Friday, February 15, 2008

Oldie - but worth looking at

This is a reflection I wrote as we headed into Spring Training 2005. The Sox had just won it all, and a new season was beginning...

A New Beginning

Hey Red Sox fans, can you feel it? Something is different in the air, something different indeed. Of course, we are about to enter another fresh new baseball season, full of hope and excitement. Yet, that’s not it, not really. We spent our winter months, as always, scanning the news for trade rumors and debating the merits of honest to goodness trades. We went through spells where we were emotional fans and prayed that our favorite players would be back for another year. We cheered when they re-signed (thank you Jason!), and cursed when they left (why Pedro, why?). We spent hours in Theo Epstein’s shoes identifying our weakest areas and strategizing ways to get stronger. We can now admit that some of the trades we concocted were far fetched, and that is why we ultimately leave the job to Theo. We watch spring training and keep an eye on those players recovering from injuries, the young kids fighting for a roster spot, and the returning stars to see if they look ready. This is all as it has always been, and yet something has indeed changed this year - enough so that you can feel it, like a subtle change in the weather when, even though there are no obvious signs, you turn and say to a companion that “it feels like it is about to snow”.

In the end, it is no wonder the new strange thing is so elusive. The difference is not that anything new has been added, but that something old and persistent is no longer there. That something is a question - a simple, short, question. A question that has grown old with us and had become part of our standard vernacular, like saying “nothing” whenever anyone asks “what’s up?”, or “fine” whenever anyone asks how you are. You never really notice it, but it is always there…until this year. For nostalgia sake, let’s look at "the question" one last time. The question is “so, do you think this will be the year?”. Ah yes, that was the question and the question had a life of its own. It shaped who we were, what we believed, and how we reacted to every little aspect, every little nuance of our beloved Red Sox.

The question was much, much larger than the few words on paper. It was a deep question. Asking it showed hope and desire to see the Red Sox win a championship. But, being a question, it implied doubt and uncertainty. The way it was phrased was focused on “the year”, not “another year”, not a repeat performance, but one single year of success. In that, the question demonstrated that there had not been a year, a year the asker is waiting for, in a very long time. It implied doubt as to the ability of this year’s team to be the one to finally deliver, but at the same instant, implied that there was some hope it could be “the team”. And beneath the question, there were so many other questions that tried to make sense of how this team could come so close, so very close, so many times, and yet never be able to, even accidentally, reach the ultimate goal. Each time they came within reach, and lost, the question got heavier and heavier.

That question is gone now. That is what is new. The question was heavy; it weighed on us like a wet backpack on a two day hike. That backpack is no longer there, and that is what we feel. The weight is lifted. Sure, we want another championship, and sure we want to end a season in first place, above the dreaded Yankees. But we are no longer wondering why we can only come close and not reach that ever elusive goal. The 2004 Boston Red Sox were our long awaited saviors. They exorcised the question in dramatic fashion. They freed us to become honest to goodness baseball fans, and allowed us to shed that painful desperation. We can see the games clearly now. We can truly say, and believe, that it is a long season and there is time. We can forgive the occasional error, bad decision, and off day. In the past, every mistake, even the small ones in early April, were sure signs that fate had it in for us again. Last year, hopefully, taught us that mistakes will happen. Winning streaks will be offset by losing streaks, home runs by strikeouts, stunning defense plays by sloppy errors. Hopefully we saw that, in the end, it is the drive, determination and teamwork that really count. Now, we can watch our beloved team, cheer them on, give them encouragement, and really enjoy the games. But this time, without the dread in our hearts. We have won a championship, and this is a new era, one where we no longer wonder if a championship is possible. To preserve that memory, nearly every fan in all of New England has had a chance to pose with the Championship Trophy to prove it happened and that each of us was there. Now we can start of this new and exciting season with a whole new attitude. Red Sox fans embark on the 2005 season, for the first time in generations, no longer in fear of losing, but rather with determination and hope for winning. Isn’t this what we have all been waiting for?

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