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Itch has been scratched

What's a Red Sox fan to do now that the Curse is over?

Posted: Friday October 29, 2004 3:21PM; Updated: Friday October 29, 2004 4:17PM
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Not to be macabre, but we are heading into a Halloween weekend. It occurred to me that if the best way to find an apartment in a crowded city is to check the obituaries (remember this regrettable collaboration between Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore?), the real winners this week are Boston real estate agents.

How many people, young and old, have said over the years that they could die happy if and when the Red Sox won the World Series? Once the parade is over, there really isn't much else for a Sox fan to live for. I can see next week's Boston Globe real estate section.

New to the mrkt! Btfl Back Bay 2BR Walking dist to Fenway. Terrace garden tended by Joe Mooney. Green walls. Tony C wall mural does not convey; pls excuse champagne stains on carpet. Certified ghost-free as of 10/27.

As a Red Sox fan -- I know, they're everywhere these days; does anyone have a good explanation for the popularity explosion this team has enjoyed over the last five years or so? -- I have to admit to mixed feelings about this championship, and I wonder if in the long run it will be bad for Boston and for baseball.

Of course, the fan in me was dying to see them win, and all other sports experiences will pale in comparison to that series against the Yankees. The journalist/anthropologist in me has always been curious about how New Englanders would react if the Sox won. People seem genuinely happy, like everyone in the region just gave birth to a healthy baby and won the lottery. It's rare to find anything in sports, or any other arena for that matter, that can so completely lift the spirits of an entire region. Boston hasn't spontaneously combusted yet, so that's good. Then again, the parade isn't til Saturday.

But once the joy subsides and the hangovahs have cleared, I suspect a lot of people will feel the way I do -- slightly disappointed that the Red Sox won. Let's be honest: Boston fans -- like Cubs fans and, if they exist, White Sox supporters -- enjoyed wallowing in self-pity for 86 years. It was a badge of honor to support a team that so ruthlessly toyed with your emotions, and whatever the team did that didn't kill you only made you stronger. Or more pathological.

This isn't about curses, though people get a kick out of pretending that the cosmos is conspiring against them. There was always reason to pay attention to baseball in Boston, if only because you didn't want to miss a moment if it turned out that this really was the year.

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It's a cliche to say the thrill of the hunt is greater than the thrill of the kill, but it's true. And it's a lot less interesting now to be a Red Sox fan. All those omens and oddities that made the typical Sox season a Twilight Zone episode are meaningless.

Stephen King is no longer the personification of the dark forces swirling through Fenway Park; he's just another creepy-looking guy keeping score in the stands. Newspapermen like Dan Shaughnessy can no longer base entire columns on the fact that they were on shuttle flight No. 1918 from New York to Boston. Lee Gavin, the kid who lives in Babe Ruth's old house and got hit by a foul ball at Fenway this summer, is no longer a cursebuster. He's just another 16-year-old who's missing a few teeth.

Of course, it's the height of self-indulgence to scratch an itch that's bothered you for a lifetime and then complain that you're too comfortable. But it will be interesting to see how Red Sox Nation evolves. The Nation's team is now essentially the Diamondbacks with a thicker media guide, just another franchise with a championship under its belt. Sisyphus would give anything to push that rock to the top of the hill. But the story wouldn't be nearly as good if he ever got there ...

Speaking of the aforementioned Drew Barrymore  ...

Before Wednesday, generations of fans imagined what it would be like to watch a pile of Red Sox celebrate after the final out of a World Series. I wonder how many of those dreamscapes had the players sharing the Big Jig with Barrymore and the increasingly bizarre-looking Jimmy Fallon. (Did you see him hanging with Tom Hanks in the Green Monster seats last week? I've always wondered what Harry Potter would look like if he subscribed to GQ.)

I'm sure the shot of Barrymore and Fallon smooching on the Busch Stadium sod will make a great final scene for the Farrelly brothers' Fever Pitch, a film about a guy who lets his Red Sox obsession intrude on his relationship with his girlfriend. But Major League Baseball made a mistake by letting the actors and a camera crew crash the field nanoseconds after the final out landed in Doug Mientkiewicz's glove.

Is it no longer possible to witness a genuine, unscripted moment -- one millions of people have been anticipating for, oh, about nine decades -- without turning it into a back lot in Culver City? The focus of that infield pileup should have been the players; it's one of the few times every year when you get the feeling these guys might get a bigger kick out of playing the game (and winning) than cashing their paychecks. Maybe Fox (the distributor of the movie and, as Pedro Martinez might say, baseball's broadcasting Daddy) will pay them extras fees when the movie comes out..

Until next time ...

Sports Illustrated staff writer Stephen Cannella covers the NHL for the magazine and contributes frequently to SI.com.