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In divided country, the Red Sox unite us

Only Yankee fans wouldn't appreciate Boston's feat
BOSTON - It was a pinch-me morning.

Did the Boston Red Sox really win the World Series or was it all a sweet dream?

Opened the shades, let in the sunlight, blinked at red, gold and orange leaves shimmering against a clear blue sky. It seemed too perfect, too real.

Yet there it all was, a day of beauty, a story of hope fulfilled.

The good feelings spread across the country like a contagious giggle. Americans, divided over so many serious issues, couldn't help but unite in cheers for baseball's classic underdogs and see rays of optimism in their triumph.

"The Red Sox always reminded us that the game is so much more than about winning," said filmmaker Ken Burns, whose PBS documentary series on baseball chronicled the history of the game and its place in American culture. "I once asked the writer Walker Percy why there are so many great Southern writers. He said, 'It's because we lost.' The losses by the Red Sox, year after year, getting close sometimes, almost winning and always failing, made them metaphors for losing.

"There was a palpable yearning for them to win that's just been released. The way it played out, the comeback, the sweep, the lunar eclipse, it was a harmonic convergence of poetic dimension."

Who, except haughty New York Yankees fans, didn't take immense pleasure in the Red Sox's rebound from 0-3 against their perennial tormentors in the American League championship series?

Who, except faithful St. Louis Cardinals fans, didn't relish the sweep of this season's National League juggernaut by destiny's erstwhile doormats?

Who among the legions of Red Sox devotees was not enraptured by the whole miraculous, nerve-racking, exhausting ordeal?

"After the birth of my daughters, it's the best day of my life," Burns, a Red Sox fanatic, said, echoing sentiments felt across Red Sox Nation. "I've made some decent films, I've raised my daughters pretty well, and now that the Red Sox won, I can die a happy man."

Burns paced with "a sort of maniacal superstition" on two carpets during Game 4, one when the Red Sox were up, a different one when the Cards were batting. When the final out was made, he let loose long, wild whoops of glee in his New York apartment.

"I wanted to be at home in New England to watch this game," said Burns, whose production company is headquartered in New Hampshire. "But there was something great about being in the belly of the beast in New York and reading about it today in the papers on the subway. Everyone seems to have embraced this team."

The overused and often phony marketing phrase, "America's team," truly suited these Boston Red Sox as they captured the nation's hearts and imagination.

They were self-proclaimed, lovable "idiots," blissfully ignoring history and tales of a hex. Never full of themselves, never strutting, showing off or showing up their opponents, they played the game with unabashed joy and unshakable intensity, the way sports ought to be played. They were a motley mix of characters from different cultures who shared a common language on the field.

Their looks clashed the floppy-haired Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez, the thinning crewcut of Curt Schilling, the baldness of plain-speaking manager Terry Francona yet they seemed like a perfect fit.

"They looked like they really enjoyed the game, which we don't really think about that much with pro sports," sports sociologist Richard Lapchick said.

So much of the time, pro sports just seem like a sour business with athletes embroiled in one problem after another. These Red Sox brought a lightness to the ballpark but also a commitment that was epitomized by Schilling when he pitched with stitches in his ankle and blood leaking through his sock.

Baseball suffered immensely after the labor wars of 1994-95. Many fans swore off the game, sick of the greed by both players and owners. Baseball bounced back in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were dueling for the home run record, and surged more in popularity last year when the Red Sox and their cousins in misfortune, the Chicago Cubs, threatened to meet in the World Series.

The Red Sox victory now may crank up baseball fever to record levels.

"The Red Sox always gave baseball a big shot in the arm when they come close to winning," Burns said. "Actually winning the World Series will give the game a huge boost."

Maybe in some way, the Red Sox's victory will rub off on other sports and make converts of a few cynics. Maybe more people will look at failure and see room for hope. On this day, at least, there was a thrill in the air and in a lot of fans' hearts.

homepage: homepage: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6357740/

corporate sports-hohum 28.Oct.2004 21:19

yawn carry

Oh what would the world series or superbowl be without someone trying to make some sort of warm and fuzzy statement out of a bunch of grown men in strange outfits playing kids' games? I'd rather watch our neighborhood city league teams or better yet be in there myself as we make up our own rules.

Schilling 28.Oct.2004 21:35

pp

Too bad star pitcher Schilling told the fans to vote for Bush. And I used to like the guy.

Sox are just another big payroll team 29.Oct.2004 01:11

MLB

Celebrating the Sox victory is like celebrating the fact GW Shrub got into Yale. They had $130 million payroll. They bought their title. Them and the Yanks are what is killing baseball. They are the new 'Evil Empire.' The Sox are the bad guys in this scenario, it's like using a money cheat in a video game.

in one ear and out the other 29.Oct.2004 15:19

Vystrix Nexoth

I think you guys completely missed the point of this article. celebrating the win is a common factor that can unite us in this world where petty arguments and differences dominate. it's a good thing, which is all too uncommon in today's world. if you think sports is silly, then fine... don't watch it; no one expects you to care. I'm not that much of a sports fan myself, although I do watch from time to time, and I can appreciate a victory such as this.

for once, people can celebrate a game, not get mired down in statistics and who's being paid what and who endorses who. views like yours are precisely the sort of thing that this victory helps people escape from, if only for a moment. don't drag it back down.

Also Remember... 29.Oct.2004 17:18

Varro

...that sports teams' victories bring out the cops with the so-called less-lethal weapons.

Legal observers might as well watch the celebrations as well as protests; even though there's no political activity involved, there are plenty of chances for police brutality to happen, and even the killing of innocent citizens like Victoria Snelgrove (21-year-old student in Boston killed by untrained cops firing pepper-ball guns randomly into the crowd).

sick and tired of anti-sports radical rhetoric 30.Oct.2004 01:48

yankees suck

For all people who give the scripted answer that sports is just corporate, so it shouldn't matter, I say eat shit! I got news for you, everything is controlled by corporations, that is the nature of life in a capitalist society. I don't hear many people go the next step and say, "I wont buy this cd/watch this movie/or eat any food that is controlled by a corporate interest". Sporting events have been a part of every single documented culture in the history of the world, according to anthropogists. Sporting events played at their highest level not only are entertaining, but they offer a civic solidarity that, right or wrong, is nearly impossible to dupilcate. I find it particularly offending that someone who doesn't know anything about the specifics of this particular team and the region they represent could so callously say "it doesn't matter". I have friends from New England who are radicals, and you better believe it matters to them that the Red Sox won for the first time in 86 years. The first thoughts of most fans after the Sox clinched weren't "cool lets get drunk and fuck shit up" they were more along the lines of "I wish granpa Joe had lived a couple more years to see this" or "I'm glad I saw this before I die", if you've ever been to Boston during a baseball season you'd know what I'm talking about. The crowd estimates for the the victory celeration on Saturday range from 3 to 5 MILLION people, anything that creates that much local and regional pride and celebration is a good thing, period. Go Sox