I Am No Superman
I am no superman I have no reasons for you And I am no hero, oh, that's for sure But I do know one thing Where you are is where I belong--Dave Matthews Band, "Where Are You Going?", a song that was not coincidentally used at the end of the movie Still, We Believe
There is some serious bitterness in Red Sox Nation this morning. Serious.
Although there has also been some bittersweet eloquence.
As ironic as it sounds, it seems to fall to me today to get the bandwagon singing a rousing rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus." I don't mind, since it has been my fellow busmates who have picked me up the times I've started dashing for the emergency exit door or grabbing at the emergency window release lever.
This is probably because I'm fresh troops. Shortly after Roger Clemens was ejected from a playoff game against Oakland back in 1990, I kind of walked away from the Sox. It wasn't any premeditated decision on my part, but I just lost interest in them. Went and did my little Phantom of the Opera-obsessed thing in middle school, followed by Nine Inch Nails-obsessed dark gothling thing in high school, followed by my disaffected Sylvia Plath thing in college and baseball never crossed my radar.
Then, last July 28, all of it changed. I don't even remember who they were playing that day, or if they won, or what the score was, but that was the day. That was the day I watched the Sox again for the first time in more than ten years and that was the day they called me back with a vengeance.
I've alternately been perplexed and ashamed by this. How much of a fan can I really be if I didn't ride along in 1995, and 1999, and the debacle of 2001? And also, why now? Did I just need something to do post-college? What gives?
Today I know why.
All of us Red Sox fans are like soldiers in foxholes. And after years and years of dodging mortar shells and watching your buddies go down all around you, battle fatigue is an inevitability. Burnout. PTSD. Shell-shock. Sometimes people need to be sent back. Sometimes reserves must be called up. I'm not a grizzled veteran. I'll never be a four-star general like Ed. I can't command or lead and I probably have no frickin' idea what I'm here for and I may regret it someday.
And that's probably when some other neophyte will charge, fresh faced, over the hill to offer me a canteen.
This is my role right now. So here I am, kids, pull up your carpet squares.
First of all. Let's talk worst-case scenario. Let's say we're swept tonight. Let's say the D-Rays continue their tear. Let's say the Yankees get Randy Johnson and everything falls apart.
As Ed put it in his best entry of all time,
Today many Red Sox fans are thinking of quitting. The hurt is too much. The pain is not worth it. Why bear this grief?
And some will quit.
But the rest of us will shoulder on, as we've done before. And while our hearts our heavy with this most recent letdown, we can still imagine what it will feel like to win, to become transcendent and sacred in that moment.
Let's say this is not the year. I say, so? After eighty-six years, are we going to finally say, this is it, this is the worst that can happen, it's over, forget it, I quit? After Bill Buckner and Bucky Fuckin Dent and Clemens to New York and A-Rod to New York and Grady Little in Game 7, a stupid June series against the Yankees will be what causes us to falter?
Seth Myers, interviewed for the NESN pre-game show last night, said he felt it was better to be a Red Sox fan than a Yankees fan. When asked why, he explained that Yankees fans have to walk around scared. They know it can't go on forever. They know our pain will one day be theirs. Red Sox fans, meanwhile, "are used to it." And have something to look forward to.
Scoff at that all you want, but here's Yankees fan Larry Mahnken on the same subject:
The victory cinches nothing, nor would a sweep-devastating to Boston though it would be. Not with the immense talent on the Boston roster, and the potential for debilitating injuries on the Yankees'. A Red Sox fan friend of mine at work claimed the other day that Boston's just been toying with the Yankees for the past 85 years-just to make their ultimate victory that much more bitter for the Bombers. I pass that on for its humor, but there is a caution that comes with it: Boston will eventually beat the Yankees out, they will eventually win the World Series, some day. The Yankees rebounded in '78 later in the season from a larger deficit than Boston could possibly face entering July, and the circumstances that brought that Red Sox team down could happen to the Yankees. Celebrate the victories, rub it in-but don't ever allow yourself to believe it's over until the champagne bottles are uncorked.
In case you need a more brutal truth, see this from Red over at survivinggrady.com:
Butch: [taking a long drag on his cigarette, his face silhouetted in the shadows] You'll be back. This is your cocaine, my boy. You can't resist. Pedro goes nine tomorrow night and you'll be blabbering on at the office about how this is the year and how the Yanks are toast. The foam hand will be out. The Schilling jersey on your back. You're hooked, buddy.
At the end of the day, there are no answers. I can't tell you how the Red Sox do it. Put us under their spell, keep just enough of us fresh enough to let the tired ones hang on, call us back and let us go and break our hearts and lift us up at just the right times to keep stringing us along from generation to generation. I can't tell you how or why that works, but I know it is the single raison d'etre of the entire franchise.
Here I am reminded of another pearl from Ed, one that sits proudly at the upper left hand corner of this blog and one I may just cross-stitch onto a pillow someday:
It's not like we are going to say, "Oh, damn, you're right! Red Sox suck, I'm going to become a Yankees fan just like you. Sign me up!" No, you see, we don't choose to become Red Sox fans; we are chosen. It's preordained.
Even if Ed himself has lost sight of that today, it remains the truth. There are no answers, but there are facts. Chief among them is that we're here, we will be here, and ours is not to question why. There are times we lose hope, there are times we get ahead of ourselves, there are times of hyperbole and times of mourning, but the fact of the matter is, we're on the bus and we aren't getting off. Not now.
Otherwise, you can rest assured, every last one of us already would have.