We are Boston. We love sports. We have brains and energy and tradition and history. Our young people carry their love of Boston teams when they move to other parts of the country and the world.
And those of us who have lived here for a while simply cannot believe what just unfolded with the Boston Red Sox in October of 2013.
The Duck Dynasty Sox will ride the duck boats Saturday. They will wheel down Boylston Street past the sad spots where the bombs exploded in April. They will do the right thing, just as they have done all season. They will honor the dead and the maimed and the families of victims. And they will be thankful for being allowed to help lift a region after the heinous events of Patriots Day.
Though it feels like this team invented Boston Strong, the Sox are only a major league baseball team, and it’s neither fair nor respectful to overstate their role in our city’s recovery from the tragedy. Still, manager John Farrell had it right when he said, “There’s a civic responsibility that we have wearing this uniform, particularly here in Boston.’’
“We were playing for something more the rest of the year and we understood that,’’ Dustin Pedroia said Thursday on ESPN.
Bottom line: After the death and disruption of mid-April, the 2013 Sox made most everyone around here feel good again. The Sox were likable, and more important, they liked one another. A franchise famous for “25 guys, 25 cabs” became a magic bus of harmony, teamwork, and camaraderie. These highly paid, professional ballplayers actually enjoyed playing baseball and ignored the white noise that is so much a part of the Boston baseball experience.
In “Midnight Train To Georgia,” Gladys Knight sings, “LA proved too much for the man.’’ Boston baseball can be that way. Boston was too much for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Fortunately for Sox fans, Hub Hardball was a perfect fit for David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino.
They were the gang of seven free agents acquired by methodical, underrated general manager Ben Cherington after the train-wreck summer of 2012. Relieved of $261 million in future payroll obligations when the Dodgers took Carl and the Cooler, Cherington spent relatively short money on veteran “character” guys who had played in big markets and/or big games.
Everything worked. This Red Sox team was not as talented as the 2004 or 2007 teams. The Bearded Brotherhood is a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
In a way, the Sox were like a high school baseball team, snapping towels, giving wedgies, and assigning one another fuzzy nicknames. It would be easy to imagine the 2013 Sox holding team dinners at Mom Pedroia’s house, wearing their uniforms to school on game days, and singing songs on the bus en route to rival schools. The 2013 Boston baseball season was played at the intersection of “Moneyball’’ and “Friday Night Lights.’’
This was the ultimate Team. It was worthy of your love and dedication from the jump. Unfortunately, after the Bobby V Show, folks were mad at the Sox and few fans got on board early. Many of us in the media doubted this team’s ability to sustain its winning ways. We were wrong.
I thought they’d win 78 games. I couldn’t find an American League East team I thought would finish behind the Red Sox.
Being wrong is OK by me, but I was bombarded Thursday by fans consumed with a message of, “You need to eat crow! How could you have been so wrong?’’ I’m hoping all those folks went to Vegas in March and are now collecting thousands.
The 2013 Sox truly were a gift, and managed to go six months without any controversy or bad feelings. After a season of bleep-storms, Farrell managed for almost 200 games without a single brush fire (Bobby Valentine couldn’t make it through a homestand without fanning the flames of nonsense). This is the exception in Boston. The championship seasons of 2004 and 2007 were not always smooth. Manny was Manny, Schill was a blowhard, and Pedro was a diva. Goofy stuff happened along the way to winning the World Series Cup.
One last thought before Mr. Mayor tells everybody to mount their ducks on Saturday: In this magic moment, there has been some commentary that the 2013 championship is somehow the best of the bunch in this century. Combine worst to first with Boston Strong and a clubhouse of happy guys with beards and you somehow make this the best one.
Not me. If there is a medal platform of Red Sox seasons, the 2004 campaign will always grab the gold. That was the team that broke the 86-year-old curse. That was the team that overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees — the only time any baseball team ever came back from 3-0. The ’04 team is the team that changed everything. The story of the 2004 Red Sox is downright biblical.
Which doesn’t make this one any less special.