One team, one tragedy, one triumph
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 16:10
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
This is a famous line for anyone who’s seen Brad Pitt act as Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane in Moneyball. I’ve thought about this hundreds of times since the movie, but I don’t think I ever truly grasped the significance until last night’s Game Six.
The 2013 Boston Red Sox embody that line.
Baseball and love have many similarities. Both revolve around failure, both involve redemption and both bring people together in the end. In baseball, the best hitter gets out more often than he reaches base. At the same time, no pitcher enters a game expecting to not allow a base runner.
In love, you fail a lot. Rarely will you fall for the first person you take out on a date, become helplessly in love and live a perfect life together. It just doesn’t happen. You may ‘strike out’ on your first approach, but you have to come back a second, third, fourth, eighth, 14th time and try it again.
This Red Sox team wasn’t expected to win many games this season, according to many ‘experts.’ Fourteen months ago – coming off a last-place finish – Boston traded $262.5 million worth of players and received no starting players in return.
Isn’t this what you have to do after a bad relationship? You must get rid of everything that reminds you of the person, throw them away and start over.
The hardships were just beginning for Boston. Like any romance, there will be that one event that can either end the partnership or form a bond stronger than ever.
For the Red Sox, that event was on April 15 – Boston’s annual Patriots Day marathon. We all know the gruesome tragedy that took place on this date, but what came out of it was miraculous.
Bob Nightengale wrote in a USA Today piece about how, a few days after the Boston Marathon, a Cleveland cab driver picked up Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and some of his teammates heading out to dinner. The driver stopped short and Pedroia said, “Careful, buddy. You are carrying the 2013 World Series Champs.”
Nobody knew how serious the statement was.
This was when “Boston Strong” began to sweep the Twitter-verse. After returning to Boston on April 20, the Red Sox’s superstar David Ortiz took the microphone and said, “This is our f****** city, and no one is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong,” in front of a sold-out Fenway Park. Not only was this the beginning of the Red Sox’s journey for recovery and greatness, but also the beginning of the city’s quest to return to normalcy.
The majority of the players have been growing out their beards through the end of the season and into postseason play. You can’t miss them. The beards are the first things you see when the players are fielding a ground ball or stepping up to the plate.
They represent unity. The teammates are all playing for one thing: Boston.
This is one of those stories you can’t make up. Actually, that’s not true. It is a script straight out of Hollywood. A tragedy hits a city and a sports team begins an extraordinary run nobody expects and wins a championship.
I think if you handed this script to a director, however, he’d laugh at you. The story would be too nonsensical even for him or her. Sports provide true stories that just leave you speechless.
Keep in mind that this is the same city that went 86 years between championships. It knows what failure looks, tastes and sounds like. It has experienced every kind of humiliation imaginable on the field, but nothing compares to what it went through that April afternoon and the following days.
And is there a more fitting character to end this story than Red Sox pitcher John Lackey. To describe the first two seasons of his 5-year, $82 million contract as a disappointment would be an understatement.
Lackey and fans were constantly at battle with one another after his performance and participation in the 2011 fried chicken and beer locker room incidents. He finished 2012 with a 6.41 ERA.
But when he left the mound on Thursday evening, the sold-out crowd rose to its feet and gave Lackey an overwhelming applause; Lackey had no choice but to tip his cap to the crowd.
Six and a half months later, Boston can celebrate. For the first time since 1918, the Red Sox celebrated a championship on its home field and it was hard to fight the feeling that this was destined.
Just 24 months ago, we were talking about selfish players, sitting around in the locker room getting drunk. The same team is now the best in the world because of its unity.
They were no longer 25 individual players; they were one Boston Red Sox team, stronger than ever.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?