Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ich bin ein Bostonian

As a perpetual hard luck fan, I reach out in solidarity with my spiritual kin in New England to celebrate the end of the Sox 86-year championship drought.

I got my one taste of having MY team win a championship as a child. That one joyful season was the improbable comeback of the Pittsburgh Pirates from a 1-and-3 World Series record to win in 1979, strapped onto the back of the unforgettable Pops Stargell. To this day, Stargell is the singular iconic cultural figure in my mental landscape. You just wouldn't believe how many images of Stargell I have, on magazine covers, cards, puzzles, dolls, etc.

Since then, nothing but bitter disappointment...For starters, I also grew up a Vikings fan. You know—the team with four super bowl losses. Then there was the fiasco of the 1990-1992 Pirates (more on that later), ending with the hit by Francisco Cabrera (Ptooey). Then in 1993, having decided that I intended to be a life-long Philadelphian, I began my transition to being a Phillies fan. Joe Carter happened (Ptooey). It seems I discovered my Phillie spirit just in time to settle into the malaise that was 1990's professional athletics in Phillie. Recently, I've been able to enjoy three consecutive NFC Championship game losses by the Eagles and the Sixers defeat at the hands of the mighty Lakers. At least lately I've been able to enjoy the excruciating ecstasy of just-misses.

In all those years of sports fandom, I managed to temporarily adopt the Buffalo Bills for their historic streak of floppery. Oh, and I rooted for the double-loser Portland Trailblazers of the Drexler era.

Yep, I sure know how to pick 'em. I keep betting on David, and Goliath always crushes him.

Now, I'm not a religious man. I am a profoundly skeptical and rational empiricist. But despair has a way of turning a man to magical thinking. And so it was that I sat in the living room of my dear second family, the Schwartzes, with my closest friend, Robert, watching me in October 1992 as the Pirates were moments away from going to the World Series. There I sat with my 70's style Bucs hat on my head, holding a photograph of the deceased Roberto Clemente into the air as though he, the patron saint of the Pirates, would safely bring them into harbor after two previous consecutive playoff failures. My body went freezing cold. I piled on throw blankets and clutched a famous Schwartz living room landmark, the blue puff, to stay warm. Finally, I fell on my knees, wailing to the cruel gods as Sid (Ptooey) Bream (Ptooey) lumbered home on Francisco (Ptooey) Cabrera's (Ptooey) hit. The gods I didn't believe in were angry. Robert looked at the crumbling human on his carpet, saying "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, man," over and over.

And so, although they're not MY team, the Red Sox are the adopted team of suffering underdogs everywhere. Watching their impossible reversal against the Yankees was inspirational. Tonight I say with a cheerful heart: the gods I don't believe in have almost made up to me for Franciso Cabrera (Ptooey).

Did I mention that Robert is a Yankees fan? I owe him a call to say, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, man."

So, dear Bostonians, you have won. (And maybe in a week, you'll win again.) I hope you enjoy the party tonight and the parade to come. After that, you've got a lot of work to do coming up with a new identity now that you no longer have "the curse" to define your self-image.


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