Informacje o serwisie:
Tanie książki i filmy:
Taniej nie znajdziesz!
The New York Times - The It's Weird but True. The Gloom Is Gone in
FORT MYERS, Fla. - It may still be March in the Northeast, with air as raw as hamburger and snow up to David Ortiz's belt buckle, but as the Boston Red Sox take the field against the St. Louis Cardinals here on the afternoon of March 16 for a World Series rematch, it feels like midsummer in Florida: the sunshine is hazy, the temperature is a humid 80 degrees and the clouds over the Gulf of Mexico promise thunderstorms later.
The crowd - it's standing room only today and every day during this year's brief exhibition season at City of Palms Park - is in a jolly mood. Jolly? Call it manic. These aren't your father's Red Sox fans. No longer are they o'ercast with sickly gloom; their faces are as bright as the day.
Very few Red Sox supporters have come to gloat over the considerable contingent of Cardinals partisans in attendance; most of these Sox fans are still reliving the dreamlike, four-game spurt that got their team to the Series in the first place. I spot one T-shirt with the triumphant line, "HEY NEW YORK! WHO'S YOUR DADDY NOW?" above the scores of all seven American League Championship Series games.
At the first Red Sox-Yankees matchup of the spring - a meaningless intersquad scrimmage that nevertheless saw prime tickets scalped for as much as $400 - some enterprising businessman gave out white athletic socks with red stains on them, promotions for a book called "Blood Feud: The Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Struggle of Good Versus Evil." I see several of these at the Sox-St. Louis game. One guy has his pinned to his T-shirt, like a knight errant (a rather overweight one, in this case) with the lady fair's scarf tied to his armor.
Nowhere, absolutely nowhere, do I hear that anxious spring training question: How do you think we'll do? The ones I do hear over and over make me feel slightly unreal, as if all this might be a dream I'm having while suffering from a mild fever: Wasn't it great? Wasn't it amazing? And the question the Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione asked on the air as Sox closer Keith Foulke flipped to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out of the World Series: Can you believe it? It has taken almost the entire off-season, but it seems most of these fans, dressed in warm-weather clothes and speaking in their cold-weather New England accents, finally can.
All that happiness eventually gets on my nerves. Weird but true. The final giddy touch is hearing the announcer exhort the fans to stick around after the game and watch as the fellas from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" make over some of the Sox players. I need a shot of angst, and fast. I find it, of course, in the barn-sized press suite on the third floor. There may be joy in Mudville, but up here in Scribble City, where the air is rare (not to mention cooled to a nicety), there's the usual sportswriterly gloom as hot dogs and cold cuts are washed down with swallows of designer water. Some things never change.
Or maybe they do, because the thrust of these gloomy interlocutions seems wildly different this spring. The writers on whom I eavesdrop aren't discussing whether the Red Sox will be competitive in the coming season (with most everyday players reporting to camp healthy - not the case in 2004 - they should be), nor whether the pickups of David Wells and Matt Clement will offset the losses of Pedro Martínez and Derek Lowe in the pitching department (too soon to tell), nor even why the powers-that-be decided to trade - and pay big bucks - for Edgar Renteria when the Red Sox have a potentially Garciaparra-quality shortstop named Hanley Ramirez waiting in the wings at Pawtucket (they did it for the reason these senseless trades always happen: because money makes baseball execs as crazy as young women at the annual Filene's Basement Bridal Event). No, they are asking each other about ...
But I am spied by a reporter from a Rhode Island paper (or maybe it's one from western Massachusetts), and asked The Question, to which I cunningly answer I don't know, because I want to answer it here and get paid for it. The Question they have in their frenzy begun asking each other (like sharks reduced by thin commons to feeding on their own kind) is whether the Red Sox, having finally won the World Series after 86 years of trying, are now "just another team." If they have, by winning, ceased to matter.
To the masochistic fan whose one pleasure in sport comes from perpetual rooting for the underdog - the "Rocky" groupies - that may be the case. To them I bequeath the Chicago Cubs and the ivy-covered brick walls of Wrigley. As for those of us from New England, who wore our Red Sox caps in good years (2003, for instance, when the steroid-swollen Jason Giambi stole Game 7 of the A.L.C.S. - never mind Aaron Boone), in mediocre years (all those games when Mike "Gator" Greenwell ran his hapless head into the left-field wall, often inept but always enthusiastic), and in bad ones (memories of Jim Rice, too stubborn to know it was over for him, hitting into one double play after another while the crowd booed), we're just hoping that 2004 isn't an aberration, a once-in-a-lifetime blink. We're hoping it's the start of a dynasty. To quote the immortal Jacqueline Susann, once is not enough.
Sports fans and even sportswriters, who should know better, have gotten a peculiarly mistaken idea of what it is to be a Red Sox partisan, especially since the charismatic John Henry (his charisma is strange but undeniable) took over and began to modernize a park that had, along with Wrigley, attained iconic status. The quick take is that we're a bunch of aw-shucks-Charlie Brown lovable losers, and whatever will we do now that Lucy has finally relented and let us kick the football? Now that we have lost our identity as the Great American Almost, we are surely condemned to wander in an existential wilderness, just another bunch of rooters for just another bunch of high-priced, carpetbagging ballplayers.
With all due respect, that's horsefeathers: up front, through the middle and all the way out the back end. Anyone who's ever felt that way is not a person who has spent a lifetime wearing the sporting world's equivalent of a Here Comes Stupid sign on the back of his shirt. You see the pitying smiles when you walk by, and you have a pretty good idea of what they mean, but you can't reach that sign yourself and nobody can take it off for you. Nobody, that is, until the right bunch of baseball players and the right manager come along.
People who see nobility in rooting for the Team That Never Wins have never understood that most of us have no choice; we were just born under a bad sign and got what we got. Long before there was a fancy-schmancy food court outside Fenway and Legal Seafood inside, back when all you could get was an elderly hot dog fished out of scummy water and "mustard by the post" (no ketchup, no relish, just mustard by the post), we packed up our kids and our coolers and paid the high parking prices and more often than not we watched the Sox lose and then tried to go home happy because they were what we had, and when we were back home we all could ignore the Here Comes Stupid signs because everybody wore one, except maybe for that funny fella two or three miles down the road, a Yankees fan, but that was all right because he owed everyone money and didn't talk like us, anyway.
And those people never understood what it was like to live just a few hundred miles up the road from the Team That Never Loses - to suffer those patronizing, sorry-kid smiles as the Yankees cruised to another pennant, another World Series, ho-hum, business as usual. But last year it was not business as usual, and this year even the Yankees' fans have changed. After the Sox-Cards game (which the Sox won handily, making it five straight over St. Louis, the last one unofficial), I stop to gas my car, and a couple of Yankees fans recognize me. They come over to bulk up a little and chat.
"Just hope you're enjoying it," one of them says, "because it's never going to happen again."
"That's right," the other says. "We're fully reloaded. It's never gonna happen again, my friend. Never in your lifetime."
I think to myself: So this is how Yankees fans sound when they start the season feeling nervous. And I also reflect on the fact that, in the 21st century, the New York Yankees have yet to win a World Series. This cannot be said of the Boston Red Sox.
I tell the Yankees fans to have a nice day, although I doubt it will be as nice as mine. So far, it's been a great year to be a fan of the World Champions.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times.