When love turns to hate, it is the bitterest kind, as the Boston Red Sox have discovered.
The team that was created for Fenway Park -- and that was worshiped as the secular religion of New England -- now cannot wait to escape its monstrous little home, full of green and moldering memories that soured long ago.
"It's a relief to be on the road and away from Fenway," sighed Carlton Fisk," the man who once did a midnight dance around that park while the nation watched.
"I wish we could pack up the Red Sox fans who come to cheer for us away from home and take them back to Boston with us," mused Fisk, listening to a typically warm greeting for the Sox in Memorial Stadium.
"Our old New England fans have turned into sadists. They love to see us suffer."
The look on Red Sox faces is the expression of the innocent man on death row waiting for his sentence to be commuted. Blameless, but condemned.
Fisk smiled weakly at the analogy. "But i Boston," he said, "you never get pardoned."
The core of the sadness that surrounds the Red Sox -- like a noose of loathing that has tightened for two years, ever since their 1978 playoff loss to New York -- is that these Carmine Hose know that they are largely guiltless.
But nobody will believe them.
"The people in Boston don't deserve this team," fumed reliever Dick Drago. "All they do is tear us down. No wonder we're playing better on the road."
Believe it or not, these children of the Wall are 24-16 away, and 16-20 in Fenway, where they have been outscored by 51 runs.
When the Sox got here, a huge anti-Red Sox obscenity had been burned in the Oriole infield with kerosene by vandals. "It must have been done by Boston fans who saw us get swept in Fenway by the Yankees this week," was the instant quip from a Bosox writer.
Perhaps no baseball team in recent decades has been surrounded by such a mordant, fatalistic atmosphere.
Manager Don Zimmer sat in the Red Sox dugout, arms folded across chubby chest, as old Baltimore friends greeted him on Thursday.
Tapping the word "Boston" on his chest Zimmer said, "I still got the uniform on. That must mean I'm still the manager."
Even as humorless and intense an old-line baseball man as Zimmer has gone over to the cynical tone of voice that distinguishes discussions of Red Sox baseball. "I have a yearly contract with hourly options," says Zimmer.
The dominant team characteristic of the Sox is illusion. They are seldom what they appear to be.
A club built on pitching, defense and fundamentals usually will look decent, even if it is not spectacular because so many of its games are close. That type of team -- the Orioles for example -- goes frequently underrated, but seldom viciously criticized.
By contrast, the Sox -- a team of sluggers that is suspect on the mound and in the field -- will win or lose dramatically. "We're created for exaggeration," Fisk said.
Boston still has its .280 team average, its 85 homers, but it also has 28 more errors than its opponents and yields at 4.87 earned run average that is poor even when the Fenway Factor is taken into account.
"When did a team last slug its way to a pennant?" Fred Lynn asks laconically.
"We don't want constant praise," Fisk pleaded. "We just wish our strengths were recognized, instead of everybody constantly dwelling on the negative.
"This team has glaring weaknesses that never seem to be improved -- or even worked on -- from year to year (by management)," Fisk continued. "We seem content always to remain the same."
In baseball, remaining the same is an invitation to erosion of both morale and age. The Red Sox psyches have been analyzed until they seem ground to a fine powder.
"I try not to be a philosopher," said gritty shortstop Rick Burleson. "I just play the game as hard as I can every day and try to ignore everything else."
That attitude, perhaps the best that is possible in Boston, leads to a grim, workmanlike, aloof mood on the Sox. That attitude produces more victories than defeats, but rules out the sort of inspiration that infected the 1975 and '78 Sox with swagger and magic.
The Sox don't hate each other, nor are they particularly afflicted with clubhouse lawyers. They have just bee n burned so often they have retreated into a "baseball is business" shell.
Even Tony Perez, the league RBI leader and the epitome of a chattering, teasing team leader, has blended with the Sox sounds of silence and cheered down, contenting himself merely to drive in runs.
Just two years ago, the Red Sox were such home territory princes that red engineers' caps in Fenway were emblazoned with their nicknames -- Pudge, Yaz, Dewey, Butch, Rooster . . .
Those names remain, but the assumption in Boston is almost universal that the time has come to break up the beloved nucleus of the '75 World Series darlings.
One Boston paper is in its third week of daily front-page man-in-the-street interviews on the topic: "What Would You Do If You Owned the Red Sox?"
The assumption, for a team that won 91 games last year, is that something drastic is an inevitability.
Fire Zimmer? Trade the veterans Hobson, Remy and Evans for pitching -- even all three for one young arm of proven quality? Then play the promising trio of youngsters who play their positions -- Dave Stapleton (second), Glenn Hoffman (third) and Garry Hancock (outfield)?
The irony of contemplating a total housecleaning on a team that has won 283 games in the last three years is mind-boggling by traditional baseball standards. But that's where the Red Sox, baseball's team on death row, have arrived.
In the eighth inning of the Sox' 1-0 win today, the O's mascot-fan Wild Bill Hagy led cheerss on the Birds' dugout roof. The Orioles are far behind in the race, too, but nothing but cheers were heard for them.
"If somebody tried to do that for us n Fenway Park," said Fisk, "he'd get strangled."
And when this game ended, when the Sox escaped their last predicament, at least 10,000 of the 28,351 people in this alien park stood to give Boston an ovation.
To the Sox, it was music that their ears had almost forgotten.
Now, if only they never had to go home again.