Opinion: World Series Victory More Than Just Baseball

During the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 6 of the World Series, I couldn’t sit still.

Courtesy of Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media

Courtesy of Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media

My roommates looked at me like I was crazy as I paced back and forth across the tile floor of our eight-man suite, pulsating with more anxiety and energy than I ever have before. The name “Pedroia” proudly strewn across my shoulder blades and my group project presentation pushed aside for the night, my eyes were glued to the TV in anticipation as the Red Sox 6-1 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals promised, and soon proved, to be the Sox’s first World Series win at Fenway in almost a century.

It has always been easy for me to root for Boston’s boys of the diamond. Although a Pennsylvania native, my dad’s loyalty to the Sox over the years inevitably rubbed off on the rest of our family, so we’ve collectively seen our fair share of the ups and downs of Boston’s long and emotionally draining history. The “Bucky Bleeping Dent” fiasco of 1978. Buckner’s fatally open legs in ’86. The Game 7 loss to the Yankees in ’03.

But as Boston fans know extremely well by now, loyalty pays off in the end.  Officially breaking the Curse of the Bambino with a three-game comeback in the ALCS against the Yankees and eventual sweep of the Cardinals in 2004. The bounce-back season of 2007 that led to an eventual sweep of the Rockies to become world champs once again.

And now we add another chapter to the fascinating history of the boys of Boston: 2013 World Series Champs, winning the title at home in Fenway for the first time since 1918.

But this victory was more than just being the best. It was more than just a story of baseball. It was a story of a comeback, of both a team and a city. In 2012, the Sox had posted a 69-93 record, the worst record in the American League East and the third worst in the American League.  In 2013, the Red Sox are on top of the world.

Courtesy of Jenna LaConte/Gavel Media

Courtesy of Jenna LaConte/Gavel Media

On April 15, 2013, the city of Boston fell to its knees, the bottom of the bottom, as two bombs shattered the joyous occasion that was the Boston Marathon, one of the most celebrated and glorious events of the year in Beantown. Now in October, a mere six months later, the citizens of the city once again gathered in the streets with smiles on their faces, and this time there was no one to stifle their uncontainable happiness.

 

I’ve heard over the past week or so comments from friends, peers and classmates that they couldn’t care less about the World Series, or that they’re sick of hearing about the Red Sox, and I’ve even gotten the occasional sarcastic, “Go sports!” followed by a grumbling mockery of those who actually care about a couple of baseball games.

I hate to say it, but I find these comments so incredibly ignorant. The way I see it, the Red Sox this season have represented more than just another sports team.

It doesn’t matter how much you know or don’t know about baseball, it’s easy to see that the journey of the Sox over the past six months has meant more than just a successful season in the books. Historically, the Sox have represented adversity, struggle and aggravating disappointment. At times, fans have felt like the scum of the earth, and even that is an understatement. Red Sox Nation has been at the bottom, and knows what it’s like to experience heartfelt sadness and loss.

This city underwent more than its fair share of loss on that tragic April day. Worlds were shattered, hearts were broken, dreams were crushed, and it seemed at the time that we would never see a light through the smoke. The words of David Ortiz just five days after Marathon Monday sparked a little bit of hope, but the truth of the situation was that Bostonians were hurting and needed a spark, something to show that every little thing was going to be alright.

This measly baseball team, this group of 25 men who swing their big sticks and sprint toward pieces of rubber, they were that spark. Anyone who’s ever been to a baseball game, especially one at Fenway, can attest to the fact that there’s something about the sport that brings people together. The atmosphere. The close proximity of the seats. The moment when the stadium shakes with excitement after Papi blasts one over the Monster. The way that the crowd sings out “’Cause every little thing is gonna be alright” even after Bob Marley’s voice cuts off over the loudspeaker. It’s a powerful vibe that makes you sit back in your 100-year-old wooden seat, Fenway Frank in hand, and think, “This is what it feels like to be alive and part of the human race.”

I think a little bit of that feeling was taken from each one of us on that tragic day. Oftentimes, the witnessing of death and destruction forces us to reexamine our mortality, perhaps in a way that can make us feel alone or have doubts about the future. In the wake of tragedy, I remember feeling more alone than ever, as if no one could possibly understand what I was feeling or going through. You begin to feel as if life is fleeting, a temporary moment in time lost in less than 15 seconds due to an explosion of nails and glass.

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Courtesy of Jenna LaConte/Gavel Media

But when Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter and rushed toward the mound, when the dugout sprinted toward the diamond in celebration, when the sounds of “Sweet Caroline” and “Let’s go Red Sox” erupted in the streets, that’s when I felt things that I had not seen even a hint of since the day of the Marathon Bombings. I felt alive again.

That’s when the city took back what was taken from them. We could dance through Kenmore Square. We could lie on the ground and kiss the Marathon finish line on Boylston Street. We could yell out the names of strangers in support of all the training, preparation, and hard work they’ve done for months with uninhibited joy and enthusiasm. For the first time since the bombings, we could gather in the streets of our beloved city, shoulder to shoulder, and cheer for something in celebration.

You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to appreciate what the Red Sox have played for over the course of this past season. If you ran in the Marathon last year, if you cheered for runners in your Heartbreak Hill tank from the sidewalks on that day, if you go to Boston College and interact with the city of Boston, this victory applies directly to you. You were hurt by tragedy, you experienced a loss, and you watched a city put itself back together, carried on the backs of a baseball team.

Courtesy of Jenna LaConte/Gavel Media

Courtesy of Jenna LaConte/Gavel Media

Looking back on this World Series 10 years from now, it won’t matter who batted well and who didn’t. It won’t matter who had the best on-base percentage. It won’t even matter that John Lackey managed to pitch seven innings and only allow one run. Perhaps it won’t even be about baseball in the end. Sure, it’s fantastic—no, more like indescribable—that the Red Sox have won their third World Series in a decade after an 86-year drought. But that’s something only a baseball fan would care about.

What matters more is what Bostonians will care about, that a team who started in last place, well-versed in the concept of loss, managed to pull itself together and work its way back up to the top again, much like the city that remained loyal to it. That’s why this World Series should matter to not just baseball or sports fans, but fans of Boston. It’s about more than just baseball. It’s about recovery, coming together, and once again, celebrating and taking back what was ours.

So yeah, “Go sports.” We owe sports a huge round of applause. We can’t thank them enough for restoring life to a city that just needed a little extra dose of champagne showers and “Shipping Up To Boston” renditions to rekindle its spirits. And to the 2013 Red Sox, champions of the world: Congratulations, and thank you so much for giving us a reason to celebrate again.

Featured image courtesy of Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media

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Mary Yuengert