Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Ennui of Victory

The Red Sox-that is, the players and other members of the organization themselves-decided to celebrate their sterling performance in the regular season the night they won the American League East championship. That's more than fine. They'd earned their champagne pour and silly commemorative caps.

The fans, headline writers, and above all, local television stations who decided the 2007 AL East crown was a monumental moment in baseball history were not so fine. They were hangers-on at a strictly internal affair, and gave off the distasteful vibes such persons always do. A better playoff seeding, while desirable, cannot be the stuff civic ectacsy is made of.

The Sox won the regular season prize that matters when they clinched one of the four playoffs last week. That they beat out their fellow playoff qualifier the Yankees for the right to an extra home game is irrelevant to the meaning of their 162-game performance. It's a prize whose value can be erased in an instant. If the Angels knock Josh Beckett's tits off in Game One, poof!, it's gone.

The fans who stuck around last night to watch the Yankees lose on the Daimondvision struck me as merely pathetic. We paid a lot for these tickets, and by God, we have a right to a pennant-clinching celebration. Every year, the mass of Sox ticketholders has less connection to the mass of actual Sox fans I know. The Fenway crowd has become an exercise in expensive self-promotion. They're faithful, just like an Irish setter. Know about as much baseball, too.

The decision by every television station to make "AL East title" their lead, indeed, only 11 o'clock news story struck me as actively pernicious. Local news everywhere celebrates the bush league in its own community, but this was ridiculous. You can't force feed enthusiasm into an event like it was a Strasbourg goose.

The old saying "act like you've been there before" applies here, especially since the Sox have. They're making their fourth playoff trip in five seasons. Boston's won a World Series in that time. A division title is, or should be, no big whoop. The players are entitled to let off a little steam to mark the happy end of the 162 game mental torture exercise. Outsiders are not. The talking heads and pink hats who made a show of joy last night were soul brethren to the nut who used to hold up the "John 3:16" sign.

Any attempt by the Sox' diligent marketing machine to recreate the fine frenzy of 2004 will be doomed to failure, even if Boston wins another World Series this month. That title WAS astonishing on so many levels its effect on the Sox community never can be recreated. You can't tell people "wow this is one of the most incredible moments of your life." They have to come to that conclusion on their own. The hype last night reminded me of nothing more than the remake of "The Bionic Woman."

As sports history, the 2007 AL East title is headed straight to DVD.


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