Saturday, September 24, 2011

Down Under Editor Chimes In

Confidence Renewed

by Mark Lawrence, Down Under Editor

Sydney, Australia—September 23, 2011. Expecting to wake up this morning just in time for the 9:05AM (Sydney) start of what’s probably Boston’s most critical series, I was disappointed – yet oddly relieved – that Game One had been postponed. Disappointed because my Saturday morning baseball ritual had been disrupted and relieved because, well – you know why. Anyone remotely familiar with my stuff here at FenwayNation would probably remark on my consistent confidence in the club and usually they’d be right. I’ve always managed to find some slender ray of hope for the Red Sox, even when times have been at their toughest. But in light of this latest Swoon, I find myself – for the first time - feeling a little detached from the struggling club and unable to muster much confidence in anything at all.

Of course, the team had a disastrous start to the 2011 Campaign and those who had talked pre-season about a heavenly 100 Win Season shrunk back down behind their beers and pretended they’d never held any such belief at all. But there certainly had been reason enough to hope – Theo had finagled some trades and acquisitions that looked good on paper – but as they say, the games aren’t played on paper. The new additions disappointed – some wags re-christened Carl as Coco and predictably the Media Pack belittled Ortiz before he’d hefted his first bat of the season – but the veterans delivered, by and large, and that dreadful start faded in the Nation’s memory. The team pulled itself together and got back on track –so much so that a post-season berth seemed like a solid gold lock.

Of course, these slumps are nothing new – although June Swoons are preferable to the September variety – and they can be so very demoralizing at times. In fact, more than half the respondents to the most recent FenwayNation Poll equated the heartbreaking 1978 one-game play-off loss to their anticipated disappointment should Boston fail to reach the post-season this year. That’s a pretty damning equation, but in an odd way the sentiment is somehow familiar to me. Haven’t we been here before? Are we starting to repeat those late 20th century decades where Boston played the hapless underdog, the scrappy team that could always be relied upon to find new and unusual ways of Blowing It?

Perhaps we are. But, as the boys wait out the wet weather down in Gotham we’d all do well to remember that in America’s Pastime, those unexpected twists and turns and ninth inning heroics are why we watch the game – anything can happen and only a fool would give up before the last out of the last game.

Over the decades, the Red Sox have demonstrated this winning quality just as often as they’ve disappointed us – that’s why we’re fans – and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t put up a hell of a fight against the New York Nine this weekend. And there’s every reason to believe that they might just win.

Back in 2008, I watched with mounting nausea as Tampa Bay held Boston in its sweaty palm with a seven zero lead in the top of the seventh in Game 5 of the ALCS – I sat at that bar, stared into my beer and gave up on the team. But the team didn’t give up on itself - the boys retied their cleats, hitched up their pants and put up eight magnificent runs in those last three innings to win the game. Well, whaddya know? I think I've got my confidence back. How about the rest of you?