Friday, June 13, 2003

Game 64 - Mets

Mets 11, Rangers 0
Record: 29-35

"It's ironic that on a day somebody who has been pulling for us to get our offense on track gets fired, our offense gets going,'' said Vance Wilson, who homered and had a career-high five RBIs. "It was more coincidence than all of us trying to prove something.'' Ironic, indeed, but also too little, too late. Of note is that the Mets' lineup, once compared to the Tigers for statistically worst in the majors, now features a collection of batting averages whose low (excepting new kid Reyes) is .262, that of Robby Alomar. A month ago these guys were struggling mightily to keep everyone above .200. But this team is now led by Ty Wigginton, Vance Wilson, and Jason Phillips as much as it's led by Alomar, Floyd, and Burnitz -- and remembering all the names on the DL, this limited success is in spite of Steve Phillips' master plans, not due to them. And so it goes . . . that he goes.

Now, on to clearing up the matter of Brother Russell's ludicrous accusation of my affinity for his ballclub. My defense begins with the sweeping generalization that any Met fan or Sox fan worth a lick would never cross over to the other's territory if only because of October 25, 1986, the legend that was instantly created that night, and all of the juxtaposed angst and glee produced at that instant -- but which still resides within any die-hard who witnessed its inception. And naysayers should be advised that anything less than supremely melodramatic exaggeration would not suffice in the description of this event, so don't bother downplaying it.

So that's why I can never be a member of Red Sox Nation -- that and (a) it'd be a big bandwagon maneuver, which I loathe; (b) the American League is merely a cheap knock-off; (c) I don't need any more inner turmoil. But there are an equal number of reasons why I am perpetually tuned into BoSox games this season, including (a) the Extra Innings package lets me gorge on the national pastime; (b) these Red Sox are without a doubt the most exciting -- though not always in the way they'd like to be -- team in baseball, having more twists and surprises than a David Mamet story; (c) they don't call Jerry Remy the best color man in the game for nothing; (d) watching any game played in Fenway is better than watching a good game in 90% of MLB's parks. But the single greatest reason someone like me, with a bachelor's degree in Sociology, mind you, would watch and follow the 2003 Boston Red Sox with any sort of fervor is because of the phenomenon that is bound to happen later this year.

This Sox team is as good as any have been in a long time. The pieces are in place, and the ones that aren't in place will likely be added between now and the trade deadline. The Yanks appear more vulnerable than in recent years, the karma and chemistry look strong, and there simply is more reason for Bostonites to believe than there has been in a number of years. And so, later this year I am hoping the Red Sox squad will be cruising at such a pace that the Bronx Bombers do get bumped off (because let's face it, everybody hates the friggin' Yankees). But more importantly, I am eagerly awaiting that moment when the Sox faithful turn that corner where they leave the jaded, bitter, ultra-negative spirit in the dust and rally behind their boys, truly expecting against all better judgment for, if not the end of a curse, then a heavy rain to fall on a town that has seen a drought like no other.

This metamorphosis from Doubting Thomases into Gullible Sullys is a sociological spectacle at which I marvel every time the Sox get good -- and it's as inevitable as the passing of days, despite their denials. The caveats, prefaces, and addenda to every pro-Sox comment (phrases like "even though I know they'll just blow it in the end" or "they do this every time") begin the season as a legitimate understanding of the nature of this doomed franchise, but later evolve into thin veils over anxious, starry-eyed faith. This is the phenomenon that is worth following; the eventual disappointment once the deluded hopes are dashed is just a train wreck. Yes, such a sight attracts the attention of the mundane masses, but the real fascination is in the psychological case study just a bit earlier. Hell, from just a couple of summers on Cape Cod, 15 years of friendship with Rob Russell and his compatriots, and a penchant for rooting for the underdog, I've been known to actually succumb to the belief that this will be the year the Red Sox finally win the World Series for the first time since 1918. It's a mind trick beyond Jedis, Mr. Spock, Bugs Bunny, or the "I've got an aquarium in my room" to young co-eds. And though my allegiance will always be to the club with the big apple that rises out of a hat after a home run, I am getting drawn to watching this edition of the Boston Red Sox as it marches toward its 2003 destiny.

I suppose someday they will win it all, and holy hell, do I want to be in Beantown when this goes down. It'll make Mardi Gras look like a church picnic. But until they do win, I'm enjoying the insanity.

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