In the Spring of 2004, I was in Seattle on business. One bright, beautiful day, I went out to lunch with some of my associates. We went to a seafood place on the waterfront, and as we sat down to lunch, the conversation turned to baseball.
Two of the people at the table were Red Sox fans, and they began commiserating about how bad they had it. The pain of the 2003 playoffs was still fresh, and they went through that in detail. I commented as best as I could, since the Cubs collapse was still every bit as painful, and just as fresh.
Then they began talking about Bill Buckner and the 1986 World Series. I again told them that the Leon Durham ground ball in the 1984 Playoffs was just as devastating, and strangely similar to what happened that night in New York.
The Red Sox fans then began discussing the 1975 World Series, when their team lost to the Reds in 7 games. I told them that Cartlon Fisk’s homer in Game six is as enduring an image as we’ll ever have in sports.
The Red Sox fans, who were about my age, give or take five years, then talked about the 1967 World Series, which none of us could have had a very good memory of (I wasn’t yet born, and I’d be surprised if either of them were born yet). One of the Red Sox fans said to the other, “It sucks the way we always lose in seven games.” And by that point, I had had enough.
I told my lunchmates that yes, it is unfortunate that the Sox have three seven-game World Series losses in recent history. But simple math reveals that Red Sox Nation, depending on how old they are, have as many as 21 games of World Series experience to draw on. But, as a Cubs fan, I can’t relate to that because I’m still waiting to see one World Series game involving my team.
The Red Sox fans didn’t have too much to say to that, and the conversation quickly turned to another topic besides baseball, much to the relief of the football fan at our table. I wasn’t trying to quash their conversation, so much as I was trying to remind them of how good they actually have it. And that was before they won the first of their two World Series championships later that year. They were in a better place than I was early in 2004, and they’re in a far better place than I am today, baseball-wise.
Last night’s documentary on ESPN, Catching Hell, was told from the perspective of Alex Gibney, a Red Sox fan who felt that his suffering as a Red Sox fan gave him an insight into what Cubs fans have been going through. The documentary then took on a Bill Buckner/Red Sox angle, and I wondered if the filmmaker’s main objective wasn’t to get an interview with Bill Buckner. It felt that way to me, at least.
My point is that, in the afterglow of two World Series wins, Red Sox fans can stop pretending that they know what being a Cubs fan is like. Buckner got his personal redemption–and that’s just fine with me–but the Red Sox and their fans are now inside the ski lodge, with mugs of hot cocoa in hand, while Cubs fans are still outside, freezing in a snow drift. And letting us look in through the window doesn’t make it any better.
But even in the dark days before 2004, Cubs fans and Red Sox fans were not in the same place, as much as they would like us to believe we were. Getting to the World Series, and then losing it in seven games, was no doubt agonizing, but it’s still far better than not reaching the Series to begin with.
In my senior yearbook in high school, when all of the awards for “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Popular,” and so forth were given, I won the award (if that’s the right word) for “Worst Car.” Many of my classmates probably had a good laugh at the 1973 two-tone Dodge Dart that I drove back then (it was gray and light blue, if you’re curious). But I took it in stride, reminding myself that at least I had a car to begin with. Some of my classmates couldn’t say that, and I was grateful to not be among them.
Red Sox fans had it better than they realized, even back then, and for them to suggest otherwise is disingenuous. They may have been driving the two-tone Dart, but we Cubs fans had to get rides from people or take the bus. And they have traded up to a luxury ride since then, while we’re still waiting for the bus, hoping it will arrive in our lifetimes.