10 Years Ago Today: The 2004 Red Sox Comeback Through More Mature Eyes

 

boston globe 2004

Ten years ago today the Boston Red Sox did the unthinkable when they completed the greatest playoff comeback in baseball history.

You may recall the details (and you’ll likely see lots of articles, Facebooks posts and Tweets about it today): The Yankees dominated the Red Sox in the first three games of the 2004 ALCS, all hope was lost once again for Boston fans, and then the Sox flipped the script and won four straight.

Ten years ago today the Red Sox won that stress-free game 7 at Yankee Stadium. The final score was 10-3, but it wasn’t even that close. (Did Terry Francona really insert Pedro Martinez into the game in the 7th inning or did I dream that?)

Ten years is a significant amount of time in any person’s life, but I’d argue the 10 years between being a 21-year-old and a 31-year-old probably involves more maturing than most 10-year chunks.

With that in mind, here are eight memories from that historic day of October 20th, 2004, and how the current 31-year-old me would react to those memories now.

  1. THEN: When the Red Sox dropped the first three games of the 2004 ALCS, I remember thinking, “Hey, at least I won’t have to go through the darkest of depressions like I did in 2003 when they lost in dramatic fashion in game 7 at Yankee Stadium. At least this year will be like ripping a band-aid off.” NOW: Of course I have the perspective of having witnessed that ’04 team’s comeback, but I’ve also seen the 2009-10 Boston Bruins and 2013-14 San Jose Sharks choke away 3-0 playoff series leads. I’ve also seen the Red Sox comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the 2007 ALCS. At this point I’m pretty well-conditioned to never write off a team’s chances before a series is actually over.
  2. THEN: After the comeback was complete, I did what any boozed-up college kid would do: I marched down to Kenmore Square and began celebrating/rioting with all the other morons. In fact, I was one of a few dozen people who climbed on top of a city bus that was parked near Fenway and started screaming, cheering and stomping my feet. When the Police arrived, I was the third-to-last person to jump off the bus. The last guy that jumped off? The cops grabbed him, shoved him into the bus and started hitting him. I assume that was to teach the rest of us a lesson. NOW: I would either go to the closest bar with a couple friends and take a few celebratory shots, or I’d stay home and pop a bottle of champagne and watch on TV & Twitter for all the idiots rioting and setting things on fire.
  3. THEN: Even though the Red Sox were renowned for blowing it in the playoffs and crushing their fans, there was never any sense on this night that we were celebrating too soon. Sure, the Cardinals still stood in the way of the first World Series in 86 years, but this was a done deal. There was no way they were getting that close to history, in such a once-in-a-lifetime way and not completing the task. NOW: I’ve lived through 18-1. The Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl—Tom Brady’s fourth Super Bowl—would have been historic, and it was going to happen in a once-in-a-lifetime way. But we all know how that worked out so I would never consider anything in sports a done deal ever again.
  4. THEN: The 2004 ALCS served a secondary purpose for me. There was a girl who I was trying to date back then (technically I was trying to steal her from her boyfriend at the time). She happened to be at my apartment during game 4 of the ALCS. From that point on, I convinced her she had to watch the rest of the playoffs at my apartment for good luck. NOW: HA! I apologize to my fiancee if this sounds bad (by the way, she is not the girl from the 2004 ALCS). I would much rather watch an historic Boston sports moment with only my male Boston friends. I find that most of the women who are regulars in my life do not care one bit about sports. If a few of them were present during a big game, they would likely be chatting about weddings, babies and how Charlie Hunnam should have played the main guy in the 50 Shades of Grey movie instead of the actor who actually got the part.
  5. THEN: The Red Sox getting to the World Series meant my brothers would be joining me in Boston for a few days to take in all the action. One was coming from New Hampshire and the other from San Francisco. It was very important to me back then to witness this history with my two best friends and favorite sports-watching partners. NOW: Sure, the feelings may still be the same (this is part of the reason I book a ticket to San Francisco each year for the Super Bowl…hoping, waiting for the three of us to finally celebrate a Patriots Title together), but I would never admit to them that the quality time is important to me. If anything, we’re at a stage where we try to make the others feel like they’re not important to us. I told you the 31-year-old version of me was more mature.
  6. THEN: The 2004 ALCS was when I first started thinking about someday writing a book to commemorate Boston sports during my four years of college. After all, I was there for three Patriots Super Bowls, one Red Sox World Series and three Boston University Beanpot Championships (if you’re into that sort of thing). NOW: I can barely be bothered to write one meaningful blog post per week, let alone a full book. Also, Boston teams just refuse to stop winning Championships so I might be dead by the time there’s enough of a break in the action to actually write the book.
  7. THEN: Two days after the game 7 win in Yankee Stadium, I saw Dave Roberts at a bar in Boston. I noted what kind of beer he was drinking. Then I went to the bar and ordered that same drink. I stared at him until I saw him take the last sip of that Amstel Light, and then I sprinted over and handed him the fresh one and said, “Thanks for the steal.” NOW: Yep. Still pretty obsessed with any celebrity related to sports. Down here in LA, my fiancee will often try to get me to follow around celebrities when we see them in public. I usually decline because they’re meaningless people like Gwyneth Paltrow or Steve Carrell. But I have been known to stare at Bill Simmons for three straight hours when I see him at a Kings game. Not much has changed in this regard.
  8. THEN: For a 21-year-old who didn’t have a lot of responsibility at the time, this Red Sox Championship was the most important thing that had ever happened to me. NOW: Well…once again, not much has changed.

 

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Fine, I’ll Be The First To Say It: The Boston Tragedy Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For The Red Sox

Leave it to me to think about who makes out best from the Marathon Monday Bombing. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t think beyond the immediate tragedy and the people who got injured. I can’t help thinking about who benefits most from all of this.

The way this thing broke for the Red Sox was perfect. They got to leave the city for a three-game road trip in Cleveland before they return to Boston for a 10-game homestand. What if they had been in the middle of a long homestand when this happened? There’s no way they would have played at Fenway during the week following the explosions. Not only would the city of Boston be missing the welcome distraction of watching baseball, but the players’ routines would have gotten majorly screwed up. And we all know how much baseball players are creatures of habit.

Instead they get three road games in mid-April that suddenly have a ton of meaning for them and their fans. Then when Boston’s had a few days to absorb what happened and begins to move on, the Sox ride in and save the day. How crazy is Fenway going to be on Friday night? What if I told you their dramatic return to Boston might coincide with David Ortiz’s dramatic return to the Sox lineup? I’d be spending $30 for a ticket to that game if I was in Boston.

With Kansas City, Oakland and Houston visiting during the homestand, couldn’t this team realistically emerge from their next 12 games with a record of 18-7 and a little extra motivation for the rest of the season? Knowing the Red Sox organization, I’d be stunned if they weren’t marching people out for ceremonial first pitches who somehow represent the marathon, the victims or the heroics that were on display Monday. The players are going to get daily reminders of what they’re playing for.

And if we want to go even further on how this might benefit the Red Sox, there’s this:

I was 12 days into my freshman year of college when the hijacked planes took down the towers in New York. I know firsthand what it’s like to live through a national tragedy with a group of strangers you’re forced to be around every hour of every day. The friendships I made during those dark days of September 2001 are some of the strongest and weirdest friendships I still have to this day. That group of people I bonded with back then is the only group I know who gets together for a yearly reunion. And it doesn’t even matter that all of our significant others have protested the sketchiness of a mixed-gender, supposedly-platonic group of 30 year olds meeting up for a weekend getaway every year. We do it anyway.

The point I’m trying to make here is that all the players and coaches on the Red Sox just had to spend the last 48 hours processing the Marathon explosions together, stuck on a bus, a plane, in a hotel or in the locker room…together. Helping each other get through it. Talking about why someone might have done this. Brainstorming on what they can do to help the community. As of Monday morning, I’m willing to bet some of the players were still getting to know each other. After all there are a bunch of new guys on the team this year. But as of today, I’m willing to bet there’s no locker room in baseball that feels like a family quite as much as the Red Sox do.

If the Sox needed something to rally around and carry them through the intolerably boring summer days, they just got it.

Here’s hoping they save a couple of the feel-good ceremonial first pitch candidates for the World Series in October.

The NFL’s Scheduling Problems, the Packers’ Offensive Problems, the Bears’ Jay Cutler Problem and the Rest of Week 8 in Review

As much of a football expert as I am, even I can’t pretend to understand what the NFL was thinking with its Thursday Night Football schedule. It’s almost like someone purposely decided to take the worst matchup of each week and schedule it for Thursday night on the NFL Network. Through seven Thursday games, we’ve had one great matchup where the game didn’t live up to the hype (Green Bay 23, Chicago 10), one game that came down to the wire despite an undesirable matchup (Tennessee 26, Pittsburgh 23), and five awful matchups with correlating hideous outcomes (NY Giants 36, Carolina 7; Baltimore 23, Cleveland 16; St. Louis 17, Arizona 3; San Francisco 13, Seattle 6; Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17).

And then there’s the NFL Network’s schedule the rest of the season: Kansas City @ San Diego, Indianapolis @ Jacksonville, Miami @ Buffalo, New Orleans @ Atlanta, Denver @ Oakland, Cincinnati @ Philadelphia.

Seven of those 12 teams have essentially been eliminated from the playoffs already. Only New Orleans @ Atlanta is semi-interesting because the Falcons might be going for 11-0 at that point, and the Saints still draw a crowd even though they’re looking at a 6-10 record at best.

If I was making the NFL TV schedule, I wouldn’t give a shit about making sure every team has a nationally-televised game. I would prioritize the most popular teams and the teams most likely to have a strong season (unless of course there’s a legality in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement or the TV contracts that states every team has to have a national game. If that’s the case, disregard the previous 250 words).

Anyway, I’m sick of telling my girlfriend to go find something to do every Thursday night from 5:30 – 8:30, and then realizing the game is awful and wishing she was around so we could continue catching up on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.

Let’s quickly recap what I thought was noteworthy from week 8:

-Speaking of the NFL TV schedule, can someone please explain the logic behind the unbalanced Sunday schedule? This past weekend there were nine games on at 10am PT and only two at 1pm PT. Someone tried to tell me it has to do with the World Series being on, but that can’t be true because the schedule continues to be extremely heavy on the early games for the rest of the season. It can’t have anything to do with too many games being on the east coast because they  schedule plenty of eastern time zone games into the later game slate when they want to.

-Two negative things come from this Sunday schedule: 1). Andrew Siciliano’s head almost explodes live on the Red Zone Channel because he can’t keep up with the dizzying pace of touchdowns and big plays that he has to update us on during the early games, and 2). I end up feeling like I never saw a second of a couple early games because it’s impossible to stay on top of them all.

-This week’s “game that I had no idea was even on because the Red Zone Channel never had time to flash over to it” was Jacksonville vs Green Bay. Here’s what I found out about that game when I read the recap on Sunday afternoon: the Packers somehow only put up one offensive touchdown at home in the first half against a Jaguars team ranked 23rd in passing defense. And with about nine minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the Packers up by 2, this happened: From the Jacksonville 38 yard line, on 4th & 4, the Packers lined up to punt, but decided to run a fake and have their punter Tim Masthay throw what had to be one of the worst passes in NFL history for a lucky incompletion (lucky because it wasn’t picked and returned for a touchdown). So they wanted to convert a 4th down in a key spot and the best way to do this was taking the reigning MVP of the league out of the game?  I continue to think something is terribly wrong with the Green Bay offense. How else can you explain the recent trend of them calling for some trickery to generate points? This week it was the fake punt, two weeks ago it was a surprise onsides kick. I’m just saying either Mike McCarthy is outcoaching himself or there’s worry that they can’t put up enough points with a traditional offense.

-Speaking of less-than-impressive NFC North performances, did you know the Bears defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown to Carolina on Sunday? Even with the Panthers controlling the ball for 37 minutes? And yet somehow it took a last-second field goal for Chicago to pull off the comeback win? I guess the fact that Jay Cutler had -8 fantasy points for me at halftime partially explains how this game was so close. Is there any difference between the 2012 Chicago Bears and the 2006 Super Bowl-losing Chicago Bears? Historically good defense complimented by an atrocious offensive line trying to protect a quarterback with a propensity to turn the ball over? No difference, right? And yet they still look like one of the best four teams in football.

-Do we even have to mention the hideous Pittsburgh Steeler uniforms from Sunday? It’s a common misconception that those uniforms were throwbacks to what they looked like back in the 1930’s. Actually it turns out they just wanted to honor Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite Simpson’s character because the actor who voiced him died recently. That character of course is the Bumble Bee Man:

-Love how the suicide picks this week were supposed to be a gimme. In my pool, half the people still remaining picked Green Bay and the other half picked Chicago. Yep, didn’t have to sweat those picks out at all. But we all survived, and now sadly I’m looking at the possibility of having to pick the 3-4 San Diego Chargers in week 9.

-Speaking of the Chargers, WTF happened to them on Sunday? I know they aren’t very good, but they only turned the ball over once, Philip Rivers was only sacked once, they had a time of possession advantage over Cleveland, they had more total yards…and they lost 7-6? And Norv Turner still has a job, right? There is no one steering the ship down there in San Diego, huh?

-No matter how bad you think you have it as a football fan—I’m talking to you Cleveland, New Orleans, Buffalo, Dallas and Tennessee fans—just remember there are people in Kansas City who are not only spending their money on tickets to see their horrific 1-6 team sink to a new low every week, but also on hiring planes to fly signs over their stadium begging for Chiefs GM Scott Pioli to be fired.

-Julie spent the entire Giants/Cowboys game being amazed that one of the pregame analysts predicted Tony Romo would throw three interceptions and that he was actually doing it (he threw four, actually). I had to explain that this was one of the safest predictions any analyst could have made in all of sports.

-Gronk’s touchdowns dances have been talked about enough at this point, but I just wanted you to know that when he caught his second TD and did that suggestive hip-thrusting dance, I made a note in my journal that said, “Gronk’s 2nd TD dance?? Rubbing his cock all over a stripper’s face? Tits??”

-I haven’t been this happy about a Patriots win in a long time. They did an incredible job over the first seven weeks lowering my expectations to the point where I had none. And then on the Rams’ first drive when Sam Bradford connected with Chris Givens on a 50-yard touchdown, my expectations went even lower than “no expectations.” So to have the defense not let up another long pass all day and come away with a 45-7 win, it was quite the surprise. I will continue to expect only the worst from them.

-I thought I had an off week in terms of my picks against the spread. After all, I bragged about how locked in I was last Friday and came out of the weekend with a modest 9-5 record. But I suspect a lot of people missed badly this weekend because somehow in my two Pick ‘Em leagues, I still came in 2nd place. Let’s all try to be better next week, OK?

-My record for the season now sits at 67-46-5.

Securing My Legacy as the Ultimate Good Luck Charm for Every Long-Suffering Sports Team

Many people think of me as a sports jinx.  It’s basically an annual tradition for me to tell my friends which new Red Sox player’s jersey I bought so they can groan about how that player is about to either be traded or severely injured.

But facts are facts.  All it took for the Boston sports teams to go on a never-seen-before championship run was me moving to Boston in September of 2001.  Only five months later, the Patriots kicked off the Decade of Dominance with their first Super Bowl.  Over those four years at Boston University, the Patriots won three Super Bowls, the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, and the Terriers took home the Beanpot Championship three times.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  But then I move out to San Francisco and only five short years later, the Giants are celebrating their first World Series Championship in like 50 years.

And if we wanna go even farther back in my lifetime, didn’t St. Bernard’s High School make magical championship runs in Football (division six, but still) and Basketball once I enrolled?

So when the LA Kings win their first Stanley Cup Championship in the team’s 45-year history tonight, just remember that I moved to LA six days ago.  I’m the exact opposite of a sports jinx.

I’m open to relocating to any city as a good luck charm as long as all my living expenses are covered by that city’s taxpayers.  Who wants me?