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.