Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Win it for Kent 

Readers will know my love of the Red Sox. �It was the most bizarre weekend for me, watching them lose to the Rays. �A loss in Game 7 of an ALCS five years ago -- back when Dan Shaughnessy was still selling copies of The Curse of the Bambino --�would have devastated me for a week. �I would not watch the World Series. �I would not talk baseball. �People who see me would talk about anything else and then get away from me as soon as politely possible. �This year, not the same. �Remember, until Sunday night my three favorite teams in the world -- Red Sox, NY Giants, and Celtics -- were simultaneously world champions of their sports. �If I complained at all about the weekend series, would you not want to hit me in the head? �So would I.

About twenty months ago a good friend and colleague here passed away, known often in the earlier days of this blog as "my liberal lunch friend." �Sports was one of the things that united us. �Kent and I had gone together to Philadelphia to see our two teams play each other in the Phillies' last year in Veterans' Stadium. �It was my first trip to Philly; Kent had been a fan since childhood, though he was raised in the Rochester, NY area. �He had basically "sat with the family" after I suffered the Aaron Boone Sudden Death funeral. �We had always said that, if our teams ever got in the World Series we'd root for the other guy's team. �"What if we're in it against each other?" �That would be cool, we decided, but we couldn't talk to each other but maybe ten minutes the day after each game. �I'm sure we would have been friends after that, but it would have been weird. �Last fall, when the Red Sox had won their second championship in four years, there was some sadness over missing lunch with my baseball friend. �The discussions last winter would have been full of Sox and Phillies, teams we both thought were being run the right way. �We each tracked the other team's substitutes, farm systems, free agent moves. �(Same was true of football -- he rooted for the Redskins. �Unfortunately, we never got Kent into the NBA because he likes college basketball too much. �He went to D-I schools; I went D-3.)

So when Sunday night started I wondered: �If the Red Sox win, they play the Phillies. �How do I feel about that? �I would have rooted for the Sox, of course, but it would have been weird. �Fridays was our day to have lunchs, and I still don't have lunch in our place there. �Would I have gone back there like some bad movie, having an imaginary discussion? �I don't know.

I do know what I'll be doing in a couple hours, though. �I've got a Phillies hat and no dilemma. �No offense, Tampa, but I'm rooting for the NL for the first time ever.

In 2004 as the Sox came back from 0-3 against the Yankees, on a fan bulletin board there was a long thread called "win it for..." �For me it was a cousin who was shut in, mentally challenged -- "oh, he had a bad drug experience, what a waste" -- but who one day turned me on to some mimeoed home-published book of weird baseball stats that he bought with his meager income each winter. �My cousin seemed to most people a lost soul, but through him I got back into baseball and learned about some guy in Kansas named Bill James. �From him came Roto and a life of baseball as something more than just the fate of the Sox, but who also reminded me it always came back to your team, your player, your hero. �He died in the early 2000s. �So in 2004, "win it for Gary." �And they did.

Sharing that love with someone is important, and for about ten years that guy was Kent. �Yes, Tampa is miraculous and a great story, but they've only been a team for ten years. �A team from a city that has won nothing in 28 years is fit to carry a baseball wish: �Win it for Kent.

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