A certain symmetry
The comparisons with 2004’s ALCS are inevitable—in both series, the Sox faced elimination at or before Game 5, and in both series, the Sox prevailed.
But there were some differences, of course. This time around, the Sox were down 3-1 rather than 3-0. This time, they faced the Indians, rather than the Yankees and a supporting cast of every ghost and demon plaguing the franchise. This time, they faced elimination in Game 5, but won that game and the rest of their games with authority, rather than on the backs of miraculous skin-of-the-teeth performances.
In the first Pretty Good Year, I wrote about the way baseball’s symmetry and the dramatic, stranger-than fiction story of the Red Sox’ journey made me able, if only for a moment, to imagine a similar logical meaning to life in general:
it's not about what's real or factual--it's about what we want, what we want to know. We want there to be a connection between what's important and vital to us and what goes on beyond our stratosphere. We want a systematized universe--one that has a discourse, a dialog, a story.
That's what I want, anyway. A story that makes sense.
I want to believe that there's something more to the world. More to the universe. I want to believe, looking up into the sky where a small white ball is hurtling off into the distance, that its much bigger brother millions of miles away is sending some sort of message, that somehow the alignment of the planets is connected with the alignment of bat and ball and glove and foot and base.
I want to believe that this story, of the Red Sox, that has been unfolding for the last eight and a half decades, and finally bloomed into this beautiful, satisfying, serendipitous conclusion--a linear story, a problem and a climax and a resolution--means I can hope for anything similar from life in general.
Once again, I am tempted by a certain comforting logic in the way both of the pennant series of the last four years unfolded, not only as individual 7-game masterpieces, but in comparison and contrast to one another. No Red Sox fan could’ve drawn it up any better, and I’ll tell you why.
Because the 2007 ALCS came about as close as possible to replicating what happened in last time—but it remained, by necessity, slightly inferior. It demonstrated by how imitative, yet how different it was, just how impossible it will ever be for any series to match what happened in 2004. It also demonstrated just how deeply joyful it can be to try to match it anyway.
Our two treasured trophies are now like matching mantelpieces, one slightly less ornate than the other. And on the older artifact, I now imagine an inscription, of some famous words by St. Anselm about the nature of God: “That than which nothing greater can be conceived.”
Tomorrow: Part V. World Series