TORN BETWEEN TWO LOVERS
TORN BETWEEN TWO LOVERS
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have an undying love of the Boston Red Sox. (Not for nothing, being a Red Sox fan can better be described as a “close to dying” love.) Anyone who reads me, knows with absolute certainty of my love of the game of baseball. So, as we embark on the best month in sports – which started with a bang last night (and with apologies to March, as it really only has three quality sports weeks), and begin the best tournament in sports (with apologies to hockey, whose playoffs simply go on too long), I find myself sitting squarely on the horns of a dilemma.
See, even when the Curse of the Bambino was in full swing, when the names Bucky “Fucking” Dent, Bill “Slow Roller” Buckner, and Aaron “Bleeping” Boone” rolled off the tongues of New Englanders, there was a fan base on the North Side of Chicago that was in even more pain – they just didn’t get the same publicity. As a reminder, the Cubs’ era (eon?) of futility started a full decade before the Red Sox’.
The BoSox came close in ’86 (at 68 years and counting), but the Cubbies came damn close in ’84 (then in the midst of a 76-year drought). And while Grady Little and the aforementioned Aaron Boone were ruining the Fall of 2003 for New England, Steve Bartman was doing the same for Chicago. Had things turned out differently (foul balls and pitching changes are the darndest things), had the outcomes been as the pundits predicted, the 2003 World Series would have pitted 95 years of misery vs. 85; and at long last, either the Billy Goat or the Babe would have been absolved. Alas, we don’t live in such a world.
We all know that the Babe (really, Harry Frazee and Bill Buckner) got off the schneid the next year, and it has been nothing but sunshine and roses on the Charles for the past ten plus years. Not so much in Chi-town.
Since Bartman, the Cubs have made the playoffs thrice, and have yet to win a game. Including the Bartman game, that is 12 in a row over four playoff series. But Theo Epstein, the Exorcist of the Back Bay, has the Cubs as the heavy favorite to win it all this year. A close second in those odds . . . Theo’s former employer. Which has me torn between two lovers.
Would there be a better story in baseball? Theo Epstein gets (part of) the BoSox band back together with Jed Hoyer (GM), Jason McLeod (Sr. VP of Player Development), Jared Porter (Director of Pro Scouting), Jon Lester, David Ross, and John Lackey, adds a whole crop of incredible young talent, the most unconventional manager in the game, and brings a title 108 years in the making back to the banks of Lake Michigan. As a true baseball fan, how can you not root that? Hell, even President Obama would be rooting for it.
The only problem with this fairytale, for me, is that the Red Sox decided to have the bounce back year many people predicted. And behind Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Benintendi, Price, Porcello, Pomeranz, a rejuvenated Pedroia, and the most epic swan song in the history of the game for Big Papi, the Red Sox have a legitimate to chance to (a) make the showdown we missed in 2003 a reality and (b) squash the hopes and dreams of another generation of Cubs fans. So what do I do? For whom do I root?
I have often said that the 1991 World Series should have been called a tie when neither team scored after nine innings of Game 7. Both teams deserved to win; and neither team deserved to lose. But we all know Jack Morris went out for his tenth inning, shut down the Braves, and then Gene Larkin (you all remembered that, right?) got the game-winner, bringing home Dan Gladden (you remembered that, too?), and the Minnesota fans nearly blew a hole in the Hubert H. Humphrey Homer Dome. (As an aside, how much better would it have been if Kirby Puckett had knocked in or scored that winning run?)
Which brings me back to this season – a quarter of a century later. As I stare down the barrel of the next four weeks, all I can hope is that the Red Sox and Cubs are tied at three games apiece, tied after nine innings, and then someone cuts the Eversource/NStar power grid. Then, after a collective groan, everyone calmly and politely exits Fenway Park, gets on the “T”, and goes on with their life. Hope can always spring eternal. Hey, it’s not that much of a stretch – the Cubs do have one tie this season!
However, more likely than not, they will both lose in the division series, and then we could end up watching the Blue Jays and the Giants in a World Series battle of two highly unlikable teams. That said, what would you pay to see Jose Bautista take Madison Bumgarner deep, flip his bat, saunter around the bases, only to get drilled in his next at bat? That would be appointment viewing.
So as we dive headlong into the playoffs, as the Red Sox fly to Cleveland and the Cubs host either the Giants or the Mets, a man can dream about what may come . . . and fear being torn between two lovers.