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Red Sox Part 1 I can't believe how excited I am. Hard to do any work, I haven't been sleeping well, and pretty much the rest of my life has been on hold. I'm reading every piece of write-up, however misguided or redundant, on the Sox that I can. I am in danger of falling into the vortex of the Sons of Sam Horn discussion board, never to be heard from again. I am listening to last night's game, which I watched on television, online today so I can hear it discussed and announced by Boston's home team announcers. Fox Sports guys just don't understand. For those of you who also do not understand, let me explain. I am not, by another metric, a sports guy. I don't know a thing about football, hockey, basketball, or anything else. I am barely aware of the National League, even though I live in Philadelphia. But I am a Red Sox fan. Born in Massachusetts, raised in Maine, I have plenty of Sox memories in my 26 years on earth. In 1984 at age 6 I watched my AL first pennant race and World Series with my parents. My father would buy me the team sets of baseball cards, one little plastic case with the complete set of players for each team. I remember that the 85 series was between St. Louis and Kansas City, and I remember taking out the card of whoever was at bat and reading the statistics. This was the one time of year that I got to stay up late with the adults, every game. 11:30! It was a little bit of annual magic, not unlike Christmas, but stretched out for up to fourteen games. All along my nascent baseball education, I learned to root root root for the home team. The home team is the Boston Red Sox. For Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and at least half of Connecticut, the Home Team is the boys of Beantown. It's not an easy thing, either. Every Sox fan worth his Moxie can tell you why. The curse, the Bambino, the Yankees. I won't even bother to retell the details here. You know the story. Every single article by a major sports source has told it. But the thing they can't tell you, the thing you can't know without being a part of it, is how deep these fans feel every victory, near victory, and outright defeat, year after year after 86th year. Being a Boston fan is not about eternal pessimism. Its not about giving up, being down on your team, or even blaming the Yankees. In Philadelphia this year it took about a month to go from "Phillies are going all the way this year!" to "Bunch'a bums, fire 'em all!" Boston does not treat their teams this way. We certainly get down on players, managers, and situations. We bleed red and it reminds us of our team. But the underlying theme of Red Sox Nation is one of Hope. How else could a team who has failed so many times; who, despite all rational thought, really appears to be cursed, attract and keep such a loyal fan base? By what other reason could the Boston Red Sox keep people cheering for a team that is so often almost-the-best, and so often not-quite-good-enough? Because New Englanders, especially the most cold-weather stoics of the northern region, know that the key to survival in a long winter is to keep a fire burning. The fire of hope, of waiting till Spring. Spring training every year fills us with a hope, the long season stretched out before us as a grand mystery, waiting to be discovered. Like a new novel by your favorite author, or a pile of gifts under a Christmas tree, every year the fire of hope and anticipation burns anew. And that curse. Oh, how it haunts us. And those Yankees. Evil empire, indeed. The best kind of hope, the most tried and true kind, is the hope that must persist against repeated evidence to the contrary. Having faith in the Yankees is like having faith for snow in January in Maine. Having faith in the Red Sox is possibly the best earthly image of Divine Faith you can find. Faith in the unseen, in a possible, brilliant future that defies the logic of what we see in this present, evil age. So for those of you who still don't get it, the Red Sox in the playoffs is so much more than baseball, more than sport, more than nations competing once every four years for a gold medal. Its for boys watching games with their fathers, for four generations of fans who will see a curse be shattered in their own lifetimes, for all the times we've said "maybe next year" and looked forward to the Winter meetings. Its for cramming into the obstructed view seats in Fenway Park, the endless phone calls between my family and friends back in Maine, to make sure we're all watching. Instead of the fire of hope keeping us warm through the winter months, we dream of the torch of victory.

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