Matching Grant Challenge
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 Day 19

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The Curse Eclipsed

Ecstasy in Red Sox Nation

by RON JACOBS

Sure, they are a bunch of well-off (and even very rich) men playing a game that involves a stick and a ball. Sure, there are many more important things going on in the world. And, sure, it is just a game. But, it is also involves a baseball team that weighs on the psyche of Calvinist New England and all of the rest of those folks around the world who consider themselves part of that imagined community known as Red Sox Nation.

Last night was a full lunar eclipse over North America. It was also the fourth game of Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven-games World Series. Most of New England was on edge, forgoing sleep in the hopes that their team would finally win and exorcise the supposed curse that has hung over the franchise ever since New York theatre producer (and then Red Sox owner) Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth and a few other players to the New York Yankees for $100,000 to finance his production of No, No, Nanette.

Since that fateful offseason, the Yankees have reigned supreme in the world of Major League Baseball and the Red Sox have played second and third fiddle all too often. Last night, that ended. Fans pinched themselves to make sure what they saw was really happening. They raised toasts to their dead friends and relatives who never saw the Sox win a championship despite several heartbreaking near-misses. And they couldn’t stop smiling.

My friends who are less connected to the culture of professional sports either for political reasons or just because they really don’t get what the fuss is all about often challenge my Red Sox obsession. Sports in America, these friends tell me, are just an extension of the corporate system of greed. How can you be interested in them, they ask. I don’t know how to answer their charges directly, so instead, I ask if they’ve ever seen a magnificently executed catch. One where an outfielder pulls the ball from its sure path over the fence, slamming his body against the centerfield wall, falling to the ground from the shock of the impact, and rising triumphantly with the ball in his glove. Or, even better, I query, have you ever made a catch that seemed equally magnificent yourself? Of course, it’s not really as spectacular to an onlooker, but to you it’s like you’re Willie Mays in the first game of the 1954 World Series making what was probably the greatest ever catch in World Series history. They look at me as if I am crazy. Of course, I am — a little.

At my workplace this morning, there are expressions of happiness and relief. Even many of the Yankee fans (who play the role of Sparta to the Red Sox Athens) have to begrudgingly admit that this Red Sox team is pretty amazing. A band of loose and funloving longhairs, Texans, Dominicans, and other athletes from who knows where have done what has never been done before. These won eight games in a row to win the biggest prize in Major League Baseball—The World Series.

Red Sox Nation is savoring the moment.

RON JACOBS can be reached at: rjacobs@uvm.edu