Eighty-three years and counting…

The playoffs are not good to Red Sox fans. It has been a very long time since the Red Sox felt anything but humiliation in October, and my breast is not exactly filled with eternally springing hope for next year. Pain from our own failure seems perennially compounded by the success of George Steinbrenner ’52 and his hated New York Yankees, a team with slightly less heart and character than a crisp dollar bill. Rooting for them is like rooting for Microsoft to drive someone out of business or Big Tobacco to win a settlement.

This year, in what has become appallingly routine fashion, the over-paid geriatrics from the Bronx dragged themselves through the season, snuck into the playoffs (was anyone impressed by September when their best hitter was Tino Martinez at .275?), lost a couple of quick games and sent Red Sox fans into a trash-talking frenzy.

For those of us surrounded by spoiled New Yorkers for the first time, the thrill of heckling hordes of Yankees fans was unlike anything ever experienced. Bets were made (not by me, but I have this friend. . .), moms were insulted and all was right with the world.

But then they won. A lot. They destroyed the Athletics, they ripped up the Mariners and they tore into the Diamondbacks. I have always considered myself something of a fair-weather fan, but never have I had to learn so many bullpens and lineups so quickly, just to remain an informed supporter of Yankee opponents. Particularly painful were those two nights when what’s-his-name Kim blew ninth inning leads. Each time, as he stood on the mound like some teary-eyed little leaguer, I sat curled in a corner convulsing and screaming while Yankee-loving scum kicked me in the ribs and derided my ancestry, ethnicity and intelligence. At least that’s how it felt at the time. . .

But time heals many wounds, and revenge takes care of the rest. Up three games to two, the Yankees managed to lose 15-2 in a game which was definitely one of the most enjoyable of the post-season. It came down to a Game 7 – not just any Game 7 but one with Curt Schilling (former Red Sock) facing Roger Clemens (former Red Sock) in what promised to be a classic. The first eight and a half innings of this game are unimportant to everyone but Curt Schilling’s immediate family, so I will not bore you with the details. The point is that going into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Yankees led 2-1 and the infallible Mariano Rivera was on the mound.

It’s hard to describe how I was feeling when the beer commercials ended, the annoying theme music started and the man with the generic deep voice endorsed Geico. I was sitting on a couch, and on all sides the Yankee faithful were drooling. Admittedly, Yankee faithful tend to drool regardless of the occasion, but this was some pretty vigorous drooling.

Awash in saliva, unable to avoid the reek of BO emanating from sweat-stained shirts bearing the likes of Derek Jeter (oh, he’s so hot, even if he is overrated), Andy Pettite (kinda ugly, definitely overrated) and Paul O’Neil (pretty gross, probably about 73 by now), it was as if my best friend had just died. Except that when your best friend dies, people show sympathy. I felt like my best friend had just died and everyone was planning a “Ha, Ha, Your Friend Is Dead” party.

What happened next can only be described as, well, the Yankees sucking. Mariano Rivera, christened only an inning before as the greatest playoff pitcher of all time, chokes like a pre-frosh on the Herb Crusted Pork Medallions. Derek Jeter practically gets his gorgeous left leg ripped off. A run scores, the game is tied, and the bases are loaded. A single is blooped to the spot where Jeter should have been if he was not too wimpy to turn the double play with a mangled leg. The Yankees lose! Theeeeeeeeee Yankees lose!

Unbridled euphoria. Unbuh-!#$%ing-riddled euphoria. I am lifted from the agony of defeat to previously unknown levels of baseball happiness, like the recipient of a massive and instantly effective hit of ecstasy (or so I heard from a friend of a friend. . .). Camera shots of all the usual suspects: Mike Mussina, oh evil spurner of the Red Sox, still ringless. Roger Clemens, oh evil spurner of the Red Sox, crestfallen. Andy Pettite, humiliated in Game 6, devastated. Back to Mariano Rivera on the mound, the once-great playoff pitcher now relegated to the trash heap of history’s biggest losers.

Some idiot in the director’s booth shows a picture of a guy with Arizona written on his shirt. Who is he? Did he play in the game? Does Arizona even have a baseball team? My mind tries to find an explanation for this non-Yankee interrupting such an entertaining telecast, but footage quickly and thankfully returns to more relevant subjects.

Shots of the unshaven and untalented members of the team, such as Chuck Knoblauch and Luis Sojo. A nice long look at the dejected Paul O’Neil realizing he will never win another ring. Over to Derek Jeter, the fourth best shortstop in the American League and thus exposed, thanks to his .118 Series average, hands on hips, trying to conceive of what it means to lose for once in his life. There is a definite paucity of Steinbrenner shots, but I am not sure I would relish the sorrow of a fellow Eph anyway.

On second thought, I certainly relished the sorrow of my fellow Ephs sitting around the television. I was too excited, involved in my own good fortune, to taunt them right away. Thankfully, that feeling wore off after a minute or two and I was free to enjoy days and days of their pain. Sure it is pathetic to substitute New York losses for Boston wins, especially when the Sox finished 13 ½ games out. So what? Sure the Yankees will probably sign Bonds and Giambi and win the World Series again next year. So what? Sure it’s been 83 years since the Red Sox actually gave their fans cause for celebration, and is it likely to be many more years before that changes. So what? In the middle of November, as we await the first snowfall, the Yankees are not World Champions. Betting losses have been recouped, moms are being insulted, and all is right with the world.

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