New England is a remarkable hub for sports fans with recurring championships in all genres but I am monogamous when it comes to sports.
My heart belongs to baseball.
I was in the stands at Fenway Park for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series and the vibe was electric. The opening ceremony was grand and touching. The Green Monster was draped in a huge American flag and was the backdrop for tributes to heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombings. And Dave Roberts, famous for his 2004 post-season steal against the Yankees, threw out the first pitch.
Going into Game 1, The Sox had the upper-hand: Home-field advantage, their ace on the mound, and a well-rested team. But the Sox scoreless and nearly hitless innings piled up, and the mood went from party to funeral. The game dragged on for nearly 4 hours - the longest nine inning 1-0 game in postseason history and the Sox lost to Detroit.
The agony continued in game 2. The usually-patient Sox batters were desperately hacking at off-speed pitches and by the 8th inning they had a combined 30 strike-outs in the series. The ritual-singing of "Sweet Caroline" felt like a chore as the sense of curse was hanging heavy over Fenway Park.
But then the improbable happened: The Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Big Papi hit a grand slam, knocking both the ball and center-fielder Torii Hunter out of the ballpark. We fans went from stunned silence to a delirious roar: complete strangers high-five-ing and hugging and cheering until Papi stepped out of the dug-out for a tumultuous curtain-call.
Sox magician-closer Koji Uehara did his job in the top of the 9th by keeping the tied-game intact. In the final inning a wild-pitch, followed by Saltalamacchia's line-drive ended the game in a glorious “walk-off" heap. The Sox carried the momentum into this past weekend when they clinched the Pennant in a decidedly upbeat and thrilling Game 6 victory.
So it's on to the World Series- an exciting proposition... but tempered a bit by the knowledge that we're down to our last week of baseball.
I can't bear the thought of “Soxtober” ending. Former legendary baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti put it best: “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."
For now I'll stay in the moment pumped up by those incredible grand-slam replays while the sound of “Shipping Up to Boston” rings in my ears.
I can't grow a beard so my lucky Red Sox necklace is staying on as long as necessary.