The Curse of the champions? Boston takes in another title
When is it too much?
When does a city whose cursed baseball team fed a gargantuan sense of civic grievance and self-pity lose something by winning again and again?
It used to be that a Sox fan could grow up, get married, raise kids, and retire without once tasting the sweet nectar of victory.
In 2004, we processed the end of The Curse. We adapted to the idea that we could bring a World Series championship home once every 86 years or so. Then things started to get a little out of hand.
We got another World Series win, and another. The Patriots added more Super Bowl rings to their haul, racking up a total of five. The Celtics and Bruins pulled in a championship each. Now it’s past the point of ludicrous: Boston’s four major sports teams have won 11 championships since 2002.
No one can stand us anymore. How can we even stand ourselves?
“I think of all the kids, and I’ll call them kids, under legal drinking age: They have no idea what older generations are talking about when they talk about the Curse of the Bambino, the struggles Boston had against the Lakers or the Jets,” said Michael Ian Borer, a sociology professor and author of “Faithful to Fenway: Believing in Boston, Baseball, and America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.” “They’re living with a different cultural narrative: a city that’s winning, a city that’s on top.”
That kind of stunning success can “give people a jump in their step,” he said. But it also comes with a downside, said Borer, himself a long-suffering Mets fan.
“Joy,” he said, “can turn quickly into arrogance.”
Evidence suggests that gloating about Boston’s sports dominance has now become a full-time occupation for locals who once loudly bemoaned their teams’ losing ways.
“Some people never got to see it once in their lifetime, and now look at us,” said Sefatia Romeo Theken, the mayor of Gloucester. “We’re all walking on Cloud 9 — even if you don’t enjoy the Red Sox and you’re not a sports person, we’re all talking about it.”
All that winning can have a profound effect on the civic fabric, said Benjamin Winegard, an assistant professor of psychology at Hillsdale College in Michigan. He’s the coauthor of a 2010 study, “The Evolutionary Significance of Red Sox Nation,” that found the bonds formed among sports fans are very deeply rooted in human society.
“It’s similar to the identity you would form with a coalition as a hunter-gatherer,” Winegard said.
In other words, Red Sox fans are feeling the same kind of tribal loyalty that prehistoric humans might have felt after they speared a particular sizable wooly mammoth.
“It leads to increases in testosterone, and when your team wins, wearing all the merchandise and wanting to signal that you are actually a member of this highly successful group,” said Winegard, a frustrated Brewers fan. “You become obnoxious to fans of other teams.”
On the positive side, it can also turn Bostonians, never the warmest of tribes, into friendlier folks.
“If you had two humans who are two complete strangers and you both have Chris Sale jerseys on, all of a sudden you’re part of the same group. It gives you a sense of solidarity,” he said. “You’re not wary of that person.”
Who knows? You might even give them a nod.
Several fans noted the good vibes were particularly welcome after a brutal week that saw a gunman kill two black people in a Kentucky grocery store after trying to enter a predominantly black church, and another gunman massacre 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Given the hatred and violence nationally, seeing such a diverse team play together for the championship was a reminder “of what’s right in our country,” said Robert Lewis Jr., founder of the BASE, a Roxbury organization that mentors young people through baseball.
He noted it was once unthinkable for the Sox to have so many black and Latino players and a Latino manager, Alex Cora. The team was the last to integrate in Major League Baseball.
“Those things don’t slip by me,” Lewis said. “This is a great American story for our franchise.”
Seeing the first Puerto Rican manager win the Word Series was moving, too, for Celina Miranda, executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force, a community group in a heavily Latino section of Jamaica Plain.
“With Alex Cora at the helm, we raise the visibility of Latinx contributions to Boston, and in particular of the longstanding Puerto Rican community,” she said. “We have a lot to learn from Cora’s leadership and humility.”
Cora had already impressed many by negotiating an assurance from the Sox that they would send a planeload of supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
After hoisting the World Series trophy on Sunday night, he said, “The next thing I’m going to ask ownership is if we can take this trophy to my island.”
That sentiment reminded Robert Pinsky, the former United States poet laureate, of the pride he felt as a child rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team that represented ethnic Brooklyn and signed Jackie Robinson.
“This is kind of glorious and splendid and has a moral quality,” said Pinsky, a professor at Boston University. “And if we’re lucky, the Red Sox will be able to combine both success and glory, which is a noble thing.”