Saturday, October 22, 2005

No-mah is an island

To prepare for the World Series*, I got a glimpse of Red Sox Nation through its official spokesperson, Bill Simmons. (Never mind Ben Affleck. He's just trying to grow his future political base.) Simmons compiled a collection of his earlier ESPN Sports Guy columns to illustrate the repeated anguish and ultimate bliss that comes with being a Red Sox fan since the mid-1980s. His book is entitled Now I Can Die in Peace.

I like how Simmons seems to flip-flop on his opinions of his team's stars within his own personal Boston pantheon as their skills erode and they begin to disappoint him. I have a feeling real fans do this. A prime example is Nomar Garciaparra, the socially standoff-ish shortstop who was traded months before Boston won the 2004 World Series. Simmons reveres him, then resents him, then justifies his departure as part of a grand design.

Until I read this book, I was under the popular impression that everyone in Red Sox Nation believed in the Curse of the Bambino. It was as if the epicenter of American superstition took a short drive from Salem to Boston several decades ago. Simmons doesn't believe in the curse, which I found refreshing. (This makes me wonder if there are rational Chicago Cubs fans out there who will come out of hiding before they eventually win another title.)

Finally, I never realized how strongly the city of St. Louis figured into Boston's fortunes. The Celtics and Patriots won their first titles against the Hawks and Rams, while the Bruins and Red Sox ended their long droughts against the Blues and Cardinals.

Criticisms: it's horribly edited, with way too many mistakes in his reprinted columns and recent margin footnotes, and the author makes reference to the Godfather movies beyond anyone's normal comfort level.

* Brief thoughts on this year's Fall Classic:

1. I'd prefer the Cardinals here, but the Astros have been playing like a team of destiny since that 18-inning game to beat the Braves.
(Just like last year with the Red Sox, it's hard for St. Louis to protest when it's getting steamrolled by a team playing at another level.)

2. Should the Astros prevail next week, someone will have to explain to me how wild card playoff teams keep managing to win championships.

3. I picked the Angels to make it, but they were psychologically taken out of the ALCS after Game 2 that the White Sox took over and won 4 straight, three in Anaheim. Count this team out at your own risk.

4. Should the White Sox triumph, expect a lot of cable showings of Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out. Many will watch. Some will cry.


K-Lyn said...

I have a feeling real fans do this.

Of course we do. Seattle fans went through quite the range of emotions over A-rod. There was a time I would have willingly had his baby...and, while I never sunk so low as to throw Monopoly money at him and yell "Pay-rod" as so may did when he left for Texas, since he put on the pinstripes he's been dead to me.

I was under the popular impression that everyone in Red Sox Nation believed in the Curse of the Bambino.

HELL No. The MEDIA loves the curse, casual fans love the curse, people who love drama but not sports love the curse. That may lead you to think people believe in it, but no. father, from Chicago, also does not believe in a curse for the Cubs. In fact I would be hard pressed to find someone I know who actually believes(d) in either curse.

I look forward to reading this. Now, have you read the Stephen King take on the 2004 season? Think Laura Palmer's secret diary but for baseball fans...

Oscar Madison said...


I think the answer to your "wild card" question is that there are too few data points to draw any conclusion. World Series winners are random, statistically insignificant, anecdotal events.

Put another way, the team with the best won-lost record may not be the best team by October, and in any case is not necessarily that much better than the team with the 4th or even 8th best W-L of the 30 ML teams.

Neel Mehta said...

K: Thanks for the info on Red Sox and Cubs fans. And no, I still haven't read Faithful. I'll be sure to reserve it at the library soon.

Oscar: I wish there was more logic to the trend. We know that, by definition, the wild card didn't win the division, and wouldn't have to play their division's leader (usually the league's best team as well) until the LCS. But they still face the league's second best team in a 5-game series, which for some reason they usually win.

I made a correction to the original post. When the Boston Celtics won their first NBA title in 1957, I mistakenly referred to the St. Louis franchise they beat as the Browns. Instead, it was the St. Louis Hawks, who moved to Atlanta in 1968. The St. Louis Browns played baseball until 1953, after which they morphed into the Baltimore Orioles.