Happy November! Soxtober has finally ended, and the droves of Octobeards grown in solidarity with it, but WHAT a way to end it all. Poetry itself couldn’t have been sweeter here. Boston-haters, find another read today – this post is an open love letter to a team of underdogs and scrappers who carried an entire city on their grass-stained backs, who brought hope back to a community that, only a short seven months ago, was in some serious need of it, all the while defining what it truly means to be BOSTON STRONG.
For some perspective: my grandfather and one of my uncles actually went from birth to death without EVER seeing the Sox win a single title, and in my short lifetime I’ve already seen three! Not only that, but I’ve also seen Boston host three Lombardi trophies under the greatest coach-quarterback duo in NFL history, a Stanley Cup, and an NBA championship, with victory parades for each. There was a little boy at the parade this last Saturday holding a sign that summed it all up pretty nicely: “11 years old. 8th parade.” It’ll be a tragedy if I live out the rest of my (hopefully) many years without ever seeing this kind of sports monopoly in Boston again, but it’s an all-too-real possibility. We’re spoiled, I say, spoiled!
After the debacle at the end of the Sox’s 2011 season and the joke that was the Bobby Valentine year, I’ll admit that I was skeptical at the beginning of this year’s Spring Training. But after the Marathon bombings in April, no other team rose to the occasion as much as the Red Sox. From left-fielder Jonny Gomes actually coining the, “Boston Strong,” motto that’s defined the city this last year to David Oritz’s now famous proclamation that, “THIS IS OUR [family blog] CITY,” the Red Sox made it abundantly clear that they subscribed and belonged to the same culture that produced the heroism of those like Carlos Arredondo, the Boston Cowboy. They meant business this season, and were ready to grit and grind to get that point across. Because of this realization, the summer saw me falling in love with the team all over again, and although I had never left it, I became a proud member of Sox Nation once more.
So, I’ll admit: seeing them win it all last Wednesday was pretty special for me. After attending a game – the first I’d been to for years and years – with a group of Holy Cross buds earlier in the season, watching Koji throw his final strike in a dorm room of a dozen fellow Crusaders brought it all full circle for me. Part of it may have been the sleep deprivation that comes from consecutive late nights after games (on a related note, I’d apologize to all my professors for the decline of interest in classes while the World Series was on except for the fact that I suspect more than a few of them may have experienced the same phenomenon). But most of it really boiled down to the fact that, perhaps more than any other season previously, we needed this. And darn if I wasn’t going to head into Boston with 2 million of my closest friends to show the team how much I appreciated that.
As I mentioned, when it comes to rolling rallies, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve learned to go where my dad points without question at these kinds of things, and this time it got me a seat on Fenway’s right-field line for the opening speeches of the parade. Now-former Mayor Tom Menino, Governor Deval Patrick, Sox TV personalities Don Orsillo and Jenny Dell, team manager John Farrell, and a slew of players all got up and said their piece, all to thunderous applause by the crowd.
The biggest applause of the day though? That was for the Marathon survivors and first responders, all given a box of honor and prominence in Fenway’s upper levels. When the greatest baseball team in the world all cheer just as loud as a thousands-strong crowd of admirers for some actual real-world heroes, you know there’s something special in the air. I was honored to have been a witness to both chapters in the city’s history, and I wore it proudly that day.
After the speeches were over, we high-tailed it out of the Park as Boston’s own Dropkick Murphys tore into a stadium-stomping rendition of their trademark anthem, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” and headed out onto the streets surrounding Fenway to catch the parade itself. My mom, dad, sister, cousin John, and I never stopped smiling all the way, and we were even able to bump into some neighbors of ours from back in my hometown of Lowell to watch the duckboats drive past with.
This guy has been perhaps the scrappiest and grittiest of all the Red Sox, and it’s a mockery if his jersey isn’t emblazoned with a prominent captain’s “C’ on it come opening day 2014.
As someone who’s spent an entire summer watching the world’s most romanticized sport through the mesh netting of a mascot costume, I can only imagine how fun this must have been.
And here he is – the Large Father himself, Señor Octubre, the baddest man in baseball, BIG PAPI!!! A frighteningly convincing argument could be made that this parade would never have happened in the first place if not for the – there’s no other word for it – epic performance of David Ortiz throughout this post season, most especially during the World Series. A 38 year old, 16-year veteran of the MLB overcoming a crippling Achilles injury to bat over .700 in the World Series, inspiring his team and leading by stunning example the entire journey? Come on. These things are only supposed to happen in movies! Hoist that MVP trophy high, Papi.
All in all then, a perfect end to a perfect season. My face feels a lot colder in Mt. St. James’ already-wintry winds without its playoff beard to offer protection, although I’m hoping No Shave November will be able to fix that. But more important than the truly Hobbit-worthy facial hair the team and its fans grew were the smiles underneath it all - and for that, I thank you Red Sox. Thank you from a loyal fan who’s had his faith rewarded yet again. You made baseball fun again, not even a year after I thought that was theoretically impossible. The Pats, Bruins, and Celtics collectively have some BIG shoes to fill this winter. Is it February yet?