Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

duh Sawx

I lived in Boston for 20 years, and was inevitably infected with Red Sox fandom. As most people know, the Red Sox were a perennially strong team during the early years of the American League, but in 1918, after winning the World Serious, owner Harry Frazee sold the services of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in order to get money to invest in the musical No, No, Nanette (featuring the well-known standard Tea for Two), as a result of which the team was cursed for the remainder of the 20th Century.

When I got to Boston the curse was still in effect, but in 2004, shortly after John Henry purchased the team and installed Theo Epstein as General Manager, the Sox made the playoffs but found themselves down 3 games to none against the Yankees in the ALCS, and down 4-3 in the ninth inning in game 4 against the Yankees indefatigable closer Mariano Rivera. The leadoff batter walked, he was replaced by pinch runner Dave Roberts who stole second, and scored on a single by Bill Mueller, and won the game in the 12 inning on a home run by David Ortiz. They came back to win the series and then swept the World Series against the Cardinals.

They have won two world championships since then, so the curse is clearly broken. But they have been utterly awful in between, until winning division championships in the past two years, although they bombed in the playoffs. This year, however, they are having one of the best regular seasons in major league history. They have the two best hitters in the league, the best starting rotation, the best defense  --  a lot of super athletic, multi-skilled players. Their best athlete is probably center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who is a very streaky hitter but seems to save a run per game with his glove and arm and is lightning fast on the bases. Right now his streak status is hot so for now, at least, he's the best baseball player in the world. When he's cold at the plate, right fielder Mookie Betts is the best baseball player in the world, and DH J.D. Martinez is vying with Betts for best bat. Everybody seems to come through in the clutch and they jump on every mistake by an opponent.

Of course, none of this matters if they fail in the playoffs.

Since I am required to make a profound philosophical observation in every blog post, the question of course is why we get so emotionally involved in the fate of a sports team. None of the individuals who was involved in the team when I got to Boston, or even in 2004, is still there. (TV color man Jerry Remy is arguably an exception. I will refrain from further discussion of Remy at the moment. He's had a recurrence of lung cancer and is on leave.) I don't even live in Boston any more. But even when I did, why did I care who won a baseball game? You know what, I'm not really sure. This is just something we take for granted.


Don Quixote said...

Totally in agreement. I was in Boston when Buckner (who, as we have discussed, shouldn't even have been on the field) inadverdently let the ball through the wickets.

I've tried and tried to buck the Red Sox habit. I've failed. I can't explain the investment or what I get out of it. But there it is.

Cervantes said...

The poor schlemiel spent the rest of his life trying to live that down -- a fine career reduced to one sad moment.

Don Quixote said...

I think he got over it :-)

Don Quixote said...

One other comment: I think investing the totality of our energy in a sports team's fortunes is a way of avoiding responsibility for certain other aspects of our lives. It's like investing a shitload of money in a company and, if they make us a small or large fortune, we feel like winners; if the company goes bust, we feel deflated ... when in actuality we could be writing music or literature or short stories, learning languages, traveling, going to university, doing volunteer work, spending time with our friends or families or pets ... things that are genuinely ours that make us feel good inside, instead of hitching our esteem and mood to something outside ourselves.

It's like an addiction, I think.