Metaphors, miracles, curses and comebacks
You can choose your own metaphor for life. You may view it as a holiday, as in a stroll down Primrose Lane, or it can be Forrest Gump’s mother’s “box of chocolates.” It can be a river, a struggle, a journey, a battle, a classroom, a rollercoaster, a kaleidoscope. On the one end it can be a bitch and then you die, or, on the other, Shakespeare’s “stuff that dreams are made on.” It can be what you make it.
Some years ago, I realized that my metaphor for life was baseball. Or, more specifically, the Boston Red Sox. Most of us understand the symmetry, the timeless quality of the game. Fans agree with Red Smith’s assertion that each game is a different drama. And even non-fans know the Yogism that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Baseball, like life, consists of the game within the game. How you react to the reality that you win some, you lose some, and some get rained out is what defines you.
But there’s something that gets even closer to the heart of the matter about being a Red Sox fan. The Curse of the Bambino is legendary, as are Bucky “Effing” Dent, Bill Buckner and, for you fellow old-timers, Enos Slaughter. Our trail of tears is part of the fabric of the game. And of life.
I’ve never really bought into the theory that losing builds character, but I will admit that it builds a sort of steely stoicism, a thick skin that does come in handy in real-life situations. It gives one an acceptance, an ability to deal with life on life’s terms, of realizing that things are not going to turn out the way you want them to all the time. There’s a certain resignation about life that accompanies begin a Sox fan — or used to.
But at the same time it can breed cynicism, bitterness even. So I don’t buy into the theory that there’s some special virtue in being a Sox fan. Again, it’s what you make of it.
Strange as it seems, there’s almost a reverse superiority about it. I’ve seen many T-shirts that prove the point, stating “1918 World Series Champions.”
But then came the redemption, the magical year of 2004 that washed it all away. Now we can die happy. Then when we won another title last year, everything after that is gravy.
Getting back to the present — or close to it, anyway. By now it may all be over, but as I write, Red Sox Nation is celebrating as if they’d already won the World Series. Of all the remarkable comebacks I can recall, in any sport, the one the Sox pulled off last Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays may be the most improbable ever.
Briefly, the Sox were down 7-0 in the 7th inning. They scored four in the 7th, three in the 8th to tie, and walk-off single by JD Drew to win it in the 9th. Truly unbelievable, probably the greatest post-season comeback ever.
Once the Curse was over, it was really over. Once it was broken, it was really broken. It’s as if all the bad luck that befell the Sox for all those years (86, but who’s counting?) has reversed course and been transformed into its polar opposite. All of a sudden we can do no wrong, all the breaks are going our way, we’re winning games we would have lost prior to 2004.
But here’s the kicker — I missed it. No, I didn’t give up, I merely accepted the inevitable. Not being as much of a glutton for punishment as I was prior to ’04, I turned off the TV and went to bed. Mad. Got up mad, went to work Friday morning mad.
Then about 10:30 I got an email from my old associate editor at ESP magazine, Lauren Sokol, saying “How about that game! Oh. My. God.”
Could it be? Could this really be happening? I immediately went to the Red Sox homepage and, sure enough, they’d pulled off the impossible. They live to fight another day.
As I write, they still need to win two more. But, even if they don’t they’ll have added another chapter to the mystique. This one will be more akin to Carlton Fisk waving the home run fair in the sixth game of the 1976 Series, before — of course — losing the seventh. But unlike that one, we’ll have more to hang our hat on than that from now on.
The point is at this moment we’re still alive. We live to play another game, another day. We’ve been granted a daily reprieve.
And if we wind up losing, we’ll draw inspiration from our kindred spirits, the Brooklyn Dodgers, who knew a thing or two about losing before ultimately (in 1955) finding redemption. “Wait ’til next year.”
Ogi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth on ABC 45 at 6:30 a.m. Fridays and on WMYV 48 at 10 p.m. Sundays.