Language is weird, and turns of phrase are even stranger. Beyond the weird quirk of learning out-of-context idioms in Italian class that piece together with their English counterparts like an ill-fitting puzzle, watching "sayings" become (almost denotatively) shorthand for entire philosophies and perspectives on life is one of my favorite parts of the world of words.
Even when they become completely detached from their original meanings. Some have controversial, albeit anachronistic origins, like the "rule of thumb." Others, like "blood is thicker than water," miss the entire point of the origin, in this case that "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." But the one which has always fascinated me the most, for whatever reason, is the story behind "waiting for the other shoe to drop".
For an almost eternal optimist, this bit of banter has always bothered me. That it likely comes from, like so many great things, vaudeville doesn’t help ease the tension between me and the effect it has over people. Especially those that don’t understand or appreciate the underlying idea behind it.
The bit supposedly starts with a man -- it’s the early aughts, so gender politics are mostly "Hey, stay out of the voting booth and away from sewing machines! You’ll get the vapors!" – coming home late from work.
In getting ready for bed, he notices the incredibly loud noise that his work boot makes when it hits the floor. Trying his darnedest to not wake the others in the unlawfully close quarters of his tenement – both in his room and on the floor below – he prolongs the inevitable, tiptoeing around the room, trying to find the optimal angle and height from which to drop his shoe to minimize impact. In doing so, he manages to both ratchet up the tension in the room and make much more noise than dropping a tank would have, as the sounds of his rustling combined with the floor’s inherent creakiness eventually escalate to the punchline: someone screaming "OH WILL YOU JUST DROP THE OTHER SHOE ALREADY!"
Now, as a story – and as a phrase – this seems pretty straightforward, especially when talking about sports or a string of good luck. Any fan, of any team, in any sport – okay, outside of maybe the Golden State Warriors – feels the pangs of concern when things seem to be going too well. There’s just a single problem with looking at things this way: what happens if there’s only one shoe?
* * *
Regressing to the mean, as I am to understand it, isn’t about regressing to "a" mean or "the" mean, but to your mean. So, if your mean is "possible wire-to-wire AL East leaders and barring that, very strong Wild Card contenders," just what the heck do until you get there officially? The Red Sox aren’t locks to do anything this season, let alone run roughshod over a top heavy division. But they are certainly in the discussion.
However, goodness -- as opposed to greatness -- can be boring in its own way. There’s real entertainment value in crappiness. and "touch the face of God" moments like 17 points in five minutes are enough to write entire books about.
But generically good team with some, but not overwhelming, potential to win it all?
There’s only so much that can be written, and a lot of it will be kind of boring. Not this, of course. This column, right here, it’s Making Columns Great Again. So, great in fact, that you didn’t even notice how I spent a full graf talking about how boring it is to talk about generically good teams.
That’s not to complain, of course.
There’s much joy in the Bond household -- okay, mostly just me, as frequent guest Wilbo is (we know) a Yankees fan, bless his heart, and the fiancee really prefers to play with the Venpurr Bros. and the people in her tiny town than watch the Sox’s quest for a fourth ring in 12 years -- over this season, to be sure. And not just because Mookie Betts and David Ortiz are helping me lead the charge on what’s heretofore been an undefeated fantasy baseball season for The Life of Pablo Sandoval. There's nothing wrong with the Sox being actively good and fun to watch, even when the pitching turns into a pumpkin.
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This team has established early on that it’s balanced -- they lead the AL in run differential despite David Price’s continued difficulty finding a suitable pair of big boy pants -- and able to win games wherever they need to (with a 10-7/10-6 split home/away.) The victory lap for the aforementioned Ortiz has been an unmitigated success, and as Marc wrote, even Jackie! Bradley! Jr.! has turned into the centerfielder we all hoped he could be. And Xander Bogaerts is prime-Reyes-ing the crap out of shortstop. Other than Price and Pablo, things are going about as well as one can ask for anywhere outside of Wrigleyville.
But that won’t stop us -- meaning the media, and to a much lesser extent (for fiduciary reasons), fans -- from coming up with some weird things to complain about. Some of them will be entirely legitimate critiques of the Red Sox, like Matt Collins’ predictably interesting examination of what’s up with the almost overwhelming luck with batting average on balls in play.
Most will be Shaugnessy columns. About who is or isn’t a true Bostonian. What irreplaceable and lamentable part of the future the team is going to *need* to make a move with, even if they don't really have to make any. What's it like going through life as a hateful sock with people feelings.
Which is all to say that, as the season goes on, in addition to columns telling you how great the Sox are or aren't doing, you'll see the weirdest of the weird and the hottest of hot as it relates to takes: Are the Red Sox too good on the road, and not good enough at home? What will they do next year with Panda? Which child-of-woman-born on our team is most ready to be sacrificed to the deadline gods/Chicago Cubs?
But for now, I’ll be here, watching the NESN feed on MLB.tv while checking my fantasy app.
Shoes off, of course.