Today is the day to take it to the hole.
Hey Chicagoans! Don't forget to stop by to see me and my pals this Thursday!
Guest Diarist Mark St. Amant: On Red Sox Nation
When I first contacted Claire about contributing a sports-related piece to Zulkey.com, I had intended to defend my Boston Red Sox against the waves of anti-Sox backlash that, in the weeks and months since we won our first World Series in 86 years, have pounded the team and the fans of Red Sox Nation.
However, after several aborted attempts, I realized that we have no defense. Not anymore. We deserve all the venom spewed our way. The statute of limitations on the positive Sox vibes has officially expired. Case in point, I was out in Colorado skiing with some friends a little while back. We were having a few beers in the lodge. The acoustic Jimmy Buffet wannabe, trying to work the room, asked our table we were from. We said Boston. Everyone booed. Loudly. Message received.
Unlike many people who cling to their fifteen minutes of fame (see "Scott Peterson, Relatives of" and "Federline, Kevin"), I've thankfully come to grips with the fact that we Boston sports fans have rudely, smugly overstayed our welcome in the limelight. So, instead of a defiant, puff-chested, middle finger-extended defense of our right to perpetual celebration, I've decided to come on bended knee and beg for your forgiveness by writing an open letter of apology.
Dear everyone on Earth,
On behalf of Boston Red Sox fans everywhere, I'd like to say we're really, really sorry about our behavior over the past six months. Really. We didn't mean to be such . . . dicks, I guess is the technical term I'm looking for.
We're sorry that you haven't been able to turn on a TV or radio, or so much as walk outside your home, without seeing or hearing the words "Boston," "Red," "Sox" and/or "Socks," "World Series, or "Curse." We apologize for the deluge of Sox-related books, movies, documentaries, mockumentaries, sockumentaries, T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, beer coozys, baby car seats, energy bars, or erectile dysfunction medication. On a recent visit to 7-Eleven, I swear I saw a package of official Boston Red Sox Brand condoms® behind the counter. It had a picture of unfrozen caveman centerfielder Johnny Damon giving a cheesy thumbs-up with the tag line: "Don't be an Idiot practice safe sex!" (A little hypocritical, considering that, after he dumped the proverbial "kind, supportive wife who stuck with him through the minor league hard times" for the "former stripper who would have spent her life showering on-stage with drunken paper salesmen from Boise had she not remora-fished herself onto the meaty underbelly of a professional athlete," Damon shagged his way through Boston like Robert Plant on the Physical Graffiti tour in '75. But I digress.)
I, for one lifelong Sox fan, never intended to be such a nuisance. Sure, when Foulke underhanded the ball to Mient Minty Manaschiv screw it, let's just call him "the guy who refused to give back the game ball afterward" I jumped up and down, screamed, hugged my wife, kissed the dog (or vice-versa), pumped my fist, and even cried a little (sports fans can be such sentimental dopes, can't they?). My beloved Sox had just not only rid themselves of the most rabid, lice-covered, incontinent monkey-on-the-back in sports history by beating the hated Yankees in the Bronx, they'd also just swept the mighty Cardinals, only the best team in baseball, in four games! I could die now. My gravestone would no longer have to read: "Here lies Mark St. Amant, who never saw his Red Sox win a World Series, but, um, he sure liked pizza."
Admittedly, like many Sox fans, I kept my foot planted firmly on the exposed necks of prone Yankee fans (Cards fans were too polite to hate). I soaked up the feeling they'd enjoyed so many times. I gloated. And I wanted all sports fans to celebrate with us, sharing in what on the surface was the classic American, good triumphs over evil, underdog prevails against all odds, 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Rocky over Apollo/Clubber/Drago story.
And for a while, you all did join us. Everyone not wearing pinstripes-and, hell, even some good-sport Yankee fans who were grudgingly respectful of our valiant comeback-became honorary members of Sox Nation. This team instantly became not just a mythical legend but a mental and physical elixir that all you formerly downtrodden sports fans could reach out and touch, caress, and even keep for your very own, to whip out like kryptonite whenever times might get tough. All you good natured Cubs fans, our brothers and sisters in cursedom, emailed me to say that you were happy for us, and hoped that your beloved North Siders would use the Sox as inspiration to, once and for all, euthanize that vermin-coated goat in 2005. Expos, Royals, and Twins fans alike jumped on the Sox bandwagon, dreaming of the day their small-market franchises might slay the evil giant. Everyone loved us.
But then, in the blink of an eye, the image of Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon making out on the Busch Stadium infield was burned into the national consciousness; Kevin Millar and Damon taped a Queer Eye; Curt Schilling became as audibly soothing as Fran Drescher on crystal meth; and the rest of the country suddenly, publicly, loathed us. (And, speaking of Fallon, nothing says "diehard Red Sox fan!" more than a guy born in Brooklyn and raised in upstate New York as fairweather Mets fan. Who was their second choice, Steinbrenner? Roy Cohn? Jimmy Breslin? While Claire has admittedly not read/liked much Nick Hornby, aside from "About a Boy," trust me, "Fever Pitch," while being too technically steeped in soccer jargon, is a wonderful manifesto, not only of sports obsession-in his case with the English Premier League soccer team, Arsenal, often the Red Sox to Manchester United's Yankees, a parallel I couldn't help but cling to, emotionally-but of trying to grow up, survive, prosper, and interact with other members of the human race in the midst of said obsession. Still, despite the giant piles of cash he's probably rolling around naked in as we speak, thanks to our deplorable post-World Series behavior, Hornby is likely turning over in his grave, embarrassed and sickened to be associated with the most egregious castor oil-feeding of Red Sox propaganda to-date . . . not to mention a tad claustrophobic because he's not actually dead yet.)
Not that you should forgive us Sox fans for causing our once-universally beloved team to jump the shark more than the phase "jump the shark" itself has. It's just that, as has been all too well documented, we'd never won anything before 2004. We didn't quite know how to handle ourselves. After the requisite jumping up and down and screaming was taken care of, we just stood there, collectively slackjawed, occasionally blinking. What now? Do we flip cars over and set them on fire like Bulls fans? Do we run off and marry Swedish models like Tiger Woods? What?
Frankly, we were as mature as a bunch of teenagers who'd pinched dad's keys, found his hidden stash of Dickel, and had taken his fire engine-red Ferrari out for a wild, careening, midnight joyride up and down the trendiest boulevards of Sports Fan City. We jumped the velvet ropes at only the best clubs, made out with only the hottest chicks, devoured lobster, caviar and porterhouses, and boisterously toasted our success with bottomless magnums of Cristal. We were a crudely sewed Frankenstein monstrosity of Chris Farley, P.Diddy, and Courtney Love . . . for six straight months.
And now? The party's over. We've
woken up madly hungover in the middle of a remote cornfield, possibly pantsless,
definitely face down in a pool of our own filth. The Ferrari has become a
dented, rust-colored '79 Subaru Brat. We have "Asshole," "Lightweight,"
and other far more derogatory slander scrawled on our faces and torsos in
indelible red Sharpie. And, worst of all, even though the whole thing was
a blur, we have that sickening feeling that we did and said a bunch of horrific,
inappropriate things to friends and strangers alike, meaning that we now have
to start doing our clumsy, sheepish spin control-right after we puke up the
microwave squirrel meat chimichangas and Diet Dr. Pepper we vaguely remember
inhaling sometime before sunrise at a Piggly Wiggly.
So, I say again, we're sorry. We truly didn't mean to make sports fans everywhere hate us. We didn't mean to amp up our insufferable arrogance to unprecedented levels when the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years and turned Boston into, as we were all too eager to yell into your cringing, non-painted face, "Titletown, USA, bay-bee!" We didn't mean to take our post-championship celebration to such unprecedented levels that even the 1994 New York Rangers, who, as we speak, are probably still lugging the Stanley Cup around to T.G.I. Fridays in the tri-state area, called and said, "Uh, yeah, guys? You might want to tone it down." And, most of all, we didn't mean to pretend that we were the scrappy little underdog when, in fact, we were as fat and rich and bloated as the hated Yankees themselves, only with more facial hair and a better bullpen.
As with everything, our victory, no matter how unprecedented, miraculous, and spine-tingling, has proved fleeting. Playoff and World Series Heroes like Pedro, Lowe, Roberts, and Cabrera are ghosts now. Prized free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria is looking as nimble as Ruben Studdard. David Wells allowed back-to back-to back home runs in a loss to the lowly Blue Jays yesterday. The sports radio trolls are already jumping ship and calling for Terry Francona's head, while the rest of the manager's body lies in a local hospital after a heart scare. All, you'll be relieved to know, is back to normal in Red Sox Nation. We've sobered up, are attending regular meetings, and we promise never, ever to behave this way again.
Well, at least until October.
A Contrite Red Sox Nation
Mark St. Amant is the author of "Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie" (Scribner, 2004; www.markstamant.com), a humorous, informative, definitive look at fantasy football that was named a best-selling sports book for fall/winter 2004 along with such titles as "Friday Night Lights." Mark has written for the Boston Globe Magazine, appeared on ESPN Radio and ESPN's "Cold Pizza," and is currently writing his second book, a "Paper Lion"-esque look at an inner-city Boston semi-pro football team through the eyes of its relatively old, small, suburban-raised, rookie kicker-Mark himself (Scribner; Fall, 2006). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.