If you’ve been reading the site for the last few weeks, first of all thank you, and second of all you’ve likely noticed we’ve been running through some themes week after week. These have been throughout SB Nation as we try to get through this sports-less period. This week, the theme is all about moments in sports that made us cry. This is an entry along the lines of that theme.
Earlier this morning, I talked about happy tears and my relationship with that kind of extreme joy along with baseball. That is, of course, just one category of crying in baseball. The other, as we all know, is tears of sadness. Sports in general and baseball specifically have a way of enthralling us in a fashion that so few other aspects of life truly can, particularly any other kind of education. We get so caught up in the happenings of a team and a season that the results make us explode with emotion despite it being inherently illogical. It’s just baseball!
Red Sox fans are no stranger to despair when it comes to baseball. Obviously that hasn’t been the case over the last 15 years and fans of other teams don’t really want to hear us complain, but it’s also no big secret that the 86 years prior to 2004 were a disaster with dark moment after dark moment. Due to my age — I was born in ‘91 — I was fortunate enough to miss all of that, but there was still the Aaron Boone game in 2003. That was the last dark moment before of the Curse era, and for most people my age it is assumed that this was the worst moment of their baseball-watching lives, not to mention the most notable event to bring on tears, or at least something close to it.
That’s not the case for me, though. Obviously that moment sucked the life out of me at the moment and it is certainly high up on the list of distressing nights of my sports-watching life. For me, though, the closest I’ve come to shedding actual tears watching a baseball game, and the season that comes the closest when I think back on it, was and is 2011.
That 2011 season is one that obviously lives in infamy, but with it coming after two championships it’s not really looked at the same way as any of the pre-2004 downer endings. For me, personally, though, it was probably the most memorable season of my life, which is saying something since I’ve witnessed four championships. But 2011 was the year I started doing this writing thing, and it was also a year of great expectations for the Red Sox. On the heels of a good but not great 2010, they signed Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, leading to calls of them being the next best team ever.
Of course, that’s not what ended up happening, and things got off to a disastrous start with the team losing their first six games and ten of their first 12. A two-week stretch generally doesn’t mean all that much, but this was at the start of a season and it was demoralizing. That would be bad enough, a team with expectations playing poorly, but it doesn’t reach the point of heartbreak. That’s just sad, like 2012, which is a season that definitely never happened. But after that initial 12-game stretch, the Red Sox were who they were supposed to be: Elite. After that 2-10 start through the end of August, they were still perhaps the best Red Sox team I’ve ever seen, going 81-42, a 107-win pace over a full season with everything firing on all cylinders.
Then September happened. The Red Sox entered that month with a game-and-a-half lead in the division and a nine-game lead over the Rays, who were in second place in the wildcard race. They had, by all intents and purposes, clinched a spot in October and were playing for the division. Except, well, they weren’t. We know how that season went and I won’t recount it, but I will just say that Game 162 is absolutely the worst night of my sports-watching life.
People will argue that it’s ridiculous to compare that 2011 devastation to anything that happened before 2004. Before and after 2004 are totally different beasts and the emotions we experienced in those times can’t be compared. But for me, that 2011 sticks with me more than anything else. It had everything that amounts to actual devastation in relation to sports. I was in college, meaning I was old enough to appreciate it but young enough to not yet have an actual life to distract me. It had my favorite player, Jacoby Ellsbury, having an MVP-type season. It had my least favorite team ever, the late-aughts/early-2010s Rays, reaping the benefits of the collapse. And, most importantly for my own personal devastation, it wasn’t like ripping off a band-aid. It was a month-long trainwreck that we had to watch unfold in real time. I’ve never actually cried from watching sports, but 2011 was as close as I’ve gotten, and it’s the one that continues to haunt me and likely will for years to come.