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An act of contrition

I’ll admit it. Like a number of other folks, I thought the Red Sox’ season was over when the by-now-almost-worthy-of-sympathy Yankees took a 4-3 lead over Boston into the ninth inning of game four of the American League Championship Series on Sunday, October 17. Not wanting to see the New Yorkers celebrating at Fenway Park, I dejectedly turned off the TV and trudged upstairs to an uncomfortable sleep.

This feeling of resignation wasn’t unique. At www.bostondirtdogs.com, an image of a tombstone, posted after the Yankees imposed a 19-8 shellacking in game three, marked the (premature) death of the 2004 Red Sox. Another fan, seeking personal redemption after the Sox launched their unprecedented comeback, wrote on www.survivinggrady.com: "Bless me, Big Papi, for I have sinned. After the game 3 nightmare, I stopped believing. I did NOT stop hoping. I did NOT stop rooting."

Well, what a difference a week — not to mention three World Series wins over the Cardinals — makes. Of course, everything pales in comparison to the senseless death of Victoria Snelgrove, the 21-year-old Emerson College student who was fatally struck by a Boston police projectile following the ALCS win. But things are otherwise well in Red Sox Nation: the most arrogant Yankees fans are silent; ink-stained Soxphobes like Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal and George Vecsey of the New York Times have expressed contrition in print; and, although we know all too well that anything can happen, Boston holds a strong hand against St. Louis.

In some ways, the ALCS with the Yankees was a microcosm of the Sox season, reflecting how the team underperformed and then roared back to life after the Nomar trade. Still, its Jekyll-and-Hyde persona was never far away. In September, I had the good fortune to take my girlfriend to the game in which Orlando Cabrera, freshly returned from Colombia, clinched a victory over the Orioles with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning. On the next night, I could only watch in disbelief from a right-field seat as Terry Francona blew it by allowing B.K. Kim, who hadn’t faced big-league hitters in months, to remain in a close game after running into trouble against Baltimore. Now, though, in the hallowed days of late October, Tito enjoys exalted status.

Before game seven with the Yankees, the most important thing seemed to be how the Sox had proved their spirit and restored their dignity. I was philosophically prepared for any outcome, even though, of course, I fervently wanted a win. Given the outcome, the cap to a historic comeback, it was hard not to ascribe some larger meaning to it all — a demonstration of grit, determination, and the upside of the human spirit. It made me think of my 80-year-old father — still working, bless him — who found perhaps the happiest days of his life after overcoming some serious adversity in midlife.

So what will it be? Depending on the conclusion of the World Series, the Sox will either end or perpetuate talk of the Curse. But regardless of the outcome, they’ve given us an unforgettable ride.

Issue Date: October 29 - November 4, 2004
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