The Golden Child of Red Sox Nation
“Go Manny!” four-year-old Kate shouts as she jumps on our living room couch. Kate has no idea who the big man-child in dreadlocks is. Mainly, she’s upset that Manny is taking attention away from her, as he has during the entire 2007 World Series.
We laugh when she shouts Manny’s name. So she does it again. And again. “GOOOOOO MANNY!!!!”
Kate doesn’t know it yet, but she’s part of Red Sox Nation. That she was born in a rural town in China some 7,000 miles away doesn’t matter. That we live in San Francisco, attend Giants games and are a five-hour flight from Fenway Park doesn’t matter either.
We are former Bostonians and Sox fans through and through.
My husband, Jim, is perched in his chair, wringing his hands. The Sox are up by one run in Game Four and he wants reassurance. These are, after all, the heartbreak Sox and a one-run lead is never enough.
Still, I’d prefer a little tension in this series, which is, so far, proving to be the equivalent of a bottle of Ambien. Colorado is sleepwalking, victims of their own high altitude. Some action from their bench—even a well-crafted bunt—would be nice.
I voice this thought, which makes Jim angry. “What’s wrong with you?” he says, looking at me as if I was responsible for 1986. “No game five!!”
The underdog in me disagrees, regardless of the rumors that the Sox are going to intentionally lose tonight to “bring it back to Fenway.” This is just Red Sox Nation garbage.
Meantime, Manny strikes out, shaking his head in disgust.
“Ahhhhhh, Manny,” my husband scolds in a voice usually reserved for Kate when she spills her milk. I wish the announcers, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, would just shut up about A-Rod and the future of the Yankees so I can watch the game.
In this house, the Sox are a religion that our daughter will be forced
to practice as my sister and I once did as children—at the altar of a battered RCA television set.
During the 1970s, my pre-pubescent years spent in a Boston suburb, Jim Rice cards and pins filled my desk drawer. A Sox pennant hung alongside fuzzy kitten posters on my bedroom wall. When dreamy third baseman Butch Hobson signed autographs at the local bank one season, my friends and I waited for hours for him to sign our baseballs.
During our family’s Adirondack summer camping vacations we’d mock any Yankee fan we’d meet. “Yankees SUCK!!” we’d chant with fervor, worried our parents would hear us and wash our mouths out.
My younger sister, a Little League pitcher who once threw a shut-out season, was the biggest fan in the house. She adored Pudge Fisk and Fred Lynn and stashed a massive baseball card collection in shoe boxes near her stinky gerbil cage.
We loved “Yaz” and “Dewey,” too, even as their team fell in seven games to the Reds in the 1975 World Series.
Three years later, the Yankees rivalry reared its ugly head again, as the evil Yanks snagged the division title.
During my teen years, the Sox settled into a dismal seven-year slump. We still went to the occasional game, even though raucous fans chucked hot dog buns and beers in disgust as the Sox struggled.
Finally, something broke.
In 1986, my friends and I, college sophomores living in Boston, joined the mob in Kenmore Square after the Sox beat the California Angels to clinch the division title for the first time in 11 years.
Rushing out into the neon-lit streets after the last game, we watched crazy fans scale lamp posts. Cops on horseback stormed in to break up the crowd. The scene was surreal. A pack of horses in Kenmore Square. “Let’s all go dump tea in the harbor!!” I wanted to scream.
For a few precious days, we had hope and crazy love for the Sox. Then it all fell apart.
My friend John buried his face in my shoulder after the ball slipped through Bill Buckner’s legs, his eyes welling with tears as the chaos of an MIT fraternity party raged around us. The dream slipped away again that day and the curse remained.
After that game, I gave up on the Sox for awhile.
Years passed. I watched a lot of NBA basketball and reserved my baseball watching to the occasional SF Giants game and the World Series.
In October 2004, my husband and I returned from China after adopting our daughter,
Kate. Blindsided by the new role as chief caregiver to a one-year-old, I didn’t care much
about Jason Varitek, my mom’s favorite player, and his minions, no matter how great their season.
So when my husband ran euphorically around our house, hooting and hollering, after the Sox finally took the World Series I was happy for him, but I wasn’t really there. I was changing a diaper in a caffeine-induced haze.
After that game, Jim dubbed Kate the Golden Child of Red Sox Nation, believing that our joyful baby was somehow linked to the final break of the curse.
”She came home with us,” he said. “And the Red Sox won.” It was no surprise to anyone after that when Kate’s favorite toy became her Red Sox World Championship bear.
After sleepwalking through the 2004 celebration, I felt like I’d let my husband down and, more importantly, let myself down as a once-passionate Sox fan. It was my responsibility, too, to help pass that torch on to our kid.
So in 2007, I work toward redemption, watching every game from the playoffs against the formidable Indians onward. I asked questions. I caught up.
Now most of the Red Sox players’ names (aside from Manny's) roll off the tip of my tongue, as the roster of the kooky 1975 lineup once did.
Best of all, I feel like a real fan again, passing on my love for the game to my now 5-year-old daughter, who can recall at least one Red Sox player’s name. (excluding Manny's).
Soon, we’ll take her to Fenway for her first game. We’ll croon Sweet Caroline off key. If the team loses, Jim will earnestly tell Kate that to be a seasoned Red Sox fan is to know suffering – (though there’s been next to no pain for her generation so far.)
I guess you could say I’ve rejoined the Nation.
But the truth is, I never really left.
©2009 by Kim Girard