October 27, 2004

Believing in the impossible pays off big

Screaming. Jumping up and down. My roommate, a Yankees fan excited in spite of himself, shouting in my ear, "How much do you love baseball right now?"

And that was before Game 7.

Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, and stock up on the No-Doz. Barring a stupendously boring World Series, we are experiencing the greatest postseason in baseball history. Consider: over the last 10 days, we've seen a new record for home runs in the playoffs, bullpen abuse only exceeded by its success, and an inexplicable tantrum by a player who should have known better. What's more, that's all from the series that nobody seems to care about.

You just never know what's going to happen next. Three walkoff hits in one postseason? A team down 3-0 winning a series? Four games decided on the last at bat in four days? Eight innings of one-hit ball by a man who's won six career games? You couldn't make this stuff up, and you definitely can't turn off the TV for fear of missing something.

Of course, not everyone feels this way. I always seem to find myself having more "Why do you care so much?" conversations during the fall. If the playoffs bring out the competitor inside every sports fan, they also seem to bring out the contempt in everyone else.

Maybe it's a fair question. Four-hour games and midterms do not mix, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who's already kissed this quarter goodbye academically. There's a certain amount of logic in questioning the point of setting your life aside in order to watch 50 millionaires who can't seem to afford shaving cream in a game you're not even playing in. The answer never comes.

I think that, like love or fear or anything else that's fundamentally emotional, there isn't a real way to describe exactly what it is to be a fan this time of year. You're forced to resort to clichés and hope you're with someone who will understand you. If you're not, you're just going to wind up frustrated. If you've never been there, you just do not know.

I'm no different than anyone else in that. I've been a Red Sox fan my entire life, and I've had plenty of opportunities to try to explain why I put myself through the heartache. I've even gone as far as simply saying that it just has to do with the typical Boston inferiority complex towards New York—something that I don't believe in any way shape or form. For starters, who says Boston's inferior to New York?

But I've never been able to really get across what it was like to be me a little after 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday night. The second Doug Mientkiewicz touched first to record the out on Ruben Sierra, I dropped to my knees and pointed to the sky. I shook hands with my roommate, resisting the urge to shout "LOOSAH!" in my best Southie accent. I scrambled to grab my ringing cell phone, knowing the instant it went off that it was my dad, reversing the order of events from the Aaron Boone incident. We congratulated each other, and hung up. Mentally, I was already plotting how to get home for the parade.

But believe it or not, it isn't just about beating the Yankees. It's something a little more pure and basic, electric, animal even. It's the sigh of relief I heard on my first phone call and the primal scream on my second. It's instinct and it's wonder, knowing you've seen something that you've been looking forward to for so long and have almost given up on ever coming. It is knowing that there are millions doing the same thing as you at that very moment for the same reasons, and you know what? Yeah, it's a little bit like love.

But in the end, it's nothing I'm ever going to be able to make clear. It's just something very, very real.

Sox in six.