To some, the game of baseball is exactly just that; a game. Nothing more than a couple of professional teams competing to be called the best at what they do. But for many Red Sox fans, the game of baseball is so much more than that. It’s more than just watching the occasional ballgame to see a home run or tuning on the game when the playoffs start. For many, it’s a commitment that starts well before the first pitch of the regular season is thrown. It’s a bond between the fans and their team.
For the average fan, the baseball season starts around April. They look on the internet to check out the new names that made the club and they’ll look at the schedule to see when the Yankees or Red Sox come to their town. But for so many of members of Red Sox Nation, the season never really ends.
Whether or not the Red Sox are in the postseason, Red Sox baseball talk never has an off switch. It carries well into the winter months with November and December being busy times around the ballclub. Free agents start to find new homes and there is always the anticipation of which new player will dawn a Red Sox uniform.
Then February rolls around which means Spring Training. It’s a chance to see the new squad which allows for renewed hope and optimism that this will be the year for a World Series title. Looking up box scores to see who had a big night and which pitchers are throwing well in February will start the chatter of who should be the Opening Day starter.
Then there’s the grueling 162 game schedule that’s called the regular season. With it comes an unforeseen level of commitment. Watching as many games as possible when work and family allow it. For some it’s every game, for others it may be three or four games a week. It becomes a routine, a schedule developed around the Red Sox games. Possibly even a trip for the out-of-town fans to see their beloved ballclub in person.
And with every passing game comes both skepticism and optimism. The team is struggling to find ways to win, what can be done to change their luck? Or a big win in New York brings enthusiasm and a degree of impatience as we can’t wait for the next game. When things are going well, it’s gratifying. When they’re not, well it’s still a sense of enjoyment and acceptance. It’s that feeling of belonging to a Nation that lives on every pitch like you do. Every inning, every sacrifice fly, every stolen base attempt, you feel as though you’re right there with the players lunging your body into the dirt to try and get into scoring position. It is that intense.
Some call it just a game. Red Sox fans call it a way of life.
So when the season came to an abrupt end on Wednesday night and I was left to squander what had just happened, the last thing I wanted to hear was “it’s just a game.”
No, it’s not just a game I replied. It’s something that your heart and soul is entrenched in for the previous six months, practically begging for your team to turn it around and play the way you know they can. It’s a feeling of bitter defeat followed the next night by dramatic victory. From the ultimate high of a walk-off win against the Yankees to collapsing in the final month of the season and missing the postseason. It’s as though you’ve suddenly had your heart ripped out of your chest because the Red Sox just committed arguably the biggest collapses in baseball history. It was 80 years of sorrow and disappointment, followed by a decade of glory and triumph. So you keep asking if this is the start of another miserable decade? Are the Red Sox doomed for another torturous eight decades just so they can have one decade in which they and their fans can rejoice in victory?
Fans give up so many of their evenings and weekends to watch their team play and they do it because it’s what they love. They do it because they want to and because it’s what they know. They do it because their heart belongs to the Red Sox.
So don’t tell me it’s just a game. No, to me Red Sox baseball is a way of life and it’s a privilege to be a part of Red Sox Nation. It’s something the fans give their heart and soul to with the knowing that they could suffer heartbreak and disillusionment, much like this year.
This collapse has been hard on all Red Sox fans. It’s emotionally draining and the only question we want answered is ‘what happened?’ That’s it. No ‘what ifs’ or ‘why’, simply what happened? It’ll take time to heal this sorrow, probably a lot longer than we want. But know this; when pitchers and catchers report in 137 days, that renewed sensation of sanguinity and buoyancy will return. And once again, Red Sox baseball will be more than just a game!
Topics: Adrian Gonzalez, AL East, AL Wild Card, Boston Red Sox, Carl Crawford, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Fenway Park, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro, MLB, Tampa Bay Rays, Theo Epstein