside joke among sports fans, and I think about those Yankee fans holding up their “26 rings” T-shirts. Then I remember how great it felt to finally win. Yes, if losing some of that emotion, that lovable loser mentality, that do-or-die heart-sinking feeling before every game, if losing that is the price of victory, then it’s a price worth paying, because you never know if you’ll need to wait another 86 years before you can celebrate again.