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The Deception of Triumph

Ken Nesmith

The World Series ended; the Sox won. With the victory comes the end of the Curse first invoked when Babe Ruth went to the Yankees in 1920. The Curse is a vital part of local lore and spirit, and its elimination will mean loss of jobs for those who make the related t-shirts and paraphernalia (a committee is forming now to “Keep the Curse Jobs”).

This World Series should’ve been problematic for me. I grew up in both St. Louis and Rhode Island (but not at the same time), so I could claim fanhood for either team with the most powerful form of fanhood legitimacy, childhood geographical proximity. Regardless of my preference, really it’s just been nice to see everyone so happy. I can’t think of a more powerful uniter than baseball. Everyone loves it -- students, professors, cabdrivers, bankers, soldiers, traders, all races and classes, regular Bobs and nabobs, the elite and hoi polloi, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Lifelong fans are in ecstasy, just as are those who sought emotional comfort by buying a Sox cap upon arrival in Boston freshman year, declaring allegiance to the local squad and working furiously to live a lie and construct a false history of loyalty, fanhood, and shared experience. (Yeah, where’s their childhood geographical proximity?) All are aligned around passion for following the game as they are around no other pole. Red Sox success has meant that the whole city is a cheerier place.

Boston Globe headlines have grown more enthusiastic with each victory; “YES!” “FINALLY!” and “SNAP!” they scream. Every win brought the citizenry that much closer to letting go of a dark obsession with their team’s inability to play baseball as well as the Yankees.

I would’ve preferred that St. Louis win. Charitably donating one national title to a deprived region was enough: the Patriots are still really excited about the Super Bowl trophy the Rams gave them. I’ve tried to let the Cardinals know that there was really no need to offer the Red Sox a World Series title as well, that the Sox would’ve been okay and are accustomed to losing, and that it might have been best for the city to lose anyway. The Cardinals felt more generous than I preferred, but I suppose that’s their prerogative. They, after all, have won more world championship titles than any other team save the Yankees. Perhaps they’re lonely at the top and want to distribute victories more equitably among baseball’s more... “challenged” teams; I don’t know.

I’m just worried that this Red Sox victory can’t offer the panacea promised. Post-victory, there has been some celebration, and minimal rioting, with zero deaths as far as I know. (The riots, of course, are necessary because sports victory is one of a few things, such as historical racial discrimination or global social revolution, that calls for destruction of the integrity of automobiles and streetfront shops.) But now, after the victory, Sox fans will be undistracted, left to stare into the howling void that is the misery of being. Homeviewers finished the last can of watery beer, the last sip of wine tinged with grease, the last crumbled potato chips, the last muculent shrimp cocktail, and were left to wonder what they are living for, since the goal that has otherwise defined their lives to this point has now been achieved, to no real effect. Game attendees faced the same sense of destitute vacuity, after the herd of fans finished shuffling through whatever ballyhoo filled the streets in the evanescent wake of victory.

With a Super Bowl and World Series victory, New England sports fans have achieved a pinnacle, or so they think. They’ll try to fight the brutal emptiness that tosses asunder their short-lived glee; in the off season, they’ll grasp at the memory of victory like a flickering candle dying in the night, and remember the long struggle to achieve the win. But that joyful struggle, that Sisyphean journey up a hill that became tragically finite, will be locked impossibly in history, and now that they’ve found victory, its meaninglessness, and hence the meaninglessness of all effort and desire, will shake the very depths of their souls. Without Yankees to whine about, without a victory to pray for and with no other conceivable reason to talk to God, without their collective karmic blindfold hiding them from outrageous fortune’s slings and arrows, fans will be left to contemplate the absurdity of existence in an indifferent universe. St. Louis has won and lost enough times that they’re now accustomed to whatever quotidian vicissitudes callous fate deals, but I’m not sure how quickly Boston will adjust -- how quickly the population will find another raison d’etre du jour to lend false hope to their numbered days.

I think many Red Sox fans know this, whether or not they acknowledge it. Secretly, they hoped for a loss; they wanted to remain in perpetual search for victory because it is not the goal that defines their being, but the journey. In fact, I’m sure any of us who has faced strife and struggle, and overcome sufficiently to see what a childish and accidental game Providence offers our conscious minds, knows what I mean.

Alas, my Cardinals were careless with the fate of a team, and the fate of New England’s very ka. We were all watched the final game, regardless of choice -- a flux of cheers from every part of the campus and city kept us clued into the game; the effluent anima of a people in captive interest seized the night with a palpable sense of victory. As Saturday's celebration parade concluded, the days darkened further by the measured ebb of celestial bodies; the clock shifted forward by the fiat of man. The next day, the Patriots relinquished their doomed winning streak, acknowledging an ever more universal desensitization to success or failure, being or nothingness.