Sunday, October 19, 2008

Everything Is Nothing If You've Got No One

So, it’s come to this. Tied series. Game seven. At the Trop.

The question is: How?

Game five, the deal seemed just about sealed for the Chowdas going into the bottom of the seventh. And then? Well, it all happened so fast. Pedroia with an RBI. Papi with a three-run dinger. Then, in the eighth, there is the two-run shot by D.L. Drew. And, of course, the Sultan of Suck has a mind-blowing at-bat before eventually driving Kotsay home from second with a single into right—tying the game. Then, well. We all know how that story ends. Walk-off single for a “historical” comeback. (I put historical in quotes because I think that the amount of attention that this game receives from history will have a little something to do with whether or not the Chowdas are able to actually take the series.) From there, of course, they managed to grind out a sixth game win against Shields in Tampa. Varitek Shmaritek, blah, blah, blah.

And here we are.

Since 2004, there has undoubtedly been a paradigm shift. The Chowdas are no longer the team that you can count on to lie down and die the way that for years, and years, and years, and years—well, I’m not going to write it out eighty-six times—you were able to. They’re grittier, less pathetic, a team that’s capable of a miraculous comeback. They’re officially not losers anymore.

Unfortunately, as I have suggested on my blog, this hasn’t done much to imbue them with a winner’s psychology. They’re like the consummate losers who, now, finally on a winning streak, feel the need to overcompensate with obnoxious, relentless pomposity. As my friend Chris so astutely observed, “It would be like if Charlie Brown finally won something--and then you found out he was actually an asshole.”

And, yet, while I loathe the Chowdas, disdain their fan base, and think Crisp the very definition of suckiness—whether or not he’s hitting game-tying RBI’s—I don’t wish them out of existence. In a sense, I need them.

I was listening to “Islands in the Stream” last night. (Don’t judge. I don’t care who you are; Dolly’s better than you.) When she came to the line “Everything is nothing if you’ve got no one,” it got me thinking about New York’s relationship with Boston. How critical we are to each other’s narrative arcs.

If, somehow, this rivalry had never come to exist, it would obviously still be pretty awesome to win world championships—six for the Chowdas, and—what is it?—oh, yeah, twenty-six for the Bombers. But having a villain to complement your hero—someone’s face to rub it in—just makes it more rewarding. For example, imagine if the story of David and Goliath was just about David fighting some random kid from school. Not that David was actually in school as far as I am aware. But, anyway,if he was, it’s a decidedly less compelling story, right?

Ideally, a rivalry can make the game more fun, it makes us more invested, encourages us to do better. I mean, would I have enjoyed game 7 of the ALCS in 2003 if the Chowdas had been the Mariners? Sure. Obviously. Would I still—four years later—feel a rush of warmth whenever I think about that 11th inning Aaron Boone walk-off home run had we been playing Seattle? Probably not. Just as I probably wouldn’t still feel nauseated whenever I replay the tape of the seventh game of the ALCS in 2004 if we’d been playing that game against Seattle.

So, while I know it’s not quite what Dolly was driving at, in a way, all those Yankee championships wouldn’t have meant so much were it not for the fact that we knew that Chowdas and Chowda Heads alike were suffering somewhere as a result. Just as I’m sure that those six times that Boston managed to win, they were psyched because people like me were sad and nauseated. You see, it’s not just about winning. It’s about sharing the experience with someone. Even if that someone is the enemy who you are trying to obliterate. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Of course, having been eliminated, the only thing left to do at this point is live out this dynamic vicariously through whatever team the Chowdas happen to be playing. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. It would be nice to see the Devils make it to the big dance, but if they continue to crumble, I’m just as happy to see it go down in the World Series. Get their hopes up. Then crush them like a bug.

But all this being said, make no mistake; when I tell Coco he sucks, which I will do until the end of time, I do it with the sincerest appreciation for the fact that—in a way—he completes me. I mean, I wouldn’t have a blog without him. So, seriously, Coco Crisp; thank you. And also, as ever, you suck Coco Crisp.

5 comments:

blindbejeezus said...

man mel, with this post you confirm that you are living in the past....here's the truth: We, the chowdas, are over it. You may need us, but we don't need you. For the last few years the middle-aged professional country club that is the NY Yankees clubhouse inspires neither fear nor a sense of rivalry without the grit and poise of pinstripes past. Girardi? He's to busy trying to produce diamonds from coal (see Bueller, Ferris)to do anything meaningful form his club. What do the yankees need? One of the things you hate: YOUUUUUUUK. or a least some cles facsimile...You're club ain't sniffed a Paul O'Neill type for nearly a decade and it shows.

koala said...

Well done, bbjezus, you made her point while trying to unmake it.

As an A's fan, I must say that not having any real-deal rivalries TOTALLY sucks. We like to think that we do. But I read somewhere recently that most teams love to play the A's, not because they are an easy to beat quadruple A squad (although I'm sure that's nice) but because they are a young fun team, with players who are "just happy to be here."

Ugh.

Would rather be hated or feared or at least fiery in our competitiveness.

Same goes for the Warriors. No rival, no care.

cdy said...

You made my point too, Mr. Bejeezus. This is the reason that people hate the Red Sox, even though America is predisposed to like stories like yours.

You, Charlie Brown, spent 86 years missing that ball and falling on your ass. We, the adoring public, spent 86 years saying "awwwww" and rooting for you, what with your endearing tenacity and sticktoitness. Then, in 2004, you finally got your clumsy little foot on the ball, and we cheered. Because we love a good underdog story.

But then, you went and retreived the ball from across the yard, brought it back, spiked it in Lucy's face, and screamed, "YOUUUUUUUUK!" And we were like, "what?" And you were like, "YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUK!"

And now we hate you.

blindbejeezus said...

i'm not sure yankees fans ever formed part of the 'adoring public' of the corpo-calamity that is red sox nation or the bittersweet fan base that pre-dated it. I am just amused because basically everybody I know who roots for the yankess was all fired up monday because the sox lost, and i find the whole bitter fans clinging to their 26 trophies and outfield busts dynamic that has evolved an ironic switch of roles. It's like the bronx is the new fens (thanks WGG). Don't take me as an example of red sox sentiment, I am just an observer of life's ebb and flood...and America is predisposed to beer, bbq, and doughnuts, with a little church on the side (drowned in butter), not east coast sport rivalries...

thekoreanmafia said...

Boston sucks