There I was, probably two hours after “The Game” (Game Seven of the ALCS) had been abruptly ended, checking on my nearly two year old daughter. I couldn’t help but wonder if I should be steering her away from being a Red Sox fan. She was so peaceful, so quiet, not a care in the world. Snugly in her crib, she was finally asleep, the sounds of a Jimmy Buffett song lightly playing in the background. Jimmy was saying, “Come Monday, it’ll be all right…” Was that going to be true? And if so, which Monday? This was a pain that felt like it was going to last for a long, long time.
Amelia had been up with me for the entire game, but once it ended, she somehow ended up in her crib. I had tried a couple of times to put her to bed earlier, but I think she could sense the excitement that resonated throughout the entire house, that something special was taking place. She was now well versed in phrases like, “Cowboy Up!”, “Strike Three!”, “I’m sick”, and “WAAAY BACK!” Good times. Then at 12:17am eastern time, it came to a bitter end. From what I can remember, it was a good thing that I was surrounded by pillows and not sharp objects. After an initial tirade, I just sat on the couch. And sat there. And sat there some more.
My wife offered condolences and tried to talk me back from the ledge but she could see that it was no use. Only the dog remained in the room, and I think that was because he wanted to keep an eye on me to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. All I could do is sit there, watching but not seeing anything, unable to react. Unable to move. I’m not sure how long this went on. When I finally moved, I went to the place that I was storing my two tickets to Game One of the World Series. Still being careful not to bend or mutilate them, I gently put them back into the envelope they were in and wondered what it would have been like to be there. At some point I must have made it into bed, I don’t remember (and I wasn’t drinking, mind you). Was it going to “…be all right?” I didn’t know at the time if it ever would.
Friday morning came and the feeling was worse. In fact, I was nearly physically sick. Was it a dream? Was it a nightmare? The ticker on ESPN confirmed that the Red Sox had indeed lost, I wasn’t dreaming. Yet I couldn’t differentiate between what was real and what wasn’t. I looked outside and the sun was out, but was it really? It felt like it was cold and raining, raining hard. Due to the late night, my wife and I swapped the daycare “drop off”. This gave me a little extra time to sleep, but was I sleeping at all? Unknown.
I was getting my daughter dressed, and perhaps she could sense the weight of the world on my shoulders. Then she blurted out the words, “Cowboy Up, Dad?” I quickly ran for a box of tissues, this was going to be a long day. At one point I accidentally closed the closet door on my finger, yet it didn’t hurt. Couldn’t feel any pain. Took the dog around the block for a walk, neighbor said hello, did I even respond? Can’t remember. All a blur. I think I did, yet time is standing still.
I pull up to daycare and take a deep breath. My first contact with non-family members, I didn’t know how it was going to go. I get inside and one of the kids was crying. I make the move to go, but on this day my daughter doesn’t want to be left there, she starts the tears. Mine are coming, I can feel it, I need to get out of there fast. The woman tells me that my daughter will be all right and I want to ask her if I will be again. No words can come out, I stumble out of there. The other parents must think I’m a nut. I can’t speak. I nod, give a couple of waves and other miscellaneous gestures and get back into the car as quickly as possible.
Luckily, my job as a programmer is one that I can flip on headphones and just work alone. Other people in the office are walking around in a daze, looking at the floor being careful not to make eye contact with anyone. I wonder what is wrong with me, but perhaps I am not alone. Being Friday, that means it’s group bagel day, yet I’m not hungry at all. I wonder what would happen if my phone were to ring, would any words come out? I doubt it. I close myself off from the world and just work, not thinking about anything else. I break out a Pavarotti CD, first song, Nessun Dorma, which means No One Sleeps. Indeed.
Saturday comes and my wife wisely can see that I need to be left home alone. Perhaps a good opportunity to start on the fall yardwork, so the leaf blower makes its first appearance of the season. Starts up on the second pull, nice, things are looking up. Not even a half an hour into the job I look around and my dog has bolted, batteries to his electric fence collar dead. He takes advantage of the situation. I didn’t want to do yardwork anyways, but in a strange way, this gets me out of the house.
I drive around looking for him, he’s done this before so I know his preferred places to go. I drive around for some time, without any luck. I come back to the house, he’s not there, no phone calls yet. Back to the road. Driving around, looking, thinking, driving, dreaming. I’m forced to communicate with passersbys, asking them if they’ll keep an eye out for my dog and call me if they find him. I widen my search and finally see him. I pull over and he immediately gives me the look of, “No way, you’ll never catch me.” I ask him politely if he’ll get into the car. Perhaps sensing the pain in my voice, he gives up and hops into the front seat. The search is over.
We get home, still light enough to get a little leafblowing in, so I do, this time leaving him in the house. He’s tired so he doesn’t mind. Darkness falls, I go into the house, not knowing what to do. For a good portion of the evening, I sit in the basement. Just sitting, mostly in the dark. My home office is down there, but I’m not interested in getting on the computer. I can’t bear to even turn the television on to watch anything. I just sit.
Sunday comes and goes and it feels like a chore to watch the football games. And when the Patriots look like they are going to lose a heartbreaker, it feels like New England is indeed cursed. They complete an improbable comeback, which saves a little face, but still it doesn’t quite make me happy. I watch the other games and talk to my spotters that are watching the games that I can’t watch for me. Realizing that there is no Sunday night football, then I remember why. I feel sick again. Good opportunity to get my post football things started early this week. I need the distraction. Don’t we all?
I may never be able to talk about “The Game”, ever. 12:17am on October 17, 2003. Something happened at that moment that I may never be able to discuss. A dream that I shared with thousands of other Red Sox fans died at that moment. One has to wonder if that dream will ever be realized. They say time heals all, but how much time will this take? One Monday has come and gone, and while it doesn’t sting as much anymore, the hurt is still there.
And like most Red Sox fans, I wonder if it is my fault. Did I do something on Thursday that I didn’t do on Wednesday (Game Six)? Was I not wearing the same shirt during the game, could this have affected the outcome? Had I spoke of going to the game on Saturday night too soon before it became a reality? Was the whole thing my fault? This is how we as Red Sox fans think, that somehow we adversely affected the outcome of that game.
At this moment, the pain covers the great ride that the season was, which is unfortunate. Being close to winning the division in late summer, faltering a bit, then clinching the wildcard with three games left to go in the regular season. And what about the Oakland series? How great was that? Losing the first two games which invariably forces Red Sox Nation to form a line on the Tobin Bridge. Even falling behind in each of the next three games before winning them, staving off elimination, reaffirming New England’s dominance over Oakland (see also Patriots over Raiders). Game Five being one of those “tear” games, where no matter what happens, win or lose, the tears will flow. Derek Lowe getting the called third strike to end the game with the bases loaded, when a base hit would have won it for the other team. Tears of joy. That seems like a lifetime ago.
Speaking of lifetimes ago, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention 1986 in this space. I remember 1986, but for some reason, with me that one didn’t hurt as much. I was a senior in high school and had other things to worry about, I guess. Maybe it was because I wasn’t as “involved” then as I am now. Being a partial season ticket holder for the past seven years and actually holding tickets to the potential Games One and Seven to the World Series…yea, I was involved. But now it is over, and I’m wondering if I can even be a fan next year. Can I bring myself to go to a game next year and start anew? At this moment, I’m not sure that I can.
There will be fallout. Manager Grady Little is not under contract for next season. I need more time to go by before I can make a rational decision on whether he made the right move in leaving Pedro in. I know that during the game I was screaming for him to pull him out, yet even now, just a couple of days later, it might have made sense? I would hate to see him not brought back next year because they lost the game. He was good for this team. And besides that, who out there is available and can do a better job? The list of potential replacements aren’t that appealing.
I’m sure that once spring training opens up in a few months, I’ll be there again getting my tickets. Hopes will be high, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to put this into the past. Maybe I won’t be able to cheer as loudly, especially in the beginning. I’ve been burned, badly. Yet we’ve waited 86 years for a Championship, I guess we can wait one more year.
The words of Jimmy Buffet again echo though my head, “Come Monday, it will be all right….” I’m still waiting, Jimmy. One of these Monday’s I will be all right again, I just don’t know which one.