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The life of a true fan

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As of this writing, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays are tied atop the American League Wild Card standings and, with two games to play, the outlook is bleak for a Red Sox fan. At the beginning of September, the Sox held a seemingly insurmountable eight-game lead. Calling to mind the collapse of the 2007 New York Mets, Boston has gone 6-19 in the final month of the season. At this point, only the most ardent Boston optimist would hope that the team can outplay Tampa in the season’s final two games.

This is by no means a column bemoaning my fate as a Red Sox fan. I’ll be the first to admit that as a Boston sports fan I have been utterly spoiled this decade. Two World Series rings, three Super Bowls, an NBA championship and a Stanley Cup are proof that sports in New England have been on a 10-year run of unprecedented success. I can no more claim the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” as my own than I can claim Notre Dame football’s success when players still wore leather helmets. One has to look back to the 2003 ALCS and Aaron Boone’s extra-inning home run off of Tim Wakefield to lift the New York Yankees to the World Series to find a moment that truly encapsulated what it had meant to be a Sox fan for most of the last 95 or so years.

The Red Sox of yore were experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, at building hopes to a fervent crescendo and then dashing them. From the 1967 “Impossible Dream” team to Bill Buckner in ’86 the Sox were loveable losers much in the vein of the Mets or Chicago Cubs, whose fans, especially at Notre Dame, will be quick to point out that their misery has been worse than anything experienced in Boston. No matter how good things looked, everyone knew they were cursed.

The only parallel in my personal experience to this phenomenon is to listen to people talk about Notre Dame football, a tradition I entered into a few years ago and one that has already caused me undue heartbreak, loss of sleep and general confusion. Painful losses are referred to by two-word monikers — the Bush Push, Little Giants — and great teams of the past are revered with the hope that someday current incarnations can approximate their glory. Indeed, in just the beginning of my second year of watching Notre Dame football in person, the Irish have found more painful ways to lose than I thought possible, from the Tulsa game in 2010 to Michigan in 2011 when, surrounded by a sea of blue in the Big House, my elation turned to disbelief in a matter of thirty seconds, and the essence of my experience as a Notre Dame fan was laid bare for all to see.

So if the past decade has all been a sham and this is actually what being a Red Sox fan is really about — the heartbreak and inexplicable collapses — then maybe I already have a head start. Who really likes winning championships anyway?

Contact Molly Sammon at [email protected]

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.