It had to happen sometime. That “1918” chant wasn’t going to hold up forever. Sooner or later, the Babe was going to get tired of haunting his old team, and, because the entire 86-year story has already been fodder for plenty of books and is destined for Hollywood immortalization, it makes sense that George H. Ruth would move on to bigger and better things right in the middle of a goddamn series. But, I refuse to devolve into Espn.com-like bitterness. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this article to congratulate the fans of our rivals to the northeast. With all the ways a championship season can be derailed, winning the World Series is harder these days than it has ever been. Three rounds, thirty teams, and that long schedule… it’s a rough season any way you slice it. And to ascend to the top of the baseball totem pole for the first time since World War One was being fought must feel great. Immense accomplishment. But, once you’re on top, where do you go, Red Sox Nation?
The reason New Englanders (and those who jump on the immense bandwagon every year) are so tightly bonded is because oppressed ideological minorities tend to grow closer as they are mistreated for longer and longer periods of time. They bond over pitchers of Sam Adams in sad little pubs and every year cling to some thin strand of hope that this, finally, will be “the year.” Most of the Nation’s parents weren’t even born the last time the Sox reached the mountaintop. So, now, a truly lifelong goal has been achieved for millions of people. The Yankees, though we remain evil, can’t really be the “Evil Empire” anymore, because the entire idea behind being an empire is an aura and a mystique of invincibility. Once vanquished, and in the emphatic and embarrassing way that we were, there is no way that the Red Sox fans will ever have that vague fear in the back of their minds when they play us, that voice that tells them, or used to, that they just are not going to win, and that, close as they may get, they will somehow have their hopes and dreams crushed by the end of the season. For the Red Sox, the limit used to be the sky, but now the sky’s the limit.
So, whatever will you do with your newfound power, your confidence in your team? It’s clear that you were never people to give up hope, since your constant pain and anguish made each and every one of you die-hard fans, but really now, you can’t whine anymore. You can’t yell at us and say we buy championships, because the World Series winner with the highest payroll of them all is… the 2004 Red Sox. You can’t go to ESPN.com and hope to find Bill Simmons, Jim Caple, and the rest of the staff writing articles to help you commiserate. Because, I’ll tell ya this, Sox fans, when we beat the Mets around the head and shoulders in 2000, it was pretty sweet, because at that point, the Mets were everyone’s bandwagon team. And the sweetness lasted a little while. But by the spring, it was nothing more than an afterthought. Whenever you guys lost (and I’m sure you all can remember many a time when that took place), it was the type of thing that hangs over you throughout the winter months, making you recoil slightly each and every time you saw a baseball. When the Sox were about to finish off the Cardinals like a one-sided Mortal Kombat battle, my OA leader was in such absolute shock that I don’t think she believed she was awake. After so many cold, harsh winters, this season might just feel a little warmer, the wind a little softer, as you revel in the fact that you’ve won more recently than we have. But, like I said, the sweet taste of success lingers for much less time than the bitterness of failure, and if you thought the Yankees were evil now, just watch how many over-the-hill free agents we overpay this year.
In the past, our excessive spending made you angry, as if you were not a very rich team with the league’s second-highest payroll. But now, our lack of financial frugality will cause laughter among you. All those formerly hostile internet boards will be full of laughter when we try to coax Mattingly out of retirement or build ourselves a robotic Giambi, or something to that effect. Because, since baseball in this part of the country really only has two teams in it, we can never be even. One team, every year, goes farther than the other. And now that it’s you, for the first time in over a decade, we become the oppressed fans. Not oppressed by a long period of time, but by the way in which our constant superiority was suddenly taken from us. Perhaps we deserve it, because I can’t say I haven’t taunted a few people over the years, but that’s just sports fandom. We consider the team’s accomplishments our own, and thus their success gives us the right to say whatever we want, as if we were on the field. Silly, of course, but that’s the nature of being a fan. So now the “cocky, arrogant, asshole” Yankee fans, myself included, will have to humble ourselves for at least one winter, enduring similarly dumb chants of “Year-Two-Thou-sand” when the season starts and hoping that some way, some how, we can beat those guys who took our glory from us. But it’s not going to take more than half a century, that’s for sure. I mean, this weird, 86-year curse thing is of course a product of bad decisions (you really can’t get rid of Babe Ruth, and Buckner had bad knees) and bad luck (Bucky and Boone), but unless you’re from Chicago, it’s the not the type of thing that’s going to happen again to any baseball team you root for. Every dog has its day, and every shitty team has a few good years here and there. And, besides, like the Red Sox, the Yankees, even when they don’t win, are usually quite competitive. We may have to dismantle before we return to glory, as we did about ten years ago, and we may have to kill Steinbrenner so we can make good decisions rather than purely greedy ones, but we haven’t sold any future immortals to finance Broadway shows, and there’s only been one decade since the 20s when we haven’t won the series (the 80s). We’ll be back next year, with a one-year vengeance as strong as any cursed team would ever have. But enough about the team. As much as we like to pretend we can, we fans can’t change what happens on the field. All we can do is argue with each other, and argue we shall.
We’ll argue about whose off-season acquisitions are the best. We’ll argue about which stadium is cooler. We’ll argue about which city is more fun, though that really is no contest. We’ll argue until the first pitch is thrown in March, and then we’ll argue some more. Because that’s all fans do, at the end of the day. We live and die with our favorite 25 men in uniform, and use what happens on the field as fuel to brag or brood. And then we do it again the next year, because we don’t know any other way.
It’s a very new feeling, being just-another-team for a few months. Even when we haven’t won the Series, we’re usually better than them. But this year, we can’t make that claim. And, you know, the series still smarts a little, but, as I say to Californians to explain why I don’t mind harsh winters, now that we’re out in the cold, it’ll be much more fun to get back into the warmth. And until that day, I’ll just keep arguing, even from the losing side, because, at the end of the day, we still have 86 years of being the world’s most successful sports franchise to think about, and hours upon hours of “Yankees Classics” to watch on YES, and though they may have finally gotten to us, and though they may or may not relive this month for the rest of their lives, this is just one really bad year to us, and there’s another season coming around the corner. Besides, what’s done is done, and 26 is still a hell of a lot more than 6.