A Celebration of Baseball

This week, the 2004 Red Sox came back to Fenway. Ten years after the improbable comeback that ended generations of suffering and disappointment and transformed Boston from a city of losers to a city of champions, it became clear that what happened that October will never get old. I was 14 years old when the Idiots reversed the Curse, but I still can’t help but smile whenever I think about that team.

It’s not like every guy from that team had a good ending in Boston, either. Johnny Damon left Boston for the New York Yankees after the 2005 season, but you’d never know based on the ovation he got. Pedro Martinez left for the New York Mets after the 2004 season, but you’d never know based on the ovation he got. Derek Lowe took his talents to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2004 season. Curt Schilling lost all his money a lot of Rhode Island tax dollars in his failed video game business, but this week he was the bloody sock hero once again, getting a huge ovation in the midst of his battle with cancer. Manny Ramirez ended his tenure in Boston in the most unprofessional way possible, leaving the team with no choice but to trade him to the Dodgers, but for one night, all was forgotten. Even Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield played their last games in the midst of the Fried Chicken and Beer Meltdown of 2011. Few things in life end well, but not matter what happens, Red Sox fans will always have 2004.

Even though the Patriots had already won two Super Bowls with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady that decade, but the Red Sox winning the World Series was what really changed the attitude of sports fans in Boston. Before this current era in Boston sports, there hadn’t been a championship team since the 1986 Celtics. For all my life up until that point (and decade prior to that in some cases), the best Boston teams reached their ceiling losing to the other great teams of their eras. Scottie Bowman’s Montreal Canadiens. Wayne Gretzky’s and Mark Messier’s Edmonton Oilers. Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears. Mike Holmgren’s Green Bay Packers. Bob Gibson’s St. Louis Cardinals. Sparky Anderson’s Cincinnati Reds. Joe Torre’s New York Yankees. With the 2004 World Series, Boston went from being the underdog city to a city expected to win, and their teams became the ones everyone else measured themselves against. They backed it up with a third Super Bowl in February of 2005, World Series titles in 2007 and 2013, an NBA title in 2008, and the Stanley Cup in 2011, but for all their success, it made the defeats at the hands of the New York Football Giants in 2008 and 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010, and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 all the more painful. I’d say we were better off not getting that far to begin with, but that’s a really spoiled thing to say, and it isn;t even true the more I think about it.

Looking back a decade later, it’s still amazing what that team did. The 2004 Yankees were a really good team that was in their heads. If one thing goes wrong, if Kevin Millar can’t draw that walk off Mariano Rivera, if Dave Roberts botches the most important stolen base of all time, if Schilling’s ankle is any worse than it is, we aren’t celebrating a 10 year anniversary of a World Series title. Who knows, maybe if that team doesn’t get the job done, the Red Sox take a different approach and 2007 does not happen. 2013 happened because they hit rock bottom in 2011 and 2012, so there is something to previous years effecting future ones. What they did was amazing, and no matter how many times I see the Red Sox win it all, 2004 will always be my favorite.

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