Click here for part 2.
The game started slowly. Through two and a half innings nobody scored a run. Then, in the bottom of the third inning, with the bases loaded and the crowd aching for something positive to happen, Shane Victorino lined a shot off the green monster (Fenway Park’s 37 foot tall left-field fence), scoring three runs. Behind the outstanding pitching of John Lackey, and three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Red Sox cruised to a 6 to 0 lead.
Although I was absolutely thrilled by these developments, I didn't allow myself to feel confident, per se, after what we Red Sox fans had endured in 1986. A part of me mentally prepared for an amazing comeback by the Cardinals.
I knew that my online friend, Joe, would be at the game. I had emailed him our seat locations, and he and his wife, Victoria, showed up mid-game to introduce themselves in person. Below is a picture of the four of us. I love meeting up with folks I had previously known only through my computer. These encounters typically enrich the friendship. Plus, in our case we’ll always share this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Kim reached the handicapped bathroom first and looked back at me with a frown. There was a long line consisting entirely of youngish, healthy- looking people. She was upset, and rightfully so, because these apparent cheaters were going to keep us away from the game for a long time. However, I simply rolled up to the bathroom door in balance mode, acting as if I owned the place. I didn't even acknowledge the presence of these other people. When the door opened and someone walked out, the person in the front of the line looked at me, stepped aside, and said, “It’s all yours.” I quickly scanned the faces of the others in line, and there were no dissenters. A little assertiveness had done the trick.
When we returned to our seats, the Cardinals were rallying. But they were soon contained, and after seven and a half innings the score was 6 to 1. My resolve began to weaken. Against my better judgment, I allowed myself to believe, if only a little, that this might happen, and right in front of our very eyes.
Halfway through the eighth inning we drank in Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” like we always do. It's one of the highlights of every trip to Fenway. I described this tradition in a previous post:
On days when the Red Sox are losing it provides some consolation. On beautiful summer evenings, it confirms our love of the game. In postseason games that the Red Sox are winning, it can make you at least temporarily believe that all is right with the world, and maybe, just for that moment, it is.Below is a video I took during the singing of Sweet Caroline in game six of the World Series. As you watch this, try to gain a sense of the shared joyfulness of 38,000 people united in song, counting down to a championship for their home team. It was awe-inspiring. (Note: if you are reading this in the body of an email you will have to go to the original post to watch the video.)
After Sweet Caroline, the last vestiges of my emotional safety net disappeared. I was all in. The Red Sox were going to win this World Series, or I was going to crash (again).
In the top of the ninth inning we brought in our ace reliever, the Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara (yes the broad use of the pronoun “we” is intentional). As he jogged in from the bullpen the entire stadium exploded in sustained applause. This would be the final, climactic act in a season-long drama. Everyone stood up, including me in my iBot, and didn’t sit down again that evening. It took Uehara only 13 pitches to finish off the Cardinals.
I've tried unsuccessfully to find the words to describe what happened next. However, I can say this. Whether it was the residual frustrations of 95 years of never winning a World Series at home, or a lingering inability to feel comfortable, really comfortable, in this city since the April 15 Marathon bombings, or any other little thing that wasn't right in our lives at the moment, all of that was set aside and world was suddenly a brighter place. We knew this feeling could not last forever. Reality was waiting for us just around the corner. But as a group we accepted that it was our privilege and even our obligation to ride this wave of positivity for as long as we could. And we did. And none of us will ever forget it.
And here is our (rough) video of it.
Click here for part four.
Note: It may seem like this blog has turned into the New England Sports Journal, but I assure you after this series of posts I’ll avoid the topic of New England sports for a while. I promise!
Post Game Pictures