It was 7am on a Monday and suddenly I was wide awake.
My eyes sprang open and my body flung out of bed at the first sounds of my typically dreaded alarm. There, perched up on my night stand, stood a note on a ripped sheet of paper.
It read: Papi walkoff homer. Sox win 6-4!
Adrenaline pumping, I rushed downstairs to turn on Sportscenter and see the highlights before I had to start getting ready for school. Dave Roberts stole second! We got to Mariano Rivera! The legend of Papi! I was all-in.
I was naive — only six years old — perhaps too naive to realize that we were still down 3-1 in the ALCS to the Yankees of all teams. I was too busy being enamored by that Fenway crowd to care about, or even consider, odds.
But I was just naive enough to believe in the most unbelievable comeback in sports history.
The next day, like deja vu, another white slip of paper appeared lodged against my clock: Papi walkoff single. Sox win 5-4 in 14 innings!
Something was happening here, beyond the realm of baseball. My dad’s handwriting meant something to me beyond the information it conveyed. It carried emotion; it carried the trials of generations of Bostonians. Though I was a native Atlantan — with a hometown baseball team in the midst of sustained success — there was no going back. In the weeks of this magical run, I was indoctrinated into Red Sox nation.
There was no note to describe Curt Schilling’s bloody sock or to underscore the depth of David Ortiz’ legendary status; I’d learn about the true magnitude of those occurrences in the years to come (with a little help from the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, Four Days in October).
But the notes just kept coming in and the Red Sox just kept winning. I distinctly remember tuning in to Sportscenter the night of ALCS Game 7, with Mike Lupica reporting live from Yankee Stadium. The question posed to him was one I couldn’t wrap my six-year-old brain around: Is this the biggest game in baseball history?
Historical perspective wasn’t exactly my strength at the time — I’d only existed on earth for six years and had just developed an interest in sports. But in that moment I recognized the significance Game 7 held in the scope of Boston sports lore. I knew it, my dad knew it: I had to stay up to watch this game live, my youthful necessity for sleep be damned.
My dad, sister, and I walked across the street to my neighbors house to watch the game on some newfangled technology called a “flat screen TV.” So it was with high-definition clarity and a worn-down Pedro Martinez t-shirt jersey that I watched Johnny Damon hit the grand slam into the New York night. It instantly became the sports moment of my childhood. The Damon slam — along with the flowing locks and thick beard — unleashed a feeling of history, family and happiness — the very essence of being a part of something bigger than myself. I don’t remember much about being six, but I’m pretty sure that grander emotion is hard to come by from someone so young. These were my most formative years, and the Red Sox became such a staunch part of that.
Since then, I have lived and died with every Red Sox season. I enjoyed the highs Papelbon, Pedroia, and the young guns in 2007; the miraculous 2013 run after the bombing; and every trip to my favorite place on earth, Fenway.
But I have also grown with the lows of 2011 (one of only three times I can ever recall crying over a sporting event), Bobby Valentine, my hero Nomar Garciaparra being traded… for Orlando Cabrera and Doug freakin Mientkiewicz, Carl Crawford, chicken and beer, and the departures of two of my idols — Epstein and Terry Francona. Somewhere I even have an Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox jersey sitting in my closet.
Baseball is where I found reading (box scores when I was four) and writing (learning journalism after my lack of athleticism caught up to me). The Red Sox are where I found stability.
And all of this is rooted in my experience from 2004. Of course, the Red Sox won that World Series in 2004 for the first time in my life, my father’s life, and my grandfather’s life. But that’s hardly what mattered to me.
What mattered was the emotional connection I felt to Kevin Youkilis’ funky batting stance, to Manny Ramirez and his left field antics, to Dave Roberts’ steal, to Theo Epstein’s boy genius persona, and the rest of the self-proclaimed “idiots” who ended that drought and birthed my fandom.
What mattered were those notes now tucked away somewhere in the recesses of my room — a symbol of the origins of a lifetime investment unlike any other.