Friday, July 31, 2009

I thought I was over Baseball

I grew up a Red Sox fan, making regular pilgrimages to Fenway to see Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and company play the Great American Pastime. Be it in the bleachers near the Green Monster, behind home plate, or underneath the "Jimmy Fund" billboard, every seat was the best seat because I was at Fenway.

I moved to Philadelphia later, and went to Veterans Stadium to see the Phillies play. While they weren't the cherished Red Sox, it was still a good game to watch. Mike Schmidt, Juan Samuel and Von Hayes made the game interesting, and I even got to watch the pitchers swing the bat.

Eventually, the Strike of '93-94 came along, and I swore that I was done with professional baseball. Greed on all sides had ruined the game.

Later, I would occasionally catch some Red Sox game on TV, as I flipped through the channels. I would be glued until the game was over, but I still never purposely made time for it.

Then, in September 2004, I started paying attention again. The Red Sox were doing pretty well, and all Bosox fans were waiting for the inevitable choke, stumble, and fiery crash. And we kept waiting, and the Sox kept avoiding disaster, sometimes only just. During the ALCS, I was glued to the Red Sox site, reading box scores, columns, and recaps. I watched them on TV, my son's Red Sox cap on my head, sometimes inside out (as needed). I'd cheer. I'd sigh. I'd even yell occasionally . "Don Zimmer gets pwned!"

After the Sox clinched the AL pennant, I was pumped. The 2004 World Series just seemed perfunctory, as the outcome was preordained. This was Boston's year. No Mookie Wilson, no Bill Buckner this time, we were going all the way. I was hooked, reeled in, and on the skillet. Red Sox forever! The World Series win in 2007 was just extra icing on the cake.

Naive? Sure. But it was such a rush at the time, all my childhood dreams at Fenway were realized. But the revelation was slow and steady, as the news rolled out player after player testing positive for steroids and HGH. After Manny Ramirez tested positive last year, and got suspended, I started wondering if he was juicing back in 2004 as well. Then I looked hard at Big Papi, and marveled, "Dang, he's as big as Barry Bonds." 2 + 2 = Dirty.

So, this week's news is not terribly surprising, but it just further fuels my disgust with the sport in general. I thought I was over baseball. But the ache in my heart tells me otherwise.