Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sox win!

It was a touching moment in history last night as the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series championship since 1918. In doing so, they lifted the mythical Curse of the Bambino and gave Boston sports fans something to cheer about after generations of endless disappointment.

Three links from the horse’s mouth, the Boston Globe, summarize the ecstatic tone of the hometown coverage:

YES!!! Red Sox complete sweep, win first Series since 1918

For multitudes, years of torment end in bliss

Victory transforms a region’s identity

How the Sox won was representative of a storybook in itself. Coming from three games down to take the American League Championship Series from the New York Yankees was about as classic as America’s game can ever be.

Which explains why, after the decisive four-game sweep of the Cards, I feel a tinge of sadness that it ended the way it did.

First, a bit of context: I’ve always been a major fan of the underdog. If someone is different, disadvantaged, or discriminated against, I’ll be right there in the corner, rooting for said person to prevail. There’s always been something immensely satisfying about overcoming an obstacle to win. The overwhelming favorites in anything just don’t do it for my psyche. When you’re already sitting on top of the mountain, you simply don’t deserve it as much as someone who has to claw up the slopes and knock you off.

One of my favorite cartoons when I was a child was the 1964-66 cartoon series Underdog (surprised ya, didn’t I?) Poor old Underdog could never get it together. Saving the world was never a linear process for him. Something always happened to him that kept him from using his superpowers to beat the nefarious dudes who were threatening to do irreparable harm to his city, to him, or to his girlfriend.

Despite the never-ending challenges and cliffhangers that defined his life, he always scratched out a solution. By the end of each episode, the good guy won. The conceptual hares who thought they would easily scamper over the conceptual tortoises to reach the finish line first were, ultimately, sadly mistaken in their smug assumptions.

The now-forgotten live-action series, The Greatest American Hero, starring the also-forgotten William Katt, followed a similar arc. But hobbled by a completely lame theme song and writing that made Falcon Crest look worthy of a Pulitzer, it sank fairly quickly. At least it starred Connie Sellecca in her pre-John Tesh days.

Enough cartoons, though. What does it have to do with baseball? Apparently, much. While the ALCS series represented the ultimate Boston gumption in my mind, the World Series was as outright rout. At no point in the series did the Sox ever trail the Cards. It seemed somewhat out of character for the perennial underdog team, and didn’t fit the storybook storyline that the team began crafting earlier this season, and whose climax seemed to have been reached during the series with the Yankees.

After the ALCS victory, the underdogs were nowhere to be seen. It was much harder to root for an all-powerful entity. No one ever cheers the Borg as they assimilate yet another species into their collective. Not that Boston has become a monolithic, robotic race that cruises interstellar space in huge cubic ships in search of more planets to munch, but they did become slightly less lovable when they were crushing the dickens out of the birdie-team.

In a similar vein, now that the Curse of the Bambino – so-named because while the team failed to win a series after trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the aforementioned New York team went on to dominate professional sport for generations – has been broken, what lore will Boston fans cling to? What do you do once the eternal fog lifts and you’re forced to live your life in somewhat more regular sunshine?

I’m not sure there’s a pat answer to this somewhat rhetorical question. But what is clear is that the world – the seemingly trivial one occupied by grown men who chase balls around an irregularly-shaped field for a living – has changed. Where it goes from here remains to be seen.


Jenny said...

The Greatest American Hero! With the albino afro? And that theme song? Ahahahahaha!

I was a big Mighty Mouse fan. Huge.

Terry said...

I bet Toronto will have the same problem if they ever win the Stanley Cup.

Wheelson said...

I still have the theme song for TGAM on a 45.

I would have felt bad for the Cards getting swept if they hadn't already defeated the Sox twice in World Series history. They owed the Cardinals one too, and boy did they get to cash in their payback check.

opinionatedguy said...

Actually, I agree with you that Boston winning probably was not a good thing for baseball. Because folklore plays such a big part in the aura surrounding baseball, and the Curse of the Bambino was one of the biggest, I really do think that something important has been erased for future years and baseball has lost something special. What is there left that can rival the ex-Curse?

Diva said...

Greatest American Hero has always, ALWAYS, been one of my favorite shows. I am still a bit disappointed that the show was not more successful. I mean - what a great concept - average guy (a *teacher* no doubt) gets a super hero outfit but loses the instruction manual. It was great. The greatest.

Anonymous said...

technically boston was never the underdog. most people predicted they'd win from the beginning.