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Mike Wise

One Nation, Indivisible

By Mike Wise
Friday, October 22, 2004; Page D01

First, let's put our hands together and thank Johnny Damon and the Boston Red Sox for beating a franchise and a fan base who act more entitled than Donald Trump's children.

Now, go out and win the World Series and be done with it. Speaking for all non-members of Red Sox Nation, we can't take another 86 years of your loathing.


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If you're not a member of the Nation -- which is not really a legion of fans as much as it is a self-help group -- the next week or so is going to be awful, flat-out insufferable.

Every eternal pessimist of a Red Sox fan is going to have to re-evaluate their lifestyle, find a new identity. Lucy may let them kick the ball. Impending doom could now be a life choice. Hundreds of thousands of New Englanders will become less jaded and cynical and more hopeful, maybe nauseatingly ducky. We're happy for them, but we will miss their inherent sadness. Rooting for an October loser is what they did best.

Now, this unbelievable vindication in New York on Wednesday night. That pulsating comeback to win the American League pennant at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 was not just for the octogenarian in Vermont clinging to the belief his team will win before he is taken deep. No, Boston's win over New York was also for every annoying twenty-something from Yonkers, the guy who treats a four-year World Series hiatus by the Yankees like central California treats drought. They will never understand real pain and suffering.

Good for the Nation, overcoming 101 years of baseball history, their own demons and George Steinbrenner's Visa. It's old news to say the Yankees annually trot out free agents like Microsoft trots out another version of Windows. It's almost cliche to say they're rich and spoiled and privileged. So let's just call them rich, spoiled and privileged.

On Wednesday night in the Bronx, Boston's legions could do no better than watching Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman staring down at a horde of bearded barbarians, who invaded the sacred house that Ruth built, Genghis-like, and won. Damon and Kevin Millar were basically looking for gruel and ale when the night ended and the scoreboard read 10-3, Red Sox.

Cashman was in utter disbelief. He had the look of every Red Sox fan who watched the ball scoot between Bill Buckner's legs, that "How could this have ever happened?" feeling known well by the Nation.

The franchise that made "This is Our Year" an annual facetious slogan did it. Finally.

What a fanatical journey. They were on the precipice of getting swept, three outs away with the best closer in baseball history pitching for New York. Something happened that night against Mariano Rivera, a flicker. Then the night game became a morning game, another victory, and there was a sense of relief that the series was going back to New York. They could go down with dignity.

On the comeback went. Curt Schilling on the mound in Game 6, Damon at the plate in Game 7. You half-expected James Earl Jones to emerge and tell Kevin Costner to keep the field.

Now, win the World Series and get this over with. We can barely take another schmaltzy week.

Much of the Bucky Dent generation will feel the Curse of the Bambino has been lifted. The Ghost of Babe and the Yankees banished, they can go on now -- no matter what happens against the National League champion. Those who remember listening to Ted Williams's name emanating from their Philcos know it does not end until the first World Series banner since 1918 is hung at Fenway Park.

Deep down, all of them wonder if this is it, that maybe it does not get any sweeter, that no higher drama can exist than what happened the past five days.

Full disclosure: Several friends needed counseling during the late innings of Games 4, 5 and 6. Because some unemployed comedian insisted they not worry when the Red Sox were down 0-3 -- that he had supreme confidence in their ability to come back and win the series -- they began to believe in karma coming through the phone line.

If you stayed on the other end long enough, Jason Varitek would actually hold onto Tim Wakefield's knuckleball and their boys would win.

You initially indulged them because you thought your friends needed the support and they might buy you dinner. Then you began to enjoy the manipulation, the ability to toy with your friends. When they needed to know how you felt about Game 7, you told them you had a bad feeling.

"Oh, God," they said. "No."

"Yeah, real bad feeling. If they use Pedro for more than two or three innings, he won't start Game 1 of the World Series."

"Yes!" they said, high-fiving you to the nth power.

These people are so malleable when it comes to their team, you almost pity them -- until you realize a Red Sox psychic hotline could be extremely profitable.

"Manny isn't clueless, staring into space as the ball is lined over his head. It's part of his Zen. Really. We take personal checks."

The sad thing is, you realize the last five days have been an ordeal for you as well.

It began Saturday with the Boston Massacre, a 19-8 Yankees hitting spree to all but bury the faithful. It ended four nights later, bodies tumbling over each other, a man in the stands with a sign that read, "Why Not Us?"

In between, David Ortiz became the first player in history to have two game-winning hits on the same day of the playoffs. And John Wayne practically climbed the mound in New York, bloodied but unbowed, rearing back for seven riveting innings. Schilling was magnificent. So was Johnny Drama, a guy in a hitting funk who represented the Nation's hopelessness. He finally took out his light sabre in Game 7. He confronted Pedro's Daddy and the Empire Struck Out.

You get off the phone on Wednesday night, your last counseling session complete, and you realize you're as hooked as those pathetic souls who have grown up rooting for this once-damned team.

You just hope they can end this, win the World Series and move on -- so your children won't be as insufferable.


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