The Major League Baseball playoffs are underway, for which my team, the Red Sox, failed to qualify. And, it seems almost sacrilegious to say, I don’t care. The hated Yankees finished pretty well, and yet again, I didn’t really care. I don’t think I’m the only one; my (admittedly tiny) poll of other Sox Nation dwellers suggests widespread anomie.
What’s going on?
Like millions of New Englanders the Sox have forever been one of the rhythms of my life. I grew up listening to the games on a big wooden radio with my grandfather, scoring each inning, savoring my baseball card collection, and arguing with my Yankee fans friends while we walked (really!) to school.
My father, who loved statistics, cautioned us about false expectations, as most Sox expectations were in those years. He took me to a Red Sox game every year if my grades were adequate. The voices of Curt Gowdy, Ken Coleman, Jerry Remy, Don Orsillo and Joe Castiglione have settled me for decades.
I always felt that Fenway Park was an honest home for just us folks, unlike Yankee Stadium, which always reflected the pretensions of the rich. A few years ago the Connecticut Forum devoted an entire program to the Red Sox vs the Yankees, with speakers like Carleton Fisk and Bucky (Bleeping) Dent. It was an overflow packed house. There has always (until now) been something larger than sports about New York — Boston rivalry.
As I have tried to explain to agnostics and Yankee boosters, it’s (fortunately) not all about winning. It’s about hope and a little bit about Armageddon. Hope, unlike joy, is a metaphysical and spiritual virtue. Joy, and the flush of victory, are greatly overrated, at least when it comes to the Red Sox. Sox fans believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. The frequent slump in September was just part of life. It didn’t extinguish hope. There was something about the triumphant normalcy of the Sox. No matter how bad things got, there was that Sox hope, that they would again some day — next year — be above average.
And it happened, hope was rewarded with four World Series titles in this century. The curse was lifted. Parades on duck boats. For joy.
I stayed with the Sox because I always had. It was a connection to past generations. I had a dear friend and mentor, Judge Robert Satter, who remained a boisterous Sox fan into his nineties. He may come out of heaven and smite me for my apostasy but … why don’t I care any more?
Expectations weren’t high this year, with the team’s top two pitchers on the shelf, Mookie Betts in Los Angeles and the lineup filled with unknown soldiers. And, indeed, they stunk. But God knows I’ve suffered bad teams before.
The empty stadiums, the cardboard cut-outs behind home plate, the fake season and the piped- in crowd noise certainly leached off some of the zest; it is like watching an arcade game.
But I fear that there may be more going on. This dreadful pandemic is probably changing our outlooks on life, and not just temporarily. There are really bad things going on all around us, and so perhaps we are now focusing more on meaning and value and a broader scope of hope. If that is so, I’m willing to move beyond the Sox. At least until next year.
James Robertson is a partner in Carmody Torrance Sandak Hennessey and a UCC ordained minister.