"Next year is right now. It's 12:30 am, I'm drunk, tears are dried on my cheeks, and I have a perma-grin on my face that's not likely to recede any time soon. To steal from the great Jack Buck, I cannot believe what I just saw." - Misery Loves Company, October 28, 2004
As I settle in to watch one of the most feel-good World Series of my lifetime, I find my mind drifting back twelve years. Thanks to the Chicago Cubs, the 2016 Fall Classic is an opportunity for me to vicariously re-experience one of the great fortnights of my life.
If you'll indulge me, we're off on a blatantly selfish tour of my memory banks.
Popular culture's long past it now, in a millenium when the Red Sox have won three World Series championships, but in 2004, the Boston nine were still losers. Lovable, if you were connected to the Hub, and enjoyably cursed if you weren't. And when they went down 3-0 to the Yankees in the ALCS, one short year removed from a gutting series loss to their greatest rivals, next year seemed impossibly far away.
The morning after the third loss of that ALCS, a mere 10 days before I wrote the quote that leads this post, I said this, "I simply am not smart enough, or talented enough to put adequate words to my utter disappointment with these Red Sox." The Yankees had just pasted the Sox, 19-8, in Fenway, leading to shot after shot of dejected Bostonians sitting in stunned silence in the stands.
Whitney and I started writing Misery Loves Company at the outset of the 2003 baseball season. It made me a better writer, and it made me a better baseball fan. It made me think about the game, and find new ways to talk about it. To be honest, we wrote some stuff over the six years that we did it that I'm quite proud of. (And a decent volume of crap, to be fair.) I really loved doing that blog, and it was made all the better because I got to do it with my best friend. And now, I'm extremely grateful that I wrote all that stuff down more than a decade ago.
I wasn't so grateful after Game 3.
I literally fell to the ground after the final out of Game 7 in tears, pounding my living room floor, crying and yelling "they did it!" over and over again.
In all honesty, after the emotion of the ALCS, the World Series against the Cardinals was almost anti-climactic. It's easy to say this in retrospect, but there was no way that particular Red Sox team, that band of idiots, was going to lose. When they finally won, I wrote something that I saw echoed online just this last week:
"Somewhere, Charlie Brown is smoking a cigarette, the Little Red-Haired Girl's head nestled against his shoulder as they lay in the afterglow of beautiful cartoon lovemaking. Lucy's sitting outside wondering how the hell he kicked that ball so far."
That's one of the best paragraphs I'll ever write.
In the days and weeks after the Red Sox series-clinching win, I saw and heard a lot of people writing about how things would change for their fans. That the curse-busting championship would forever change the essential character of Sox fandom. Maybe they were right. I certainly don't follow the Red Sox with the same intensity, though that's a function of the way my life has changed more than any diminishing interest. My Dad's Sox fandom took on a different character as he got older, even though they never won one until he was 57.
But I wouldn't trade those 10 days in October 2004 for anything, even if it means I don't get to feel the same gut-twisting, will-it-ever-happen anxiety again. That time brought me a joy that I still find hard to express. Everyone should be so lucky.
And right now, Cubs fans are four games away from being just that. My own memories of 2004 are fresh enough that I know exactly how they feel. This was famed Cubbie backer Bill Murray after the Cubs toppled the Dodgers to win the National League pennant.
I know how you feel. Boy, do I.
FOX Sports opened its coverage of this World Series with a montage of elderly Cubs and Indians fans talking about their excitement to have a chance to see their teams win it all just one time. It reminded me of hearing about so many New Englanders in their 70s, 80s, and 90s experiencing the bliss of the Sox finally winning it all.
Sometime in the next week or so, another long-suffering group of fans will feel a joy they worried they'd never experience. And I'll be thrilled for them. Joy, after all, is worth celebrating.