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The tragedy of '04


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The tragedy of '04
Do you ever find yourself secretly wishing the Red Sox had lost last October?
By Scott Stossel  |  August 28, 2005

AT THE RISK of being burned at the stake like Jan Hus, say, or strung up on Boston Common like Mary Dyer, I'd like to introduce a heretical notion: Wouldn't it have been better if the Red Sox had lost the World Series last year?

Before you start preparing the gallows, let me explain where I'm coming from. I am a Red Sox fan of long standing. One of my earliest sports memories is of watching Carlton Fisk will his ball fair in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series. I learned math by reading the Globe sports pages, studying the standings in the American League East. The Red Sox are embedded in my soul.

Therefore, I do not venture this proposition casually--especially after veteran Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan, in his column last Wednesday, expressed his disdain for ''pseudo-intellectuals" who ''spoil the fun with ludicrous over-analysis." But I increasingly believe it to be true: We lost something when the Sox won the World Series.

By what possible logic can that be true? Start with this: Any team (except maybe the Chicago Cubs) can win a World Series. The Arizona Diamondbacks, after all, won one in their fourth year of existence, and the Florida Marlins won one in their fifth year, and two in their first 12. (The Yankees, for their part, have collected World Series championships like cheap trinkets, pocketing 26 of them over the last 82 years.)

Not winning a World Series, on the other hand--and not just not winning, but flamboyantly, spectacularly, transcendently not winning--is a more impressive accomplishment. Before last year, no other team had not won like the Red Sox had not won. Even the benighted Cubs, who have not won for longer than the Red Sox have not won, haven't not won with such dramatic flair as the Sox, who seemed to find ever-more outlandish ways to not win despite having victory in hand. (The Cubs' equally but less famously benighted neighbors the White Sox, for their part, have been so quiet in their failure to win over the last 88 years that no one even notices them not winning.)
Message Board YOUR VIEW: Has Red Sox Nation lost something irreplaceable in victory?

As masters of the perennial near-miss, members of Red Sox Nation may have been eternal losers--but in our predestination for failure, we had something special, a Calvinist sense that we were, in our humility and accursedness, somehow distinct from all those arrogant New Yorkers, or lazy Los Angelenos, or mild Minnesotans. Now that we've won, we've taken a step toward becoming more like everyone else, more like the Sunbelt of Arizona and Florida, where World Series championships must seem to fall from trees like overripe grapefruit.

What about all those touching stories, you ask, after the World Series last fall? Men and women leaving championship memorabilia on their forebears' graves. Families coming together in the thrill of victory. I don't want to take anything away from those stories, but the true bond connecting Red Sox fans was so strong for having been forged in the crucible of defeat. As the sportswriter E.M. Swift once put it, ''Epic collapse is unifying."

Before 2004, the basic Red Sox mode was that of tragedy. ''The Sox remind us that life is a trial; that it raises hopes only to crush them cruelly; that it ends badly," wrote Rand Richards Cooper last summer in a brilliant essay in Commonweal. The team, in Cooper's view, was an emblem of the tragic view of history, and of life. ''A Red Sox fan is an Irishman, an Armenian, reciting ancient hurts inflicted by ancient enemies," he wrote. ''By now Red Sox suffering surpasses an individual human life span. It is a cathedral of loss and pain. It is holy."

But if this suffering no longer surpasses a human life span--if, in fact, it is no longer suffering--is it any longer holy?

. . .

In achieving victory, the Red Sox have moved from tragedy to romance, or perhaps comedy--and if Aristotle, among others, is to be believed, romance and comedy are lesser forms than tragedy. To take a trivial but illustrative example: The Farrelly Brothers' romantic comedy ''Fever Pitch" was originally supposed to take place against a backdrop of pain, the love story between the two protagonists unfolding against the eternally dashed hopes and unremitting futility of the Boston nine. As it was, the plot bounced along the trajectory plotted by the 2004 team, ending with saccharine-sweet triumph all around.

Actually, the predicament of Red Sox Nation after winning the World Series is more like the final scene of ''The Graduate," where Dustin Hoffman has triumphantly and climactically snatched Katharine Ross from her wedding, and joyfully escaped with her onto a bus and into the future. As the camera lingers on the couple in the film's final shot, they are clearly thinking with dissipating joy and mounting dread, ''What do we do now?"
Message Board YOUR VIEW: Has Red Sox Nation lost something irreplaceable in victory?

One also has to wonder: To finally win the World Series did New England, Faust-like (or ''Damn Yankees"-like), have to mortgage its collective soul? Surveying the post-championship landscape, I can't help noticing a few things the Boston area has lost since Keith Foulke threw to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out of the 2004 season, and wondering if they represent the karmic consequences of victory: Filene's, a century-old fixture of the New England landscape, swallowed up by Macy's; Reebok, a regional economic powerhouse in the 1980s and 1990s, absorbed by Adidas; Fleet Bank, eaten by Bank of America; Gillette, acquired by Procter & Gamble; John Hancock insurance, merged with ManuLife; and The Atlantic Monthly (where I work), a 150-year-old literary landmark, soon to decamp for Washington, D.C.

Local Democrats must wonder, too, whether the price of a Sox victory was a John Kerry loss. Did Dave Roberts's theft of second base in the fourth game of the American League Championship Series ensure that George W. Bush would steal Ohio?

Okay, so maybe demographic and economic forces that have nothing to do with the Red Sox can account for these losses. But what about this? According to the indispensable Morbidity & Mortality Weekly, 123 more Bostonians died between the end of the 2005 World Series and the end of last month than died in the comparable period of the preceding year. Already total New England-area incidences of E. coli, Legionellosis, Listeriosis, Meningococcal disease of several varieties, animal rabies, and Salmonella have surpassed last year's totals. And incidences of Hepatitis B, primary and secondary syphilis, and chicken pox have evidently been on the rise since the World Series as well.

Coincidence?

. . .

In truth, the price we've paid is less morbid but no less real--a palpable diminishment of the force of our yearning. As we approach the homestretch, with the Red Sox uncharacteristically perched atop the American League East, something just feels different than in the past. A friend recounted overhearing a conversation in a Wayland liquor store the other day, in which the thirtysomething sales clerk, tattooed and pony-tailed, was lamenting the waning ferocity of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. ''You know," he said. ''Sometimes I almost wish we hadn't won."

Me too. What the Red Sox accomplished last year was incomparable. The seven straight games they ran off after being down three games to none to the Yankees in the ALCS ranks as possibly the single greatest achievement in the history of team sports. Who ever would want to trade that? And yet for me there remains that uneasy, end-of-''The Graduate"-like feeling of ''now what do we do?"--and the haunting question of whether what we've lost was somehow greater than what we won.

Scott Stossel is a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly and the author of ''Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver."
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

I thought that I had read everything in sports... and when I found this article I was rightful wrong! :D

Source: http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/reds..._tragedy_of_04/ (here is the source but it will ask you for registration)

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Oh boy, it's funny reading some opinions about this article:

Boston.com Forum

I'll transcript some msgs:

"I don't know who Scott Stossel is or where he came from, but he should be let go and never be allowed to write at any publication ever again. This is insanity. One of the greatest moments in the history of New England and we 'lost' something - hopefully on Monday you see a big pink piece of paper....then you'll know you 'lost' something."

"Not win the series after sinking the Evil Empire ? I think not! that would be like asking for Dolly Parton to show her a$$ instead of her @@"

"Is this some sort of Joke...the author has got to be one miserable SOB!!!

This moron should NEVER and i mean NEVER be allowed to write another

article for a New England newspaper. This has got to be one of the most

idiotic proposals I've ever heard in my life.

If you want to be associated with a loser than move to Chicago...and while

you're at it..get off the pipe!! You crackhead!!"

HAHA HA HA AH HA HAAAAAAAAAAA!!! Whatta laugh I got!!!

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those responses from Red Sox fans are priceless. Its like a voodoo subject to talk about what if they hadnt won. :P

It's like a 'voodoo subject' to bring up because it's an idiotic subject to bring up. To suggest that they 'lost something' upon winning the World Series is just as foolish as suggesting that Red Sox fans would be happier had they been on the other side of the ALCS comeback because it's 'what we are used to'.

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It's like a 'voodoo subject' to bring up because it's an idiotic subject to bring up. To suggest that they 'lost something' upon winning the World Series is just as foolish as suggesting that Red Sox fans would be happier had they been on the other side of the ALCS comeback because it's 'what we are used to'.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

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those responses from Red Sox fans are priceless. Its like a voodoo subject to talk about what if they hadnt won. :P

It's like a 'voodoo subject' to bring up because it's an idiotic subject to bring up. To suggest that they 'lost something' upon winning the World Series is just as foolish as suggesting that Red Sox fans would be happier had they been on the other side of the ALCS comeback because it's 'what we are used to'.

For 86 years, the Boston Red Sox had been the nation's lovable losers. You knew, going into the season, that ownership and management had built an excellent team. However, you also knew that they had no shot at winning the World Series.

An entire Red Sox Nation took up cheering for the Sox. Anybody can root for a winner. Out of towners rooting for the Yankees, the Evil Empire, were accused of only liking the team because they were good. And so it became fashionable to root for the Red Sox, the antithesis of the Yankees. It takes a special person to root for a team doomed to failure.

When the Red Sox pulled off the miraculous comeback against the Yankees (though I attribute it to the Yankees imploding more than the Red Sox playing any truly amazing baseball) they lost their status as the country's lovable losers. When they beat the Cards in the World Series, Boston had cemented its fate.

They became just another team. No longer could Yankee fans chant "1918!" in hopes of breaking the opponents' confidence. Red Sox fans suddenly became smug. 86 years of shortcomings were suddenly forgotten, and Sox fans took the opportunity to boast unmercifully of the ALCS win, and the subsequent World Series title. While it is perfectly normal for fans of a World Series winning team to celebrate in such a manner, therein lies the problem.

The Red Sox have become perfectly normal. They've never been a perfectly normal team before. And that is what the Red Sox have lost. They no longer stand out from the crowd of 29 teams that are not the New York Yankees.

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For 86 years, the Boston Red Sox had been the nation's lovable losers. You knew, going into the season, that ownership and management had built an excellent team. However, you also knew that they had no shot at winning the World Series.

An entire Red Sox Nation took up cheering for the Sox. Anybody can root for a winner. Out of towners rooting for the Yankees, the Evil Empire, were accused of only liking the team because they were good. And so it became fashionable to root for the Red Sox, the antithesis of the Yankees. It takes a special person to root for a team doomed to failure.

When the Red Sox pulled off the miraculous comeback against the Yankees (though I attribute it to the Yankees imploding more than the Red Sox playing any truly amazing baseball) they lost their status as the country's lovable losers. When they beat the Cards in the World Series, Boston had cemented its fate.

They became just another team. No longer could Yankee fans chant "1918!" in hopes of breaking the opponents' confidence. Red Sox fans suddenly became smug. 86 years of shortcomings were suddenly forgotten, and Sox fans took the opportunity to boast unmercifully of the ALCS win, and the subsequent World Series title. While it is perfectly normal for fans of a World Series winning team to celebrate in such a manner, therein lies the problem.

The Red Sox have become perfectly normal. They've never been a perfectly normal team before. And that is what the Red Sox have lost. They no longer stand out from the crowd of 29 teams that are not the New York Yankees.

Wow. Very well put.

Regarding the article, I would give anything to have any of my teams win a championship, so I can't understand why anyone would want to give it up because it's a different feeling.

Side note: The Kings have never won a Cup. The Jays haven't won since 1993 and won't ever win again (unless there's a cap or something). The Roughriders are like the CFL's Cubs....no wins since 1989 in a (now) nine-team league. And the Titans haven't won ever...unless you count the Oilers' 1961 AFL Championship. If any of those teams won, I wouldn't even consider for a second giving it up. Then again, I don't really know what winning feels like. It's been so long since '93.

So to wish a team had been able to keep losing is idiotic.....unless it's the Yankees. :D

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I kinda felt the same thing with my Halos. Before 2002, they were the perennial doormats in the AL west, then they became the redheaded stepchildren of the stadium when it was enclosed for the Rams, then they became the Anaheim Mouseketters with the Disney acquisition, only to completely come out of nowhere to grab the title, with what I admit was a fluke game 6 comeback. Now that Moreno has the team amongst the elite, cheering for the Angels no longer has the mystique that it once did, because before you were ridiculed for turning your back on the Dodgers, and now all the sudden you are surronded by every band wagon fan in the greater Los Angeles area. Sure, it's great having a quality, successful team, but it's just not the same.

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those responses from Red Sox fans are priceless. Its like a voodoo subject to talk about what if they hadnt won. :P

It's like a 'voodoo subject' to bring up because it's an idiotic subject to bring up. To suggest that they 'lost something' upon winning the World Series is just as foolish as suggesting that Red Sox fans would be happier had they been on the other side of the ALCS comeback because it's 'what we are used to'.

For 86 years, the Boston Red Sox had been the nation's lovable losers. You knew, going into the season, that ownership and management had built an excellent team. However, you also knew that they had no shot at winning the World Series.

An entire Red Sox Nation took up cheering for the Sox. Anybody can root for a winner. Out of towners rooting for the Yankees, the Evil Empire, were accused of only liking the team because they were good. And so it became fashionable to root for the Red Sox, the antithesis of the Yankees. It takes a special person to root for a team doomed to failure.

When the Red Sox pulled off the miraculous comeback against the Yankees (though I attribute it to the Yankees imploding more than the Red Sox playing any truly amazing baseball) they lost their status as the country's lovable losers. When they beat the Cards in the World Series, Boston had cemented its fate.

They became just another team. No longer could Yankee fans chant "1918!" in hopes of breaking the opponents' confidence. Red Sox fans suddenly became smug. 86 years of shortcomings were suddenly forgotten, and Sox fans took the opportunity to boast unmercifully of the ALCS win, and the subsequent World Series title. While it is perfectly normal for fans of a World Series winning team to celebrate in such a manner, therein lies the problem.

The Red Sox have become perfectly normal. They've never been a perfectly normal team before. And that is what the Red Sox have lost. They no longer stand out from the crowd of 29 teams that are not the New York Yankees.

Why is no longer standing out such a bad thing? Or, I should ask... why is standing out solely for your futility such a good thing? There's one negative to being "Lovable Losers" -- it requires losing, and teams generally don't like to do that. The Red Sox didn't intentionally try and put together strong teams that would fade out when it mattered most. For 86 years they tried to win the World Series and failed -- so why would finally winning it, in any way, shape, or form, be a bad thing? It hasn't hurt the size of their fan base -- if anything, it's grown, unfortunately. I see more Red Sox gear now (in Colorado, anyway) than I ever have before, for better or worse. Those who no longer cheer for the team because they're not "Lovable Losers" were not true fans -- so good riddance to them, because the Red Sox Nation is stronger without them.

Now -- Is it the same being a Red Sox fan now as it was this time last year? Not even close. It's better. But maybe that's just me. Then again, it was never the futility that drove me towards Red Sox fandom in the first place.

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I kinda felt the same thing with my Halos. Before 2002, they were the perennial doormats in the AL west, then they became the redheaded stepchildren of the stadium when it was enclosed for the Rams, then they became the Anaheim Mouseketters with the Disney acquisition, only to completely come out of nowhere to grab the title, with what I admit was a fluke game 6 comeback. Now that Moreno has the team amongst the elite, cheering for the Angels no longer has the mystique that it once did, because before you were ridiculed for turning your back on the Dodgers, and now all the sudden you are surronded by every band wagon fan in the greater Los Angeles area. Sure, it's great having a quality, successful team, but it's just not the same.

Oh God. That was the worst series in the world for Giants fans. Lets just hope the Cubs dont win any time soon because if they do, the "Loveable Losers" title may be pinned on them. Anyway it is a different feeling after your team wins. Before they win your desperate for them to win so that the shame and dissapointment will end. When they havent won and are finally in the hunt you watch every game with a level of stress that is almost unbearable, but it is still good. When your team has won recently and theyre in the hunt the feeling is different, your more relaxed, almost as if you were so satisfied with the last win it wouldnt be the end of the world if they lost this year. At least thats how it was for me when Tampa finally won. When they lost to St. Louis in the NFC Championship and then to the Eagles the next few years i was bummin untill the Pro Bowl because i knew we were so darn close. Now that lately theyve been struggling it hasnt been so bad because I at least know that there was once a time not that long ago when we won it all.

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those responses from Red Sox fans are priceless. Its like a voodoo subject to talk about what if they hadnt won. :P

It's like a 'voodoo subject' to bring up because it's an idiotic subject to bring up. To suggest that they 'lost something' upon winning the World Series is just as foolish as suggesting that Red Sox fans would be happier had they been on the other side of the ALCS comeback because it's 'what we are used to'.

For 86 years, the Boston Red Sox had been the nation's lovable losers. You knew, going into the season, that ownership and management had built an excellent team. However, you also knew that they had no shot at winning the World Series.

An entire Red Sox Nation took up cheering for the Sox. Anybody can root for a winner. Out of towners rooting for the Yankees, the Evil Empire, were accused of only liking the team because they were good. And so it became fashionable to root for the Red Sox, the antithesis of the Yankees. It takes a special person to root for a team doomed to failure.

When the Red Sox pulled off the miraculous comeback against the Yankees (though I attribute it to the Yankees imploding more than the Red Sox playing any truly amazing baseball) they lost their status as the country's lovable losers. When they beat the Cards in the World Series, Boston had cemented its fate.

They became just another team. No longer could Yankee fans chant "1918!" in hopes of breaking the opponents' confidence. Red Sox fans suddenly became smug. 86 years of shortcomings were suddenly forgotten, and Sox fans took the opportunity to boast unmercifully of the ALCS win, and the subsequent World Series title. While it is perfectly normal for fans of a World Series winning team to celebrate in such a manner, therein lies the problem.

The Red Sox have become perfectly normal. They've never been a perfectly normal team before. And that is what the Red Sox have lost. They no longer stand out from the crowd of 29 teams that are not the New York Yankees.

They're the defending World Series Champions.

Besides, this is the start of a whole new era. The Curse of the A-Rod.

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A tragedy in sports is not when a team loses, or breaks a losing streak that has some kind of voodoo effect.

A tragedy in sports is when the 1972 Israeli Olympians were taken hostage and then killed.

A tragedy in sports is when soccer hooligans in England kill people.

A tragedy in sports is when a boxer is hit in just the right spot with a punch, collapses and dies.

A tragedy in sports is when Hank Gathers collapses on the floor during a game because of a heart ailment and then dies.

Please, let's use the word "tragedy" where it's appropriate.

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A tragedy in sports is not when a team loses, or breaks a losing streak that has some kind of voodoo effect.

A tragedy in sports is when the 1972 Israeli Olympians were taken hostage and then killed.

A tragedy in sports is when soccer hooligans in England kill people.

A tragedy in sports is when a boxer is hit in just the right spot with a punch, collapses and dies.

A tragedy in sports is when Hank Gathers collapses on the floor during a game because of a heart ailment and then dies.

Please, let's use the word "tragedy" where it's appropriate.

Oh come on. :rolleyes:

Those are all real life tragedies. And yes, somethings make us put sports into perspective (hurricane Katrina for example)

But if you look up the word tragedy it isn't limited to only when people die.

People like sports, and when they suffer a heartbreaking loss, or whatever it is you can call it a tragedy, because it hurts.(I still have nightmares over 4th and 26). It's silly to get all bent out of shape about a loss, a bad game etc. but it's part of being a sports fan. So lighten up over the use of the word "tragedy". It's being used in good fun here.

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This is from dictionary.com:

trag·e·dy    ( P )  Pronunciation Key  (trj-d)

n. pl. trag·e·dies

A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.

The genre made up of such works.

The art or theory of writing or producing these works.

A play, film, television program, or other narrative work that portrays or depicts calamitous events and has an unhappy but meaningful ending.

A disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or injury to life: an expedition that ended in tragedy, with all hands lost at sea.

A tragic aspect or element.

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