I admit to a terrible childishness when it comes to Boone. Throughout the bookend series these past weeks between Boone's new team, the Indians, and the Red Sox, I have been unabashedly creative in my obscenities toward Boone's televised image whenever it happens to cross my view.
"Screw you, Boone," I'll spit, even if he's just struck out on ball 4 and is slumping, hangdog, back toward the dugout, dragging his .200 batting average behind him. "I hope you get herpes."
I'm not kidding, either. I hate Aaron Boone. I will always hate Aaron Boone. No, I will not get over it.
That's the thing. As fantastic as it was, 2004 does not erase 2003, at least not completely. It can't. First because the game is one of the more classic and memorable in history, and deserves respect as such. Second because for the championship to erase the pain before would be to diminish itself.
You have to have the yin with the yang. You have to keep the heartbreak to enjoy the victory.
And so, yeah. When Aaron Boone's home run landed in the Monster Seats tonight, a fan, with a completely nonplussed expression, hucked it back. We don't throw home run balls back at Fenway. Not even home run balls hit by Jason Giambi or Derek Jeter. It's just not something we do.
Plop, went that ball in the center field grass.
The hell with you, Boone. Go play some more basketball.
No, we will not get over it.
I have to admit, Boone's story might be compelling to me if I hadn't been so heartbroken by the single great moment of his baseball life. A journeyman, a wanderer, a bottom-feeder, ascending the pinnacle for just one brief moment; a man doomed to mediocrity in 99.9% of his career. A man whose ESPN scouting page notes only his significance as the player whose injury sent A-Rod to New York. A player who, even in that one moment of relevance, was accidentally called by his brother's name.
But that 0.1%, for him, was the mother of all humdingers--the final flourish on an Earth-shaking, echo-down-through-the-ages masterpiece of a game. Poetic, in a way--Boone's seems a career spent sifting for that one flake of gold, these later years just playing out the string now that he's already happened on it. In the grand scheme of things, Boone has more to regret, currently, than the team he left crushed two years ago.
But we haven't gotten too far from the point of impact--the ripple effect has only diminished a little, although perhaps more than it might have without the destructive interference from last year's cataclysm. Boone stepping to the plate, now, will still call back that night, the crossed fingers, the bitten lips, the kind of desperation where you forget that the Red Sox losing will not actually physically hurt you. The silence in the room as the ball sailed off into the left-field stands, the quiet, matter-of-fact clicking off of the television, three friends parting ways without saying a word, my wide-awake eyes in the night after going to bed because I didn't know what else to do...
It was the single most painful event in my life in which I was not directly involved. The only time as a spectator my heart broke...or not so much broke, as just collapsed in on itself like a building under planned demolition. I don't care what happens, you don't forget a night like October 16, 2003. Or a day like October 17, 2003, a day in which an entire metropolitan area sleepwalked through the day, the knowing looks between strangers, the same thing on everyone's mind, the recollections and the what-ifs hitting with renewed strength every so often when one paused to think, like a punch in the gut.
It's ridiculous to say my relationship with the Sox is in any way still clouded by Game 7 of 2003. But I'd be lying if I tried to say that when Aaron Boone smacks another one off toward left field, it doesn't just lightly brush its fingers over a little scar I'm still carrying. Or if I claimed I didn't still cherish it, in some perverse way.