Tuesday, August 10, 2004: In a lot of ways, I was forged as a fan between 1978 and 1986. between the two horrific losses that most created the modern Red Sox fan. In 1978, the infamous Bucky F!@#ing Dent game was my first real painful fan experience. I watched it on the living room floor at my grandparents’/dad’s farm, where I spent a good percentage of my formative years. The details of that game are well known, I have covered them elsewhere, and suffice it to say, that game was the sort of introduction destined to foster a life of heartbreak. If our relationships with our mothers largely dictate how we men interact with women for most of our lives, then our connections with our sports teams as a boy have a similar effect on our relationships with those teams until we die.

If the 1978 game marks one bookend of those formative years, the 1986 World Series forms the other. Again, no detail needed, as lazy journalists and networks have used the stock footage of the Buckner play so many times that their telling of the tale has prevailed, despite the fact that in this little narrative Bob Stanley and Rich Gedman never appear, and they never bother to make clear that game 6 was not the last game of that series.
But the years in between are just as important for someone my age. For in the eight years in between, the Red Sox were the worst of all things – they were mediocre, especially after that great team of the 1970s fell apart so that by 1981 or 1982 a team that had shown so much promise to emerge as a consistent powerhouse instead became a nonfactor. These were the first years when I attended games at Fenway, which, at an hour and a half to two hours from my small hometown of Newport, New Hampshire, was the equivalent to going to Mars. These were the years when hopes would start off so high and soon would be dashed. These were the years when I grew to hate, to loathe, to despise Yankees fans. From 1978 to 1986, the two years that brought us unbelievable highs and crushing lows, was forged a new generation of Red Sox fans. Those were somewhat dreary years, and in a sense the last decade or so has marked a transition. The Red Sox historically are almost always good, rarely are they horrible, a few years in the 20s and 30s, 60s, and 1992-1993 notwithstanding. But in the last few years, we have been consistently very good, and in some years outstanding.
But I have come to realize in the last few weeks that maybe this team is a lot more like those teams of the early 80s than I thought. Sure, there is more talent on paper. But these guys are equally as frustrating. In a listing of the truly frustrating seasons in this team’s recent history there are a few trends. One is that after years in which we defy expectations and/or go a long way, we tend to build up expectations only to see them dashed – 1968, 1976, 1979, 1987 – these were all seasons we entered expecting great things only to see it all go awry. 2004 looks a bit like these years. But of late those years have seemed to happen more and more often, 2002 being a prime but not lone example. I am certainly not giving up hope, and I do not buy into these trends as determinant or even predictive. But they are interesting.
I say all of this in the context of last night’s loss, yet another one not worth rehashing. Schilling got crushed, giving up three homers. The bats never got going. It was effectively over by the 4th inning. And all of this against a team we should be pounding soundly at a time of the season that will make or break us. There are three more games in this series. It would be really, really nice if we could play the sort of baseball that will let us win them. I was a lot more resilient in 1984 than I am two decades hence.

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