Indulge me, if you will, in some Sox-related navel-gazing.
You see, I am not exactly sure how to deal with a loss right now. Not because they have been so infrequent, but because as a Sox fan several superstitious coping skills I have developed over the years are beginning to get tangled up in each other.
One part of my deranged fan-brain says that in a situation like this, to bitch and moan because Papi didn't hit a grand slam in the 8th to tie the game for the Sox to possibly bring them to their 6th victory in a row, and second series sweep in a row, would be the height of ingratitude. And every Sox fan minted prior to 2004 knows that ingratitude is among the cardinal sins in the eyes of the baseball gods.
Meanwhile, however, another form of magical thinking rears its ugly head: to act as if any loss is nothing to worry about weeks before the All-Star Break, to act as if any division lead is so insurmountable that every loss might not count anymore, is that not cockiness? And is cockiness not a karmic transgression on par with ingratitude?
Everything is out of whack for the Sox fan at this moment. Many of us, it seems, are struggling with a similar cognitive dissonance--feeling ourselves slipping into delirious infatuation even as we keep looking over our shoulders, into our rearview mirrors, and hatching any number of harebrained correlations between this or that lucky totem or ritual and the way this season has been going, because the idea that the Red Sox are really this good (overall, okay, I'm aware we lost tonight, but irregahdless...) is simply more than we can comprehend without some kind of paranormal forces attached.
It's part of the charm of Boston's brand of fandom--the need to mythologize, the sublimation of baseball games into fairy tales built around an absolute moral axis of good and evil. It's just that, as Yankees fans abandon ship (something that enrages a Sox fan's still perhaps overdeveloped sense of fairness in a world that long ago should have demonstrated its lack thereof), and we are without the timeworn storyline we grew into pre-World Series, we're feeling our way along in the dark when it comes to the narrative. Here, for example, is a new surprise of the post-World Series era for me: that little voice in the back of my head that I was issued at birth as a Sox fan, the one that says, this could all still end horribly, has not left me after all.
But is that not turning my back on how we were taught to believe in 2004?
Let's just say, for the moment, that things just feel a little surreal. This post's title is kind of a dig at Shaughnessy, but I'd be lying if I didn't cop to some pinch-marks on my own forearms from various points in the last month.
It's almost too good, too perfect, too far-fetched-wish-fulfillment-dream when you flick on NESN and they give you the news that, to paraphrase things a bit: "The Sox just clinched the series against the Central Division's leader, holders of the second-best record in the AL, with our third ace on the mound coming up for the last game of the series at home tomorrow night, and oh, by the way, the Toronto Blue Jays stole home on the Yankees today and wound up winning the game by one run to put the Yankees tied with the Devil Rays in last place in the division at 14.5 games out.
"Also, did you know Kevin Youkilis is vying for the AL batting lead with Magglio Ordonez and Mike Lowell has a 22-game home hit streak going? Hmm, let's see, what else...?
"Oh, right, the Yankees paid Roger Clemens $28 million for this season but he can't get out of Triple A, we have probably the best bullpen in baseball, it's sunny and 80 degrees in Boston with low humidity, and oh, almost forgot, [insert celebrity of your choice] is on their way over as we speak to have sex with you."
Bostonians and New Englanders can deal with many things. Heartbreaking losses. Infuriating losses. Insane traffic patterns. Disastrous infrastructure. February. Bitching and moaning, we've got down pat. Pessimism as a defense mechanism is available in spades. But it's been getting a little Twilight-Zone around here with this recent spate of undeniable, at times unbelievable, good fortune.
Even now, I'm afraid I've said too much.