We've heard it all this past year, haven't we?
"Now you're just another team, like the Twins, who won it all recently, and no one cares about you anymore."
"Now you and the Yankees are just the same--overpaid East Coast teams whose fans are high on themselves."
"Everyone's sick of the Red Sox and their fans. What about the other teams? Quit hogging all the attention."
"Now you'll lose your identity. Face it, you liked seeing them lose, twisted masochists that you are."
"Yeah, well, back to the same ol' same ol' this year, eh? Enjoy your one championship. Losers."
"It's still 26 to 6."
I don't know why people try to find some way to take it away from us. But what I know for certain is that they can't.
That's the beauty of it. No matter what happens now or in the future, you can't take away the way our team came back against impossible odds to finally seize the pennant. You can't take away the memories of long hair and goofy dugout behavior and the personalities we fell in love with. You can't take away what Curt Schilling did. You can't take away what Keith Foulke did. You can't take away Johnny Damon's Grand Slam or Mark Bellhorn's various ringing home runs. You can't take away what it did for millions and millions of people who called their fathers and mothers up on the phone or went to the cemetery or hugged their kids or turned out for the parade.
It's permanent, written in history, written in ink. It will never not have happened. You can't take away the joy. You can't take away the relief.
It saddens me, when I think of it, that while much of the world seems to wish us well, there still seem to be so many who wish we were still grief-stricken, for whatever reason. Yankees fans clearly frustrated that they couldn't twist the knife quite the way they used to. Fans elsewhere suddenly heaping blame for their own team's indignities at our feet or suddenly seeming to find us all insufferable assholes.
But that's when I think of it. Which is not often. To be honest, if only Red Sox Nation now appreciates the Red Sox, that's just fine with me.
Most of the time, what I think of is Dave Roberts in Game 4. I think of Alan Embree and Derek Lowe in Game 7. I think of Gabe Kapler during the pennant celebration.
I think of Curt Schilling in Game 6 and Game 2. I think of Keith Foulke in Game 1, and in the last out.
That last out. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to see anything that could top Adam Vinatieri's field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI. But that last out of the 100th World Series surpassed it, of course, by many orders of magnitude.
As I described it in my post a year ago:
Keith Foulke winds and draws his hand back, the ball clutched between his precisely spread fingers, and in the final nanosecond between windup and delivery his wrist catches as if pulled back by rubber bands, finally snapping forward to send the ball careening toward the plate.
Snapping the wrist, he sends the most important, fateful pitch he has ever created toward Edgar Renteria in the right-hand batter's box. Renteria's left leg cocks as he awaits the floating Foulkian missile.
The ball arcs up, and then down.
Renteria jumps at the pitch, but his bat connects with the ball just high, sending it spiking back onto the grass in front of home plate, and directly back at the mound. Foulke snags the bounding ball in his glove, stuffing his other hand in immediately after it as if to make absolutely positive it's there. Still holding it, he runs a few steps toward first base, seeming for a moment almost afraid to remove the ball again and let it fly out of his hands, if only for a second.
Finally, a few yards away on the green grass of the infield at Busch Stadium, Keith Foulke tosses it softly, underhanded, to Doug Mientkiewicz at first base. Renteria has barely bothered running.
Mientkiewicz, holding his glove out, catches the ball with his foot on the base, and he and Foulke immediately leap into the air, as eight stifling decades in a lonely city by the chilly Atlantic melt into a riot of joy.
I can watch that moment on video, see it in pictures, read about it, listen to the broadcasters' calls, hear other fans tell the story of where they were when it happened--I can revisit it from every angle, and it never fails to make me gasp for breath. Because every time I see it, I'm reminded that it's real. And it's permanent. It will never not have happened.
P.S. Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox and their fans, to whom we successfully passed the long-suffering-American-League-franchise-finally-wins-by-sweeping-an-NL-team-in-its-own-house torch quite nicely.