Triumph and maybe a little bit of tragedy
A few thoughts on last night's game, which completed either the greatest comeback victory or the worst collapse in baseball history, depending on your perspective.
I grew up in the western part of New York state, about 5 hours directly west of New York City. There were a few Yankee fans in that area, naturally, but the only one I can recall is my grandfather, who watched every game. He used to tell stories of World Series games he watched. Any time I'd come up to visit his house on the hill in the evening, the Yankees game would be on the television, so I was pretty familiar with the team back then. The only Yankee I really liked was Mattingly, who will probably go down in history as the best Yankee never to play on a World Series team.
Although I enjoyed the games, I never really truly was a Yankee fan. I'd root for them on occassion, but my heart wasn't in it. I think it has something to do with the distance between my tiny little town and New York City, which I never even visited until I was in my late 20's. The idea of such a collossal town seems quite alien to my roots, and somehow it just never clicked with me.
On afternoons, I watched the team I grew to love, the Cubs. Though I've STILL never been there, I felt a stronger connection with them than the formidable, storied Yankees. I think now that I've always been attracted to the more tragic figure, the underdog, and the struggle. It's the journey that's the thing, and having a humbler past, suffering a bit, lets you really appreciate winning when it happens, even if it is incredibly rare.
As such, the greatest comeback in history couldn't have happened with two more appropriate teams. One, mired in years of setbacks, the other, bloated with arrogance. Although I had really no true loyalties to either team, I found myself cheering and hoping with every pitch over the last four games (I watched every minute, on into the morning) that the Red Sox could pull off the impossible. Call it kinship by blood, as we long-sufferers stick together.
If I had scripted this series and submitted it for publication, it was have been summarily rejected as cheeseball and unbelievable: Your star pitcher goes down in the first game, likely not to return. You lose the next two games, the third one at home by a drubbing. Games 4 & 5 you beat the premier closer of all time twice and win in extra innings. Game 6 your injured and bleeding star pitcher throws the gutsiest performance of his career to insure a Game 7, and then you handily trounce the Evil Empire before their home fans to win. It's unbelieveable.
On of my Yankee coworkers, still reeling in denial, even went so far as to suggest that the series was fixed. Perhaps back in the day (i.e., the Black Sox scandal) when atheletes were paid a mere pittance this could still be considered even as a remote conspiracy theory, but these guys are all paid millions per year. It's a ridiculous scenario to consider, but apparently some fans are so shocked at the loss that their minds won't let them grasp what has truly happened.
I have absolutely no sympathy for Yankees fans who are crying. They have no idea what loss is, compared to any other team that ever played. They have won 26 championships. Now they have lost in the most embarrassing fashion ever, which is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, as this is first time it has ever happened in baseball. This is their comeuppance, and it's a bitter drink they are going to have to swallow. That's about as close as I can get to empathy for the Empire as a Cubs fan.
As for the vaunted curse, some say it's still on until the Sox win a series. Technically, I suppose that may be true, and I hope they win it so there will be no question. Either way, some powerful demons have been exorcised over the last week, and if there is a Ruthian curse, it sure as shit took a bad time to take a nap. Part of that curse is the mystique of the Yankees, that they will somehow always find a way to win, and the Sox will find a way to lose. As the last out was recorded and both Yankees and Sox fans stared in disbelief, the aura of the giants of baseball faded to black and white pinstipe.