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Big Fuss Over Little's Choice in 7th Game

By Brian Loux


The bottom line on Game 7 is this: we lost. We were not screwed out of winning.

Boston really loves to think it has a submission hold on having a team that never wins. Granted, the Red Sox have become the world benchmark for this trait, but I think a large majority of sports fans have an allegiance to a tragic hero of some sort. Nick Hornsby mentions the British soccer team Arsenal in his book “Fever Pitch,” and for my cognizant life, I’ve rooted for the Baltimore Orioles and their time has never come. When I moved here for school, my father gave me his blessing and told me to root for the Sox while I was here. Now I’m wavering.

If you were asked to write an essay on what led to the Protestant Reformation in Europe and your answer was “Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses,” your history teacher would fail you so quickly that college rejection letters would arrive the next day. Simply put, a nearly infinite number of causes lead to one event.

So now let’s say that essay is “Why are the 2003 Red Sox not going to the World Series?” And in quintessential fan-like foolishness, we find the perfect solution. Grady Little, he did it. He didn’t take Pedro out because (God forbid!) he showed his starter that he trusted him. It’s short, sweet, and allows us not to delve deeper into the problems that faced the team this year. Guess what? That’s still gonna garner you an F on that paper.

Blaming Little is just as capricious as blaming Wakefield for giving Boone such a sweet pitch to open the 11th. If Pedro were taken out and the runs still scored, fans would be sitting here today lamenting Little’s decision to pull the superstar. Not a single word in Friday’s Globe referred to how silent the the Red Sox bats were in previous clutch games, how shaky the bullpen has been for the postseason, or how the team was unable to cinch the series earlier.

But what annoys me the most is this: almost everyone seems complacent to do this embarrassing finger pointing. Someone has to be the scapegoat before we can go on. It’s never the case that the Red Sox didn’t try hard enough or weren’t good enough, it was that something caused them to lose. Be it as superstitious as a Babe Ruth curse or as concrete as Bill Buckner or Grady Little, blame lies squarely on one guy. Blame never lies on the team itself, a better opponent, or the thought that the fan attitude here is such that if maybe -- just maybe -- they lost it all, it wouldn’t be all that surprising.

The fans have killed “There’s Always Next Year.” What it should mean right now is that the Boston Red Sox in 2004 will have an all-star team with the desire to win along with a coach and general manager that care about them, and that’s certainly cause to celebrate. What it does mean is that we expect and allow some failure because we can show you who the failures are on the team, so the outcome today doesn’t really matter. And that outlook does -- it most certainly does -- have an effect.

I am still proud of the effort and ability of the Sox to do so well. Damon and Nixon were just amazing throughout the postseason, and for their sake I cannot turn my back on the heart they showed. But if fans continue to belittle their accomplishments by criticizing a team member that’s done so much for the club, I may just make my way back to Camden Yards.