Thursday, October 15, 2009

Déjà Vu: Sox are Through.

Ok, indulge me a little hyperbolic sports drama.

It's been almost a week and I'm still not over it. The Red Sox are done for the season. I'm experiencing this subtle underlying disappointment. It occurred to me yesterday that I used to feel like this all the time! This is only the third time in the last seven years that Boston has not played in the American League Championship Series. But as most baseball fans know, this level of success has not always been the norm for the Sox.

I've been a Sox fan since the late 1970s. Until 2004, I felt like I was the only one in Knoxville! Here's how it happened: Like most other East Tennessee kids who were not Braves fans, I liked the Big Red Machine—the Cincinnati Reds. Bench, Rose, Morgan, Pérez, Concepción, Griffey, Foster, all led by Sparky Anderson—those guys were great. A really cool style among teenagers back then was to wear one of those fake plastic batting helmets. I wanted one and couldn’t find one anywhere. Some of my friends got theirs at Six Flags in Georgia for $6. Soon thereafter, I went with my church youth group to Six Flags determined to buy one for myself with $6 I had saved. All day, I walked the whole park seeking one of those Reds helmets, to no avail. The Reds were so popular! Finally, at the end of the day, I decided to just buy a helmet of another team. At that time, the Red Sox helmets were red with a navy blue bill, and looked really cool. Pointing to one, I asked the vendor, “What’s the team with the B?” “Boston Red Sox” was the answer (I should have known, they had played the Reds in the 1975 World Series). I bought one. While walking across Six Flags, people kept giving me the “thumbs up” sign saying, “Go Sox!” That was cool. So I started keeping up with them. I started collecting baseball cards and collected all the Sox cards. I fell in love with Rick “the Rooster” Burleson, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski, Butch Hobson, Dwight Evans, George Scott...I can remember them like it was yesterday.

(This is my favorite player Rick Burleson in that cool red batting helmet!)

In high school I got to visit Boston and saw a few Sox games in Fenway. Then I was hooked. It was magic. I also got to see them play in Texas, Atlanta, and Baltimore. Like all true Sox fans, a tragic moment in my life was when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs in 1986. I’ll never forget it. I found out later that he is a Christian. I actually got to meet Buckner in 1999. I introduced him at an FCA banquet (I had forgiven him and said nothing of his infamy).

Point is, through all those years, I always got myself worked up that this was to be a championship year. And it never was. In fact, most years we didn’t even get to the playoffs.

That’s why I’m experiencing déjà vu. I’ve been here before. Left feeling empty after the one team I have stood by through good years and bad failed to get past the wildcard series. It’s the team I have loved irrationally and emotionally who play a sport I was never really good at but that I respect and enjoy watching. I really thought they would do it! All my shirts, hats, and jerseys are now useless to me (not really) until next April! That's sports!

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