Yesterday afternoon, there was joy in Mudville. A clutch base hit from David Ortiz and some hussle by Manny Ramirez in the 9th inning on the hallowed ground at Fenway Park put the Sox over the A's, 5-4 and kept them alive in the playoffs. A tearjerker of an interception by Ty Law, followed by a limping run on his bum wheel to the end zone, kept a slightly more removed dream breathing in Patriots Nation.
But let's be realistic, here. There was no doubt about where the priorities of the long-suffering New England sports community rested yesterday, as during the tight-as-a-drum fourth quarter at Foxboro, with a long road ahead of the Patriots, fans and players alike stood and cheered when the score from a few dozen miles away was revised on the Gillette Stadium scoreboard to show that the Sox had taken the lead. Several times during an afternoon that left me with a hoarse voice and a sore throat I offered up a desperate prayer to whatever sporting muse was floating over our fair cities this crisp fall afternoon: I would gladly sacrifice the Patriots for the Sox today. It was a metaphysical bargain I never voiced out loud, and I am more than relieved that it wasn't necessary.
Still, at times during the frantic channel-flipping it almost seemed as if the Patriots and Sox were on inversely proportional trajectories: as the Pats rallied to 14 to 13, the Sox fell to a four-run inning by Oakland. Then, when a Ty Law punt return to the end zone was called on an outrageous misjudgement by the officials, as the fans in Foxboro booed and gestured, Fenway park was a riot as Johnny Damon's home run brought the score to 4-3.
After David Ortiz came through in a pinch (seemingly a clause in his contract), though, Foxboro caught some of Fenway's fire, and the Patriots finished up a nail-biter by recovering the Titans' desperate on-side kick to clinch the game at 38-0.
And so, around Boston on a morning after like this one, cautious Boston fans know to enjoy their moment, having learned in the hardest ways possible, over the years, to take absolutely nothing for granted. And yet even as we cheer, an entire world between the Atlantic Ocean and the Berkshires, between the Canadian border and a smattering of small islands that hug the coast of the Cape, holds its collective breath. All eyes turn to what is merely the other side of the country, but seems like the other side of the galaxy, where fans in green and gold just don't understand. Around the city of Boston, the gears of commerce kick into motion on another Monday morning, traffic stalls on the decks of 93, men in hard hats perform open-heart surgery on the Central Artery, college students walk to class, and people are acting normal, acting natural, and the collective truth remains unspoken: we're sending more than a team out to California to bring home far more than a victory. We're sending the soul of a storied tribe of fans that have defined die-hard for one hundred years to bring home redemption.
Forgive us, outsiders, if we seem maudlin. But where we live, we still believe in curses--and despite ourselves, we believe in our boys of summer even more.