It’s October and the most exciting time on the sports calendar has arrived — baseball playoffs. For the first time in a long while, of the two teams I’m a fan of, neither are playing for a title in the fall. To the non-baseball aware, this means I am not a fan of the Boston Red Sox, who are sneaking into postseason play as the American League (AL) wild card. My situation is like many students in Boston, who come to school with a team (or three) to cheer on. Many of the uninitiated will leave Red Sox fans, and while that saddens my heart, at least there’s another baseball fan out there.
I hope those of you who are not yet baseball fans will still watch this year’s playoffs to cheer with me for the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that has never had a winning season in the entire history of the franchise. This year, they dominated their competition in the AL East, the division where they and the Red Sox play. The Rays earned the division title using a coterie of talented and exciting young players like Matt Garza, Evan Longoria (no, not the twin brother of a Desperate Housewife), and Fernando Perez, an Ivy League-educated rookie who was called up from the minors this year. My brother tells me we played Little League together. I don’t remember that — but it would certainly explain the undefeated season we had one time.
I’ll be listening on my satellite radio to hear if the Chicago Cubs can break their 99-year World Series drought — a championship famine that has lasted longer than the Red Sox’s recently-broken “Curse of the Bambino.” In order for the Cubbies to win it all though, they’ll have to go through the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose playoff push was led by the recently disposed Manny Ramirez. Once loved by the Boston faithful, he “Manny-being-Mannyed” his way out of guarding Fenway Park’s Green Monster in left field. I can’t wait to hear the boos rain down on him if he and the Dodgers end up making it to Boston.
I have the fondest memories of baseball playoff games. I remember in undergrad in 2001, baseball season was pushed back after September 11th and games were being played for the first time in November. The country was still stunned, and I had p-sets due, but I found time to escape from them by ice skating in the brisk air while I watched the game on a big outdoor screen. Later, in the 2003 playoffs, I met my girlfriend from graduate school around the time that the Oakland Athletics played and lost another series of heartbreaking games. She was the reason why I’m an A’s fan today.
Two years ago, I literally got chills running the length of my body when one of my favorite Oakland players, Marco Scutaro, came up to bat during the American League Championship Series (ALCS). It was a big game — the winner would move on to play in the World Series. As Marco stood in the batter’s box, the fans in the Oakland Coliseum were singing his name like the kid’s game ‘Marco Polo’ — from one end of the stadium to the other. “Marco!” “Scutaro!” I remember reading a quote from him after the game, “They were calling my name!” and I imagined him breathless and grateful. The thought of it still brings tears to my eyes.
Last year, I got a chance for a more mundane trip to watch Oakland play the Red Sox during the last week of the regular season. Boston was already assured of their playoff berth and the A’s were only playing for their paychecks. It was my first time in Fenway Park, and it sure was something. I went with a friend who got me the hard-to-get tickets, we drank a lot, smiled with the friendly crowd, confided secrets with each other and watched future-Hall-of-Famer Mike Piazza hit his last home run over the Green Monster. Even though I’m not a Red Sox fan and it was a meaningless game in terms of championship pennants, it was still an experience never to be forgotten.
Now I’m sure the celebration last year when the Red Sox won their second championship in four seasons was great. (I wouldn’t know, I went to bed early that night.) I’m also sure it’s the reason why so many MIT students are Sox fans. I can’t blame them. It’s a magical time — when you can be completely swept up in a crowd of fellow fans dancing and screaming in the city streets. Such events make an impression on young students, and when you graduate, you too will be part of the Red Sox Nation diaspora.
I can only hope that as you watch the playoffs this Fall, you will keep in mind the virtues of some of the other teams besides Boston and consider cheering with me during the playoffs next year when my other favorite franchise makes it back to playing October ball: the New York Yankees.
Gary Shu is a student in the Engineering Systems Division and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He is a proud fan of the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees.