Amazing how four years can change things.
The first 19-8, well, there wasn't much worse than that. This is what I wrote about it in the first Pretty Good Year:
The cynical among us may have expected disappointment, but this was something different. This was something black and hideous. This was teetering at the edge of a howling abyss. This was an elemental absence of hope.
This was Red Sox fans abandoning Fenway Park in October.
Of course there are many who will say they never lost faith. Some are even telling the truth.
But not I--to say I lost hope is an understatement. It was a bottomless feeling. I didn't just lose faith in baseball or the Red Sox. I lost faith in life itself. At least, for a few shuddering moments along about inning 4, Game 3.
And really, my thought when I go back to watch these games - Games 4 and 5 especially - is, how did we survive? Truly, facing the thought of another year - a hundred years? - wandering in the wilderness, the idea of being so crushed, the very next year, by the same exact team we'd been crushed by the year before, hell, all the years before...it really was almost too much.
This time, it's not to say that 19-8 is insignificant. That loss by the Red Sox last night means that, incredibly, the Tampa Bay Rays have in fact clinched the AL East Division.
But this time, the Red Sox already celebrated with their own champagne just one night earlier, and no matter how many runs the Yankees put on the board, had eliminated the Bombers in the same fell swoop. This is Red Sox fans abandoning Fenway Park in late September - but only because they need to rest up for the playoffs, which are still to come.
After the first 19-8, another loss would truly have hurt me. The Red Sox' journey had become the symbol of so much-- and there was Game 7 to avenge. The way my friend Ryan likes to describe Game 7 is, "It was so bad that the only thing that could've made it better was winning the World Series the very next year." 19-8 was standing at the edge of not only another year's disappointment, but all that would remain unresolved from years before.
These are once-in-a-lifetime events. The Red Sox are not going to go 86 years in my lifetime without winning, and then win again - even if it happens I'll be dead before it comes to pass. Recent victory, and current victory (they are in the playoffs, after all) change the emotional equation.
Today I wonder without flinching if this might be another year like 2005, when the Sox coasted into the playoffs on the strength of the campaign of the year before, only to be steamrolled by a hungrier team - the Angels seem poised to fit that bill. I remind myself they have been usurped for the division by a gang of upstarts that might just be stupid enough to win it all - a theme I also recognize.
Then again, maybe they will be more like the 2004 Patriots, overcoming injuries to accomplish back to back championships. But thinking about this is hard for me. It's like saying, maybe Pegasus will land in my office parking lot some Tuesday afternoon, pick me up, and fly me to a land of Paradise. Yeah, maybe. If that happens, I'll figure out how to react to it. For now, I'm going to assume the odds are not in favor of it, and live accordingly.
For now, the beautiful thing is that there's no longer the weight of past losses to avenge. The beatiful thing is, we can live in the moment, and just enjoy our team, for their fortitude in an injury-plagued year, for their individual personalities and talents, no matter what they ultimately accomplish. That's the beatiful thing that was given to us after that last 19-8.