I can apply any number of rationales to my all-encompassing feeling of well-being after last night: It's too early in the season to be worrying, and I'm getting a better sense of that ebb and flow as a fan with a few seasons under my belt; knowing that the Sox and Yankees normally play one another to a draw unless a conclusion is forced, having won Opening Day it was perhaps the natural way of things the Sox would lose the next night; Curt has been injured and rehabbing, and just having him out on the mound at all this early is an encouraging sign...
But when it comes right down to it--and I know some people are going to start clawing at their own faces to hear me say this--I just love Curt Schilling.
As may have become obvious by now, I am not the person you should come to for an opinion that is any way objective, or, if we are to be completely honest, rational, when it comes to Curt Schilling. I understand and recognize all the proverbial strikes against Schilling, as a player, as a person--he's a loudmouth. He's self-aggrandizing. He's Republican.
I love Curt Schilling in that shrugging way you sometimes love a quirky friend or relative, the one about whom you always answer perfectly justified criticism with "Yeah, but..."
I love Curt Schilling in that determined, I've-made-up-my-mind-don't-confuse-me-with-facts way that some people love our President.
I love Curt Schilling in that irrational, richer-for-poorer-sickness-and-health, eternal way I love the Red Sox.
To me, Schilling epitomizes and represents all the heroism of last season--it was his thread of the story, clutching at the ankle in Anaheim, imploding in Game 1, returning triumphant in Game 6--most often chosen to illustrate the mind-boggling unlikelihood of the Red Sox' victory.
When it mattered most, Curt Schilling sucked it the fuck up, and he wasn't just enough. He was brilliant.
When it mattered most, Curt Schilling was accountable in the way few people ever are, let alone athletes--the way heroes are. That's what it's about. Accountability. Responsibility. Get on my back, I'll do it, I'll do whatever it takes. David Ortiz is a hero in the same way.
As for off the field--regardless of whether I disagree with his opinions, I happen to personally like the emphatic and passionate--and yes, outspoken--way he expresses them. I enjoy the presence he has when speaking. I like his drama. I like that he's larger than life. If he were just an everyday guy, he wouldn't be doing what he does.
I am a drooling Schilling sycophant, and if you can still give me credit for anything, give me credit for this: at least I'm not afraid to admit it.
When I think of last night, I think of his first regal procession out to the mound, surveying his kingdom, greeted with accolades. I saw him, just saw him out there again, and I melted.
"No pressure, Curt." I murmured. "Do whatever you can, pal, no worries here."
I know, barf. BARF. I am disgusting about Schilling--I'll be the first to agree with you there. Really. You can say whatever you want, it's just going to bounce off my thick helmet of denial and hero-worship. Curt Schilling can do no wrong. Believe me, I'm as appalled as you are that this is how I feel, but it doesn't stop me from feeling it.
When I think of last night I think of that beautiful, ruthless first inning, the strike after strike after strike, and the umpire's fist-clenching affirmations from behind the plate, and all the cheers.
Though I suppose it's not fashionable to admit, I can't be the only fan utterly caught in the spell of No. 38. If, that is, the fans at the park last night are any indication.
When I think of last night in terms of losing, I think of all the times the Sox loaded the bases or put two in scoring position or runners at the corners with one out or none and then let the pants-wettingly-terrified Jaret Wright skate out of the inning. I think about the fact that after they lifted Schilling, the relief corps gave up no more runs--but the lineup scored no more, either.
I think of the fact that this--this struggle back to peak form, this rough start to the next season--was what he, and we, accepted when he put his body on the line last season to get us the victory. In fact, he probably accepted an end to his career, if it came to that. That he's back for more now, to me, is the icing on the cake. Call me a simpleton, but for that October gift I can't help but still be completely grateful, win or lose in April.
And when Schilling says, as he did at last night's press conference, that he is fine, that he will be fine, that the team, by extension, will be fine, excuse me for my dull fetishism, but I believe him utterly.
He has yet to give me a reason not to.