Last week was a once-in-a-lifetime moment in baseball history. The Boston Red Sox lost the first three games of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. No team has ever come back from such a deficit, and I, too, figured it was all over. Another painful chapter in Red Sox history . . .being swept away by the arrogant, elitist, perpetually dominating N.Y. Yankees.
Before this three-game debacle, I actually thought the Sox would win it this year. Not only because they had a great team, but also because my mother-in-law, Granny Annie, died at the beginning of this year’s baseball season. Granny Annie was born the year the Red Sox last won the World Series, and so this would be her celestial reward. She was a die-hard Sox fan. Her brother, Nardy, was a minor-leaguer in the Red Sox farm system. Living in Quincy, Mass., the family lived and breathed Red Sox baseball. They epitomized the heart of what they call “The Red Sox Nation.” There are no lightweight Red Sox fans — they stick with their team at all costs.
When I was 21 years old and getting ready to marry my wife (now of 43 years), I met Granny Annie for the first time. We were sitting in the kitchen where she chain-smoked cigarettes, drank coffee, and schmoozed into the wee morning hours. I was hoping she would go to sleep so I could cuddle with my baby, but that never happened. Somewhere before I faded, she said, “So you want to marry my daughter?” “I do,” I said, extolling all of Elaine’s attributes, until Granny Annie finally stopped me and said, “All I can say is, good luck to you and the Red Sox.”
It was her way of telling me that there would be struggles ahead, don’t give up, keep the faith. Which is how it is with Red Sox fans, they don’t quit. It’s a tightly bound community that has demonstrated an enormous emotional resilience. It’s a bit baffling how they can sustain such commitment and enthusiasm in the face of almost a century’s heartbreak. I have come to believe that rooting for perennial losers may actually be beneficial to one’s mental health. Hanging on to a team of perennial losers helps you learn how to adjust to failures in your life. It also encourages a belief that such an affliction can be cured. Whatever curses and suffering have been endured, there is an abiding faith that someday the noble heroes will rise to defeat the Evil Empire.
In that three-game losing streak, I thought about Granny Annie’s line and dared for a moment to imagine it could still happen. In game four, with the Sox three outs away from being eliminated, they tied the game. In a heart-stopping, extra-inning game of unbelievable drama, they finally won it. The next night they did it again, winning in the longest game in history. The Red Sox had lots of heroes.
But then it was back to Yankee Stadium. Still down three games to two, they had to
win the next two in Yankee Stadium, the proverbial belly of the beast with Babe Ruth’s statue staring at them in center field. In what is the greatest comeback in sports history, the Boston Red Sox became the first team to ever win the league championship after losing the first three games.
I believe they’ll win the World Series. This one’s gotta’ be for Granny Annie, who kept the faith and passed it on.