If the Red Sox win the last baseball game of the year either Wednesday or Thursday night, they will have certainly pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history, going from a dysfunctional, dispirited clubhouse to world champions seemingly faster than Koji Uehara can retire the side. It will enter into a tie as the second-greatest day in the annals of the franchise: only a few nights in another memorable October nine years ago could possibly challenge its ascendancy into the firmament of Red Sox history.
At the same time, that day will simultaneously become one of the saddest days in the history of the franchise: it will be the day we have to put the 2013 season in the rear-view mirror. The change from present to past, from here and now to back when: it's a tragic but necessary part of human existence, and even more so in the world of sport. The zeniths and nadirs of the game always seem so much more insurmountable, foreboding, and incomparable in the euphoria of the playoff chase. The long nights and too-early mornings come hard upon each others' heels, making the agony of a crushing loss so much more bitter, and the exultation of a walkoff win that much sweeter.
It's no secret that this season has been an absolute blast for everyone in Red Sox Nation—radiating outward from the home team's clubhouse in the confines to the ends of the Earth (and perhaps beyond?). I'd even risk the ire of some and say that this team was even more fun to watch than the 2004 and 2007 editions: a band of misfits that managed to pull everything together in just the right way at seemingly every turn, and accomplishing what almost no one could have even thought possible (at least not this year). But it is exactly that delirium—the giddy hilarity, high-fives, and the hairy and sometimes hoary grittiness, not to mention the actual games—that will make it that much more difficult to turn the page. How can you say goodbye when you're just getting to know the team as they really are?
Photo Credit: Jim Rogash
And why can't we capture lightning in a bottle, and reproduce this feeling year after year? Why does it become so hard to keep that fond nostalgia going between seasons? The obvious reason: a baseball team can rarely be the same from year to year. In just a few short weeks we'll start to see the roster change; veterans will depart, free agents will arrive, and the identity will start to change. The 2013 Sox will be no more; the 2014 Sox will begin to take its place. The only way to hold on to things as they are is through stasis—but in professional sports, stasis is the first step on the road to defeat.
At the same time, we won't be the same after this week, either. No matter what happens, we will have to move on with our lives as well. And come Truck Day, and pitchers and catchers report, and the start of spring training, and the thrill of opening day (at home and on the road), we will not be carrying the 2013 spirit into 2014—we'll be measuring 2014 against it. It's just our human nature—the grass is greener in our memories than it ever was in reality, the fastball stung just a little bit further, the curveball just that much further over the plate.
My final thought: I cannot predict what will happen tonight; I hope every Sox batter hits a grand slam, and John Lackey throws a perfect game. It may come to pass, but likely not. No matter what happens, though, we should savor this last act of the 2013 Red Sox. It is the last we'll really see of this team, no matter how much we want the fun to continue. So let's hope for a few more warm, fuzzy memories with which to send them off into the realm of memory and reminiscence.
(P.S. And in the event that the best-case scenario comes to pass: here's to hoping that Boston celebrates safely. There's been enough tragedy to last a while already this year. Let's not add to that in the midst of celebrating one of the franchise's finest hours.)
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