Pretty Good Year, Part IV
ALCS: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3
and the first 8+ innings of Game 4
after all the jacks are in their boxes and the clowns have all gone to bed you can hear happiness staggering on down the street footprints dressed in red and the wind whispers mary
A brilliant history teacher of mine in high school used to say, "The past is a different country."
Come with me, then, to the exotic locales of October 12, 13, and 16, 2004.
In some ways, they should be more familiar than our current uncharted territory; an autumn like so many others where heroes are falling, one by one, with their arboreal counterparts. It's October baseball in Boston, c. 1918-2004.
And yet, today, those days are alien. Recontextualized as the precursor to Victory, they've become the set-up to an unbelievable punch line, the calm before the supernova, the dark setting for the playoff fireworks to come.
But try to remember them as they were.
Remember Schilling, scruffy head buried in his wide hands, cowering in the dugout at Yankee Stadium, while the taunts rain down without mercy.
Remember Pedro, ever more tarnished, red glove over his face, conferring with Tek seemingly after every pitch on that mound, a marooned island of chagrin amidst tidal waves of "Who's Your Daddy?"
Remember the desolation of those games, the hopelessness, the repeated assurances from the press booth that "No team has ever come back from..."
Remember the way the Yankees exulted, remember the way this year of promise crumbled with barely a whimper before our horrified eyes. Remember the humiliation. Remember the rage. Remember the sheer darkness of:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
3 0 3 5 2 0 4 0 2 19 22 1
0 4 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 8 15 0
...before a rapidly emptying Fenway Park.
a broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday's life somewhere a queen is weeping somewhere a king has no wife and the wind it cries mary
The cynical among us may have expected disappointment, but this was something different. This was something black and hideous. This was teetering at the edge of a howling abyss. This was an elemental absence of hope.
This was Red Sox fans abandoning Fenway Park in October.
Of course there are many who will say they never lost faith. Some are even telling the truth.
But not I--to say I lost hope is an understatement. It was a bottomless feeling. I didn't just lose faith in baseball or the Red Sox. I lost faith in life itself. At least, for a few shuddering moments along about inning 4, Game 3.
I vowed not to watch Game 4. I actually begged aloud for mercy. I had conceded not just the series, but my faith in humanity. This is no exaggeration.
I watched Game 4 not because of any hope but because of a desire to see the thing finished. The barest sinew of loyalty held me captive, and I watched with a sense of duty only.
I have to be honest--I am undeserving of what came next.
And I am far from alone.
the traffic lights they turn of blue tomorrow and shine their emptiness down on my bed the tiny island sails downstream cause the life that lived is is dead and the wind screams mary
I'm not sure why, but it seems of the utmost importance to remember this clearly, to remember the despondency of these gloomy October nights, to remember the bewilderment when I saw the final score from Game 3 the next morning.
Another thing that maybe I should be ashamed to admit, but I'm not: when the final gasp seemed about to wheeze from the Red Sox in the ninth inning of Game 4, I ended up bursting into tears. This surprised even me--I'm not what you'd call a crier, and not even Game 7 had prompted a lachrymal response from me.
And yet there I was, furious and speechless, blubbering.
It was thinking of the journey of the past two seasons, thinking of the way I've lived and died and held my breath with every pitch, the way I've looked to the Red Sox as a parable and to watch it crumble without even a hint of hope or poetry...
will the wind ever remember the names it has blown in the past and with this crutch its old age and its wisdom it whispers no this will be the last and the wind cries mary
I realize how maudlin it all sounds. It is ridiculous. "It's only a game," my father clucked the times I spoke with him about it. "It's entertainment. That's all."
But, hey--and this is what I told him--Casablanca is only a movie. And it's made plenty of people cry over the years. For many of the same reasons.
I'm not saying to dwell on it.
But remember it. Unflinchingly. Honestly. As it was: no more; no less.