Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Free at last!

On the morning of October 28, 2004, I posted an article to the "Your Turn" bulletin board at the Providence Journal (Projo) website in which I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., quoting an old Negro spiritual - "Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!" And it was only partially tongue-in-cheek. The Red Sox had won the World Series. After watching the team for my entire life, after seeing them lose in 7 games in 1975, after 1978 and 1986 and 1995 and 2003, the Red Sox had finally not lost in the most excruciating fashion possible. They'd won, and it seemed to change my entire world-view where the team was concerned.

But I hadn't realized how significant the change was until a week ago. Flipping channels, I wandered through ESPN Classic when they were showing one of the "Top 25" shows that they'd produced a year ago, for the 25th anniversary of ESPN. In this particular show, hosted by the ever-obnoxious Stewart Scott, they counted down the "Top 25 Biggest Chokes". When I got to it, they were showing number 12, Roberto Duran's "No Mas" against Leonard. And I watched it, knowing, just knowing that Bill Buckner had to be number 1. And as they counted down towards 1, I realized that I was smiling. Not because Buckner had to be number 1, but because I knew that if they'd made the show 12 months later, Buckner would only be 2nd. And the 2004 Yankees would, and will, be atop that list for a long time. I've seen, this spring, for the first time, footage of the Boone home run that ended the 2003 ALCS. (When he hit it, I had the channel changed before it ever reached the seats, and never was able to watch a re-play.) I watched the Buckner play without any of the feeling of dread that I'd had before. Suddenly, it's just an interesting play in an old game, no more relevant to the world I live in than Fisk's HR in 1975, or Slaughter's "mad dash" or Merkle's boner. That's what the 2004 ALCS did for me - it made the history into history. Before that, it was all current events.

And I think back to what I wrote last year, and realize that it's truer than I knew at the time. "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"

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