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Thursday, October 21, 2004

There Is a Word for Life Without Baseball: Winter

It isn’t winter just yet. Once again baseball has come through at the end of the season with some of the most exciting games I’ve had the pleasure to watch in my life as a fan. I would find it difficult to believe that there could possibly be another American city besides Boston that has rooted harder for the Red Sox than Seattle. The Sox have served as the surrogate Mariners team that has succumbed to the Yankees onslaught on so many previous occasions, both in the regular and post season. Boisterous crowds gathered around televisions at Seattle bars last night and cheered wildly when Boston made the final put-out against the Yankees.

I have to say that in my life as a fan, watching the Sox beat the Yankees in the seventh and final game in the division series ranked higher on my joy meter than when I lived in Florida and the Marlins won the World Series. I’m not a Boston fan, never have been. What I always have been is an anti-Yankee fan, born in the cheap seats of Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium. I hate to use words like ‘love’ and ‘hate’ in any sentence about a game so I’ll say that New York was a team I liked to dislike.

Seattle fans are now, after seven games, as familiar with the intricacies of the Boston Red Sox as we are with our own team. Seattle has a lot of transplants from the other end of the country but not enough to explain the sea of fans sporting Red Sox apparel. I think I can safely say that if a team from Cuba was playing the Yankees in game seven of the playoffs we’d be wearing their hat, but I think Seattle’s affinity for Boston goes beyond the adage that our favorite team is the Mariners and whoever is playing the Yankees. Let’s face it, most baseball teams lose a lot and many haven’t won a World Series in this century or the last. Maybe if the Yanks can go 25-30 years without winning the Series I’ll start cheering for them.

Most fans in Seattle had all but given up on baseball after the Mariners’ terrible year, and the thought of watching the Yankees march inexorably to the Series was too much to take. In game three with the Yanks already leading the series 2-0 Boston began its slide to yet another loss. I couldn’t watch and left the game in the sixth inning. I got an unwanted phone call later in the evening with the report that Boston lost the game 18-9. I thought I was done with baseball for the year. I bought some warm clothes and I thought I could survive without baseball until next spring.

Of course I kept watching, what's the alternative? Football? Practice piano? Do something even remotely constructive? If you read the papers you know the rest of the story and the Yankees/Red Sox series has only been half of it. Almost completely forgotten (at least by AL fans) has been the incredible series in the other league which has also gone to seven games. Winter will come, but baseball has been putting up a truly heroic fight.

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