Dateline: Southington, Connecticut, USA
I was born and raised and still live at the center of the cultural rift valley that separates New York Yankees turf from Boston Red Sox turf. Aside from the regional rivlary there is a deeper cultural rivalry. The Yanks represent the cigar chomping monied elite in the same way that the Sox represent the millworkers and farmers that define the New England region. The Yankees are corporate management. The Sox are Labor. Over time the differences between New York and Boston have shrunken to the point where they are almost a myth. Almost. But the fans don’t care about demographics. They know who they are, and who the other guy is. Certainly Boston has decided to join the ranks of the big spending teams, and the Yankees have joined the ranks of the small nations GDP. But even as the social lines blur the loyalty and the personal sagas of pain and schadenfreude keep their currency.
I grew up as the only Sox fan in a family of Yankees fans. My uncle Anthony, married to my dad’s sister, is a Bostonite and took me to my first major league game. Fenway, 1974. When my Mom’s family would get on me for being a Sox fan they would say “how did we let that happen?”. I was always quick to answer “you had your shot. Maybe if you came across with some game tickets you coulda reeled me in”. I doubt it would have worked, but the line was effective at maybe throwing a little guilt on the fire. Now I have guilt of my own. Ths season my 10 year old nephew went to his first major league game. Yankee Stadium. My eternal shame is that I let his friend’s dad beat me to it. In my optimism and idiocy I assumed that he was going to Fenway. I almost puked when I found out that he had been lured over to the dark side. There is time. I think I have a few sets of Sox tickets with his name on the for next season.
The redemption of 2004 will help grease the rails. And make no mistake, it is real redemption. All of the dashed hopes, stomach churning drama, sleepless nights trying to imagine that there was one more game to play. They all seem like the inevitable buildup to the release of winning.
Some teams are like wallpaper in their cities. They are going about their routine and the citizenry is content to spectate. Some haave had success so quickly that they will have to wait a while to know what real community desire is about. But in Boston the Sox are like a shadow government. I guarantee that the people of Boston would rather go to the polls for Sox Manager than for Mayor or Governor. Who was mayor in 1975? Huh? Who started Game 7 against the Reds? Spaceman, baby!
A lot of ghosts got busted under that lunar eclipse last night. No more will gutwrenching sights like Bucky Dent’s corked bat homer, or Wade Boggs celebrating on a horse in a Yankee uniform, or Roger Clemens pumping his fist in pinstripes… ever have the taste of salt on a rotten lemon. All of the bad GMs, the racist ownership, the managerial brainlocks, the thought of Pudge Fisk not having a ring… they have all been given a fresh perspective. I can proudly state that Bill Buckner was a helluva player, got jobbed by his manager by even being put on the field, and let down by a soft bullpen, and his stats are almost identical to Yankee legend Don Mattingly. They have the same number of World Series rings, BTW. And that was game 6, and only caused the series to go one more game. He didn’t lose the world series, and he didn’t lose that game. I’ve made that case in defense of Buckner for years, but now maybe someone will have the nerve to take it seriously.