I will say this first: I am not a baseball fan. I can count on one hand the number of games I watch on tv in any given season. I don't really have a die-hard favorite team, and really haven't followed any one team in one season since the 1989 Baltimore Orioles. When there are 162 regular season games and each game is more than three hours long, I just don't have the patience to get into it. I know the game has a lot of nuances and strategy and each inning is like a chess match, and all that. But your average Brewers-Pirates matchup has generally less than Machiavellian intrigue.
I do however, love playoff baseball. The nuances and strategies and chess moves are magnified, and every pitch becomes enormous. I still don't find it quite as compelling as, say, playoff hockey, but a good series can become great within a few pitches.
I also hate the New York Yankees. Perhaps no team has raised my ire more than the Bronx Bombers. They are rightly regarded as the most successful sports franchise of the 20th Century and therefore have all sorts of bragging rights that no other organization -- save for possibly the Montreal Canadiens -- can claim.
This is why Wednesday, October 20, 2004, will go down in history as one of the most satisfying sports-viewing experiences of my entire life. I am not really a Boston Red Sox fan, but I have become a de facto supporter of the team not only because they are the antithesis of the Yankees, but because Yankee fans have taken such relish in breaking their hearts year after year.
I know what it's like to be a heartbroken fan: my sports obsession is the Buffalo Bills, the only team in history to lose four championship games in four consecutive years in any sport. I know what it's like to be so close and to have your heart ripped from your chest, spit on, and thrown into fiery pit of bile. Maybe it's because of this that I have felt a certain, strange kinship with Red Sox fans. (And which made a recent trip to a Bills-Patriots game in Buffalo, where Pats fans were wearing "OJ" and "Norwood" shirts, especially bitter for me.) I know that the Sox are really a mirror image of the Yankees, a high-priced collection of hired guns, but we're talking about the button-down Bombers and the scruffy "idiot" Sox, polar opposites in appearance if nothing else. Besides, this rivaly transcends all minutae of payroll and comparisons between egomaniac players and owners. This is about a city and a group of fans who lord a sense of superiority and entitlement over another group (hell, over all other groups) because of their vicarious affiliation (much of it of a bandwagon-hopping nature) with the Yankee Pinstripes.
Last night, everything changed. It was as if God finally said, "Enough," and decided to give the other side an idea of what it's like to finally be triumphant. And I guarantee Red Sox fans will not take this colossal turn of events for granted as Yankees fans would have.
In case you have been living in a cave, the Yanks were up 3 games to none in the best-of-seven series. Everyone assumed the Sox were dead. A comeback under those circumstances was unprecedented in baseball, and done less than 5 times in all of the major sports combined. But with the swing of David Ortiz's bat in game 4, the most remarkable and unexpected comeback of my life took place. The Sox, whipping boy to the Yankees for so many torturous decades, finally -- FINALLY -- beat that Yankees at the Yankees' own game: an impossible, back-to-the-wall comeback. This would be a historic series if it were a spring training celebrity softball series for charity, but this (and I am not a person prone to baseball hyperbole) is the most titanic comeback in baseball history, and for me, the most satisfying four days of baseball I have ever witnessed.
I watched the game at the Change of Pace Sports Bar on Grant Blvd in Syracuse, home of the best chicken wings in town. I watched it with my boys Willie (an all-time Sox fan) and Toastie (a convert from the Dark Side) and a host of others. It was apparent, though by no means certain, from the first inning that the Sox were in control. Not only did they pile on runs (Ortiz's bomb in the first inning and Damon's two homers, including one where he killed a family of four in the upper deck), but they demoralized the once-proud Yankees. For someone who has had to endure most of the last decade of postseason baseball watching the Yankees toy with their opponents, only to end up pulling some magic out of their batting helmets, I felt truly resplendent. This time it was gonna be different.
This time it was the hated Red Sox not only defeating the Yankees, but humiliating them. They took a series that was over by all accounts (some saying so after game two!) and stuck the dagger deep, deep into the heart of the Beast. The most beautiful sound in the world is that of a Yankee fan's silence. Watching the fans in the stands on tv, I felt pure joy at their anguish. Finally, Yankee fans, you know what it's like. Finally, WE (and by "we" I mean all Yankee-haters around the world) get to watch YOU crying into your dark blue fitted caps.
At the Change of Pace, there was a small pocket of Yankees fans that was vocal for about one inning, and then cleared out by about the 5th inning. Those who were left continued the "Who's Your Daddy?" chants and the "Red Sox Suck" chants, but it was hollow. It smacked of a person who has just been humiliated verbally and can only come back with "F--k you!" A specific coterie of fratboy, metrosexual, loudmouth assholes got visibly frustrated, even intimating the threat of physical violence because we Red Sox supporters were "talking shit." As if Yankees fans ever do anything but talk shit. I must say, it was imminently satisfying to watch these punks looking so lost, so disgusted, like they came to the dance to pick up some girls and got the punch bowl poured on their heads. I thought of every Yankees fan I know that yap-yap-yaps away, and by God I reveled in each one's misery.
Yankee fans need to face up to the fact: The Curse Is Dead. The Bambino can finally go to sleep forever. Roll over Bucky Dent and tell Aaron Boone the news. Yankee fans have used up every verbal barb of superiority possible, and now they have to stop. Period. The Red Sox may still lose the World Series, but The Curse is no more, the spell is broken.
Now it's not only us Buffalo fans who know what it's like to lose four in a row.
It's a glorious day...