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Jaywalking: The life of a Sox fan


Monday, October 29, 2018

What a weekend for Red Sox fans.

After an epic 18-inning game on Friday night, the Red Sox earned a thrilling comeback victory on Saturday night before winning the World Series on Sunday.

I sent Recorder colleague Jeff Lajoie a text Saturday morning to see if he stayed up until 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, which was approximately the time Max Muncy hit a walk-off home run off Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi to send the Dodgers off with a 3-2 victory in an 18-inning affair that marked the longest game in World Series history. Lajoie said he had called it a night before the Muncy bomb, and asked if I made it.

“College Jay would have been all in, but dad Jay knew he had kids waking up at 6:30, so I called it a night after the Kinsler error,” I responded.

It got me thinking about how different each of these World Series titles have been for me personally, and I’m sure every person could look back on their lives and reflect about where they were for each of the four recent titles. It certainly is a different time to be a Red Sox fan than it was when I was an 18-year-old kid entering college.

That was back in the fall of 2000, and the Red Sox were anything but seasonal title contenders. If you are over the age of 25, you probably remember when Red Sox fans thirsted for a World Series title. Prior to 2004, it felt like Boston might never win one. The year before, Boston felt like it had a chance, but in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Aaron Boone hit a walk-off home run against Tim Wakefield to end the run. Boone, who hit 126 home runs in a 12-year career, muscled one over the left-field wall in Yankee Stadium, only adding to the misery of Red Sox fans who believed that a curse had been bestowed upon their team after trading away Babe Ruth after the 1919 season. Since then, there had been many well-documented reasons to believe the team was in fact cursed. Even casual fans have heard of Bill Buckner and the choke job that was the 1986 World Series against the Mets, and others will recall 1978 and the 14-game lead that the Sox held over the Yankees in mid-July, only to see the teams play a one-game playoff to decide the pennant in which Bucky Dent (who hit even fewer home runs than Aaron Boone) hit a three-run home run in the seventh that gave the Yankees a lead they never relinquished. The Yankees won the game 5-4 and went on to win the World Series.

But then 2004 happened. It was a perfect time for it in my life. I was in my senior year at UMass, which meant I was in my prime rooting years. Late-night games were no problem so long as my fridge was fully stocked. When pitcher Keith Foulke fielded a ground ball and threw over to Doug Mientkiewicz to record the final out, it was pure euphoria, as cheers erupted from homes throughout New England. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s something that has been unmatched by any of the next three championships. The celebration lasted for days and was matched by young and old.

By the time we got to 2007, I was in a different chapter of my life. I was a single, 25-year old, who was no longer in college, but part of the workforce, as I was “celebrating” the end of my first full year here at the Recorder. I was still firmly in my cheering prime, but 2007 was just a little different. Maybe there was still a bit of a hangover from 2004, maybe the problem was that the high from 2004 will never be matched, but 2007 could not match the hype of three years earlier. The feeling of jubilation was still there when the series was over, but it was subdued.

The same was true of 2013. I was a newly-engaged man of 31 and was past my cheering prime. Maybe other people felt differently. Maybe I was no longer as big a fan as I once was. I remember being a little disappointed that I wasn’t more excited, but it was what it was.

This season felt different for me  for some reason. I was as excited for the Red Sox-Yankees games in the middle of the season as I have been since A-Rod and Jason Varitek were exchanging blows in 2004. Sure, the Red Sox had the highest payroll in baseball, but even their highest-paid players seemed to have weak spots. David Price and Chris Sale — two of the top-paid players on the team — had not performed well in the postseason. Same was the case for MVP candidate Mookie Betts. The Sox also no longer had their binky in David Ortiz. And despite winning a team-record 108 games in the regular season, many people still felt they were an underdog in the playoffs. In other words, this team had a lot to prove and winning was anything but a given.

I watched nearly every game during the playoffs, and when I got back from the Mohawk-Palmer football game on Friday night, Game 3 was on in the office and I watched until leaving around midnight. When I got home, I put the game on, figuring I would witness some dramatics, and thought I had made the right decision to stay up to see Brock Holt score in the 13th inning. But then Kinsler slipped while fielding a routine ground ball hit to second that would have ended the game. Even if he ate the ball, the Dodgers would have had runners on the corners, but instead he threw it wildly to first, missing badly, and the game-tying run came around. It was the sort of play that reminded me of the pre-2004 Sox. Back then, a play like that would have been blamed on the Curse. Instead, it will go down as an error that led to the longest game in World Series history. Knowing that I was going to be up at 6:30 a.m. along with my two little daughters — a small price I pay for getting a little extra sleep during the week — I decided to go to bed. College Jay would have been upset, but Dad Jay felt good about his decision. It allowed me to get enough sleep to stay up until midnight on Saturday and cheer on the epic comeback the Sox had in Game 4, and I was fully awake on Sunday night when the Sox clinched. The victory was exciting, and while I didn’t celebrate like I would have 14 years ago, this one had plenty of meaning.

Baseball is back atop the sports landscape in New England and with the way things have been going for New England sports fans over the past two decades, you are left to wonder where you will be in life the next time we celebrate a title. And as a New York Giants fan, I’m not too worried that I will be cheering an NFL title any time soon.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder Sports Editor. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.