When the Red Sox won the World Series on October 28, 2007, I was at a friend’s apartment in Brookline, pacing and chain-smoking as Jonathan came on to close out the ninth inning.
As I sat with my head in my hands in their living room, it felt like we were attending a birth—something momentously joyful but nerve-wracking at the same time. Yet its arrival felt that certain. We were going to be witnesses to history again, but we realized that long before we could permit ourselves to talk about it.
When Papelbon came on to pitch, the four of us, adults by legal definition, were huddled up on the couch with our arms around each other, screeching and holding on for dear life. When the final pitch came in, and Seth Smith swung and missed, Ryan leapt from the couch the same way Papelbon leapt from the pitching rubber. The rest of us screamed in each other’s ears as NESN cut to shots of the Cask N’ Flagon going similarly crazy, just a mile or so to our East.
A few days later, I stood on Boston Common amid the throng and watched the parade pass by. In 2004 a combination of weather and fears about crowd control had convinced me not to go, and ever since I have promised myself that if I was ever lucky enough to have the opportunity again, I’d never make the same choice, no matter what the circumstances.
From my post just after getting back from that experience:
The weather last time was cold, clammy and damp; today was the polar opposite. Sunlight was streaming from a cloudless October sky, catching in the confetti streaming down from the windows of buildings when I came upon the scene. I could not believe it was real. I still can't believe any of it's real.
There were several false-alarm cheers from the crowd that piqued our attention as they jumped around for TV cameras a block or so down, but then finally we heard the thumping bass from the Dropkick Murphy's flatbed truck, and as the rumble got louder a crowd that had already looked like a teeming mass of millions just milling aimlessly seemed to multiply in size, just from the sheer volume of arms and banners and cameras and pennants and signs being waved in the air as the Sox approached.
Someone in one of the buildings on the corner of Tremont St. let out a huge burst of red, white and blue confetti just as the first Duck Boat made a lolling turn onto the block where I was standing. I shielded my eyes against the glare of the sun and watched it emerge from shadow, and I thought to myself, rather matter-of-factly,this is one of the purest, happiest moments I've ever experienced.
The comparisons continue
In 2004, the experience was, The Red Sox finally did it! In my lifetime! I don’t believe it! In 2007, it’s, The Red Sox? Another World Series?! The Red Sox of Bill Buckner and Bucky Bleepin’ Dent? The Red Sox of the Gerbil and the Curse and Grady Little one of the dominant teams in the American League? Are you sure??
It will take years, and multiple revisitations, to put it in its proper place. It took this to shed perspective on ’04, after all. And it’s impossible to ignore that this year we’ve begun to hear some bitter invective from elsewhere in the country which we also must put in its proper context and reconcile against our image of ourselves.
Are we becoming the new Yankees? Do Sox fans have a particular personality that rubs others the wrong way? Are we wrong to keep colonizing opposing ballparks because we’re squeezed out of our own? Are we too narrow-minded when it comes to baseball? Are we nuts to be paying these ticket prices? How can we distance ourselves from other fans we find distasteful, whom many have come to refer to as “the pinkhats”?
To most of the above questions I can only say that I experience the Red Sox in a different dimension, and the celebration at City Hall Plaza is the image I prefer to retain of Red Sox fans in this era. I appreciate baseball because I appreciate this, this communion between performers and audience. The warm comfort of a sense of place, as our homegrown Golden Boy dances to local music.
2004 was all about its context. This year, it was about the current moment, which turned into the happy memory, and the simple, pure joy they both held. The joy of dancing and singing and celebrating. The joy of an entire city standing out in the autumn sunshine, singing its heart out for—and with—its ballplayers.
Tomorrow: Part VII. Epilogue