- Disclaimer: If you are a Tampa Bay baseball fan; the content presented here is not for the faint at heart.
Today's blog is not a sports story in the technical sense of the word. Yes, there will be stats and baseball terms with players names that you may not recognize nor understand, but I urge you to read on because this is a great story. A great love story.
It's a story about the love of a nation, Red Sox Nation, as we call ourselves, and a team that just wont be denied. You see, we eat, sleep and breathe our sports here in Boston. It is a way of life and our teams become part of the fiber of our culture. If you live in Boston and happen to NOT be a sports fan, even if you can't stand sports in general, you still talk about it, watch it and get caught up in the magic of championship play because in this town there is no way around it. And last night delivered plenty of magic.
The baseball gods have smiled on Red Sox Nation yet again and given us another chance at history. Dr. House must have been at Fenway last night because only Hollywood could have scripted this one as the Sox were "de-fibbed" back to life.
Let me set the stage for you: The Sox, down 3-1 games in the best of seven games American League Championship series-(the winner of 4 games goes on to play Philly in the World Series)- and facing ELIMINATION, entered into last night's game in Fenway Park in a do or die situation at home. Win the game or it's all over. It wasn't looking good to start. The Rays jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, hitting Boston pitcher Matsuzaka hard in the first inning. Never a good thing in playoff baseball. By the third inning it was 5-0 and I was SICK with disgust and turned off the game. Soon enough though, my curiosity got to me and I switched back to the game. By now it was the seventh inning, still 5-0, and the Sox had jut brought Jonathan Papelbon to the mound, one of the games most feared and skilled closing pitchers. The problem here: Papelbon is a ClOSER. His job is to come into the game in the 8th or 9th inning to SAVE a lead. You never see Papelbon in early innings and never in a game you are seriously losing; only in an act of desperation. The Sox were desperate. Papelbon gets hit right away and the Ray go up 7-0. I had enough. No team had ever come back from a seven run deficit in playoff history and I couldn't watch any more. I shut the TV off and went to bed. The agony of defeat had broken my heart and I went to sleep facing what I thought was the inevitable; we were all done.
But shame on me for not believing. I should have known better, especially with this team. I woke to the news that my team had done what no other team had done in post season history, actually pulled off what they are calling the greatest comeback in sports history since 1929, and beat the Rays 8-7 in the most dramatic fashion. They will live to play another day and like the Grinch when his tiny heart grew three sizes, I was filled with love for my team again. A different kind of love than a romantic love, but a strong and deep rooted love none the less. A love for a past time that brings joy to so many. A love for a team that brings families together to watch around their TV's and unites it's community in their passion for their hometown Red Sox. A love that does not discriminate against skin color or political party, but does divide us by geographical location creating rivalries with opponents and enemies; their battles played out on a plush, green diamond. A love that allows us to witness and experience a small part of sports history and gives us stories to tell to our grandchildren someday. I know it is far from over. In this series the Sox still need to win 2 more games, in Tampa Bay, to advance on to the World Series, no small feat by any stretch. If any team can do it, they can as they have proven in 2004 and 2007. Regardless of what happens it has been a hell of a ride for Red Sox Nation and you can bet we will all be watching, for the love of our team, for the love of our community, but most of all for the love of the game.