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Revisiting Boston Sports Agony: Hope, Glory, Satan, the Babe and the Civil War
Sometimes a Super Bowl victory is not enough.
From the ROANOKE TIMES, 12 February 2002
IT’S A BOSTON THING – YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND NORTHERNERS AND SOUTHERNERS
USUALLY, I write opinion pieces on political issues. This is no exception. The New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory Feb. 3 got me thinking about one of the most important aspects of American politics: the enduring divide between North and South.
I got back to the old Bostonian roots that night as the Patriots won the most exciting Super Bowl ever. I ran outside, bellowed to the moon, called my dad, my brother, my buddy in the upper peninsula of Michigan, my college roommate and just yelled for joy. Called my brother back and barked some more. But it was not good enough (talk about pathetic).
If you find a native Bostonian (or New Englander) nearby, look him or her in the eye. You’ll see that this Super Bowl victory was magnificent, fantastic, blessed, just, awesome (uh, for you New Englanders, that would be wicked), incredible, redeeming and absolutely not enough in the face of the Curse of the Bambino.
Yup. That’s it. It does not matter what happens. Boston bleeds for the Red Sox. Until Tom Brady suits up for the Sox, and pitches their way to a World Series victory (only after beating the Yankees in the playoffs), no true Bostonian (or New Englander for that matter) will be able to sleep at night, shave or walk out to get the paper in the morning without getting irritated.
To the gentle Southern reader, this may seem incomprehensible. How much do you Bostonians want? How could the Sox get me down when the Patriots won the Super Bowl?
What do Northerners know about pain? When I first came to teach at Washington and Lee, it was pointed out to me that the difference between a Southerner and everyone else is that everyone else can go 10 minutes without feeling pained about the Civil War. Every Southern boy, it was explained to me, shares the same passion that rose with Pickett’s charge on the way to the high point of the Confederacy at Gettysburg.
Well, I’ve been to the high point at Gettysburg and it does not compare to the spirit of agony that haunts Fenway Park. The Patriots’ victory proves the one fact that will horrify Southerners and Bostonians alike: They are equally tormented.
Dallas has won a couple of Super Bowls, and the Atlanta Braves have won the World Series. Did this make up for coming in second in the recent unpleasantness? Apparently no. So there.
This apparent bond is bound to cause consternation in Dixie: The torment suffered by Red Sox fans is actually worse than that suffered by the South. The South came in second only once. The torment of the South is finite. Boston agony renews itself annually.
The difference between a Red Sox fan and the rest of the world is that the rest of the world can go 10 minutes without being ticked off about the curse of the Babe, the 1946 World Series, Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, etc. (Note to the reader: There is a dark religious significance in this. BUCKy Dent. Bill BUCKner. B, U, C and K are the second, 21st, third and 11th letters in the alphabet. Add them up and that comes to 37. Divide 37 into 666 and you get 18. That’s three sixes. If this curse is not satanic, nothing is.)
The South came in second to the likes of Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. How many Confederate generals (or, for that manner, self-respecting privates) were called Bucky? Buddy, maybe. Bubba, possibly. But Bucky? There is no dignity losing to a Bucky.
It’s not as if the South is going to wake up this spring with hopes of winning the war this year. It’s not as if Birmingham goes to bed at the beginning of October saying, “Oh, shucks. We’ll win the war next year.”
Bostonians suffer the sort of ongoing torment that is nurtured by hope. As long as baseball seasons begin after they end, there remains the hope that this year we can win the Series. Bostonians know real pain. We are the sports Prometheus. Every year, the Red Sox buzzard comes back and takes another bite out of us. We are the sports Tantalus. Just when we think we’ll drink the World Series water, it disappears from our lips.
So, the Patriots won the Super Bowl and the Red Sox still have not delivered. But at least Boston provides solace to those achy Southerners. No matter how bad their pain is, Bostonians suffer worse.
The last time the Sox won the World Series was against the Chicago Cubs. Their fans have suffered longer than those of the Sox! We are saved. Go Patriots! – and take the Curse of the Babe with you.