Sunday, November 3, 2013

World Series Seriously

Of the Red Sox’ three World Championships since 2004, I have only shared one of them with Miguel, this year’s last-to-first bearded barreling to the top of the heap.

In 2004, inexplicably, Miguel rooted for An-Evil-Empire-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. As the Red Sox became the first major sports team to roar back from a 3-0 deficit, he and I could not share the joy together. As the World Series began, I was understandably nervous, and, while I am not at all superstitious, I did believe in the power of the Curse.

I remember Bucky ‘f***ing’ Dent in 1978 and being one strike away in 1986. In 2003, Verna, Miguel, my late mother-in-law, and I were in New York for a vacation and my niece’s bat mitzvah during the American League Championship series. The three of them were asleep in our midtown Manhattan hotel room during the latter part of game seven between the aforementioned Evil Empire and the Red Sox when Aaron Boone slugged a homerun off Tim Wakefield in extra innings and broke my Red Sox-loving heart yet again.

I stared at the TV screen in utter disbelief, Verna curled against me. She must’ve heard me sigh.

“Did the Red Sox win?” she asked.

“No, they lost,” I said, my voice halting.

“Are you OK?”

Tear welling in my eyes, I said, “Would you just hold me?”

I was teaching a Jewish cooking class in the high school program at a local synagogue in 2004 when the Red Sox were on the verge of capturing their first World Series title in 86 years. I kept running back and forth from the synagogue kitchen to the cramped office of the maintenance team, where Jack had the game on his portable television. By the 8th inning, most of my class and I were watching together.

My body shook and shivered as Keith Foulke tossed the final out to first base and the Red Sox were victorious. I immediately called my father in Florida and said, tears in my eyes, my voice staggering, “They did it, dad. They did it.”

“Yes, they did,” he laughed.

By 2007, Miguel was rooting for that team, but when the Red Sox made their playoff run I asked a former student of mine, who works in the ticket office, if I could purchase two tickets to the World Series should the Sox advance, which they did. So Miguel and I were at game two that year and he was behind the Red Sox’ opponent, the Rockies, until we walked into the largest Red Sox souvenir shop on the planet, the Yawkey Way Store, a commercial retail sensory overload of Red Sox t-shirts, pants, jerseys, jackets, trinkets, mugs, hats, banners, pennants, jewelry, watches, baseballs, bats, gloves, scarves, toys, lunchboxes, baseball cards, license plates, placards, posters, and more.

“Dad,” he said to me then as we strolled in the store, “maybe I can root for the Red Sox and the Yankees.”

I was flabbergasted and elated. My son and I would be cheering for the same team, together, at the World Series. He even got two batting practice balls before the game, choosing to give one to his school’s bus driver, an avid baseball fan.

But for some incredibly strange reason, I was not home during Game Four that year when the Red Sox completed a four game sweep of the Rockies and won their second World Series title in four years. I was in the back row of the 3000-seat Marin Veteran’s Auditorium watching Peter Frampton at the same venue where he’d recorded portions of Frampton Comes Alive in 1975.

Miguel saw the game with Verna, and shouted and pounded the air and then the ground and jumped on top of her when it ended, his own personalized victory dance when one of his sports team wins a championship. And I was not there to share the moment with him. And then the Red Sox aura faded for him by spring training 2008 and he was back with the team from the Bronx.

Until the end of the 2009, which was strange considering the Yankees had just won their 844th World Series.

And while I was very excited for the Giants in 2010 and 2012, and believe me his victory celebrations were borderline dangerous—for him and anyone around him—it’s just not the same. The Giants are my second favorite team, and I started rooting for them once I moved to San Francisco in 1987, but the Red Sox have been my team (for almost my entire life), and my father’s team, and my mother’s team, and my grandparents’ team, so I have this patrimony-DNA thing going. Rooting for the Giants and being a Red Sox fan for life is like having a close friendship with a woman you’ve known for a long time while happily married to your true love, the one with whom you’ve weathered Titanic highs and lows.

So there Miguel and I were last Wednesday night, only six days after we’d been at Fenway Park again for a World Series Game Two, this time with two of my nephews, as Koji Uehara wound up to throw a two-strike pitch to Matt Carpenter in the top of the ninth. I’d phoned my father moments earlier and put him on speaker phone so we could share the game together.
As the game ended, I said to my father, “Can you believe it? Three times in our lifetimes?”

“No, I can’t,” he giggled.

When our conversation ended I realized Miguel had not broken into a celebration at all, though he was clearly happy that the Red Sox had clinched.

“Miguel, how come you are not going crazy right now?” I asked, somewhat surprised by his muted response.

“The Giants are my team,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Ah, baseball is a strange game.