First, I actually watched the Red Sox game. (That's how I think of it. People from Boston don't notice other teams.) This might not surprise anyone, but that's because you don't know me and the tragicomic history of my life as a Red Sox fan. In 1967, when I was young and impressionable, they won the pennant in what I have since come to regard as a cynical attempt to make their fans believe it was possible for them to win anything. I kept believing this lie for over a decade, which stood me in good stead when I became a counselor in a battered women's shelter and needed to understand abusive relationships. Finally I swore off, only to be drawn back against my better judgment in 1986. Ha ha ha. Never again, I said. Never again. And I meant it. And for 18 long years I have stayed straight. I have not looked at a Red Sox game. I have not thought about the Red Sox. When people mention them, I just snicker. Never again.
So why did they have to play exactly the sort of game that made all of us in Boston fall in love with them in the first place? (Well, actually, I gather that was yesterday, but today was pretty great too.) Why couldn't they just lose as usual? My answer: a keen grasp of brainwashing techniques. If you just relentlessly punish people, it turns out, it's not nearly as psychologically disorienting as punishing them most of the time and then, every so often, being really, really wonderful. It's not just confusing; it lets them dare to hope, thereby making their subsequent disappointment all the more excruciating. That's why being a Red Sox fan is infinitely worse than being a Cubs fan: for the most part, Cubs fans know the deal. The Cubs will not win. That's that. No suspense, no bother. Whereas the Red Sox only lose almost all of the time, and when they lose, it's typically in some horrible, heartrending fashion. Which is why I was sitting there, watching the Red Sox for the first time in 18 years, and feeling like The Poor Man, only less eloquent:
"... 6-0 in the top of the third. Wow. They really must want me to get my hopes up. Lots of luck, fellas. Prediction: Yankees win 24-23 in the bottom of the 40th, on a 2-out inside-the-park grand slam by pinch hitter Don Zimmer. ...
... 8-1 in the 7th, Sox threatening. I accept on an abstract, intellectual level that it is physically possible for the Red Sox to win this game. Prediction: Yankees win 43-43* in the 104th inning when Zombie Babe Ruth leaps from his grave beneath the pitcher's mound and eats Manny Ramirez's brain seconds before he can score the winning run.
... Same score, Derek Lowe, pitching a one-hitter, is pulled for relief pitcher Pedro "New York is my Daddy" Martinez, pitching on 3 minutes' rest. Prediction: Yankees win 324-8 in 9 innings. Pedro's arm falls off. At the exact moment that the game ends, Fenway Park is hit by a comet."
I can't believe that they actually won. I assume it's just a ruse to get us to not just watch, but actually care about, the World Series, which they will lose in the seventh game, in a way that makes 1986 look like a normal loss. They will be ahead 843-0 in the 9th, with two outs, when Pedro Martinez, who has pitched a no-hitter so far, walks three people in succession. He is replaced, and replaced again, but the walks keep coming, until the entire Red Sox pitching staff has done its best and our opponents, they who shall not be named, have scored 294 runs without a single hit. At this point the Red Sox stop walking people and start committing horrible errors: dropped pitches, lazy pop flies that miraculously drop through the gloves of outfielders, and so on and so forth. Still, we will think, it's 843-502; surely they won't be able to get another 341 runs before we manage one out. But they will. And then, having tied the game... I leave the rest to your imaginations.
It's pretty mean of them to do this, though.