It's No Good
It's one thing for them to lose. But it's another thing for them to lose like this.
At least last year there was some suspense. There was come-from-behind drama and close games and heartbreaking--yet riveting--confluences of chance, fate and decision. Say what you want about last year's ALCS, but you can't say it wasn't exciting (although for some of us it was "exciting" in the way a compound fracture is "exciting.")
This year we're getting all of the grief with none of the epic struggles that have, in the past, made it somewhat bearable. There's no music to these games. They're as flat as Curt Schilling's pitches in Game 1, as stifling and "fascist" (to paraphrase Bull Durham) as Mike Mussina's 19-straight outs; as homely as John Leiber's slack-jawed face.
In these games, a score of 1-0 has felt like 10-0. And that's how it was through seven innings last night as Leiber pitched a gem and Pedro, screwing his courage to the sticking point, harnessed his pride to deliver a solid, if not particularly artistic, outing. There have been rumors that Pedro is ill, and last night in a pre-game interview on the radio he did sound downright gravelly. If he is, in fact, suffering from the flu, the game he pitched last night takes on a more epic proportion.
But all in all, it's not just the Red Sox that are dead. It's the whole series. And in this the Sox are in violation of their implicit contract with their fans, which states that while they may lose the game or the series or even the pennant, they will make our hearts beat faster, they will teach us something. This year there has been none of that--just an excruciating swoon into mediocrity.
The Yankees have given lip service to our "relentless lineup"--but that's like the Patriots talking about how the Miami Dolphins are a "good team." It's either for show or to maintain mental discipline, but truth doesn't enter into it. The only thing our lineup has done relentlessly this time around is strike out.
In fact, the Patriots keep cropping up in my mind whenever I think about the Red Sox, because, once again, as a dual fan, I find myself entangled in some industrial-strength cognitive dissonance. Because there is an analogy here that I can't ignore, and that's Patriots:Colts::Yankees:Red Sox.
The Indianapolis Colts are a good team. Hell, they're a great team. They have arguably (pardon me while I swallow vomit, but it's time to admit this) the best statistical quarterback in the NFL. They have a stellar receiving corps and a running back that's not screwing around. Their coach has a decent track record and they have the legacy of Johnny Unitas to fall back on.
But they will never beat the Patriots, at least as long as the Kraft-Belichik-Brady dynasty remains in power. It will simply never happen.
Look at Opening Day. I went to that game and watched as the Colts' slippery offense ran roughshod over the Patriots' defensive front; at one point the Colts were actually leading by seven. I watched them put the ball on the goal line on a first down with the Patriots ahead by only three points.
And I tell you, sure as I'm sitting here, I knew the Patriots were going to win.
Sure enough, Edgerrin James--aforementioned all-business runningback--fumbled on the goal line. Then, Peyton Manning said hello to Willie McGinest's beefy forearm, and then the turf. Then, Kurt Vanderjagt--who I would not be sorry to see sucker-punched on the field someday--after making a finger-rubbing "money" gesture toward the Patriots sideline, kicked his way into the Choking Hall of Fame by missing his first kick in 42 perfect attempts.
Listen to me: The Colts had the ball on the goal line. They've won every single game they've played since by about 85 points, and they've played good or decent teams. They are the team to beat in their division, and perhaps in all of the AFC--except in New England. Because they will never beat New England. Period.
So what's a Pats fan to do when her baseball team is on the opposite side of the table?
Hope and pray and grit her teeth and scream and yell and cry, of course, but also, she's to let that gnawing doubt eat away at her brain stem and simply live with it being there.
So today while others are looking for a miracle, I'm struggling as with a difficult and enigmatic text--wrestling with these conflicting yet interwoven stories, wondering where I fit between them.
I wish I could muster some belief. Maybe over the next 48 hours, I will. After all, I considered the Sox cooked last year when they fell 0-2 to Oakland. But, really, in addition to the Patriots, this is reminding me of another story I saw told a week ago in the movie Ladder 49.
The movie centers around the struggles of a firefighting squad to rescue their comrade, who is trapped inside a towering warehouse fire, while he, badly hurt and running out of time, reflects on his life as a fireman in a series of flashbacks. In one of his rememberances, a fellow firefighter, walking across the roof of a building, is suddenly swallowed up by a blast of flame when a hole opens up below him. On the ground, frantic firefighters fling open the front door of the building only to be greeted with another wall of fire; the chief has to dig his heels into the ground to stop a desperate rookie from plunging ahead anyway, and hollers into his hysterical face, "It's no good! Come back! It's no good!"
The saddest thing about Red Sox fans is that we think we're that rookie with the nozzle. We think that somehow, we can dash in and quell the fire and find our team, make them whole again. When, really, we're just watching the movie, and we're helpless when the chief cries out, "It's no good!"
I became interested in sports because of the stories. I became fascinated by the way these performances, between rival teams, even between my two teams, juxtaposed themselves with one another and with stories elsewhere in my life.
Right now, though, the Red Sox are telling me something very dark, and I don't want to hear it.