Baseball could be cursed if winning Red Sox send Bambino packing

October 23, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

BOSTON - There is a rumor floating around that the Boston Red Sox have become America's Team, as if everybody but a handful of coonskin-capped ticket takers at the Gateway Arch is rooting for them to end the alleged Curse of the Bambino.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Real baseball fans - not the whiny, self-hating variety that you see stumbling along "Mass-Ave" in their post-Yankee euphoria - aren't going to relish the thought of a World Series parade through Red Sox Nation, not if they've considered the negative effect a Sox victory over the St. Louis Cardinals would have on baseball as we know it.

The Red Sox without "The Curse" wouldn't be the Red Sox, and Red Sox fans without their traditional attack of autumn angst would lose the common bond that has held them together for much of the last century, which could lead to widespread ticket availability. And that's just the local impact.

The new, upbeat, neurosis-free Red Sox would not have the same level of resentment for the evil New York Yankees, which would take the edge off the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and, inevitably, cut deeply into national television ratings - a deadly chain reaction that would alter the very fabric of society and force millions to tune in to The Apprentice.

I suppose I could live with that if I didn't also have to worry about the possibility that baseball will find itself mired in a "Curse" shortage. The Phillies ended a 97-year title drought in 1980 and the Angels shook off their 40-year curse with a victory over the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 Fall Classic, leaving only the "Big Two" baseball curses still intact.

That's right, Manny Ramirez goes deep in the ninth inning of Game 7 next weekend and baseball is down to the "Curse of Billy Goat," which has kept the Cubs out of the World Series since 1945. It's a nice enough curse, but - let's face it - who's really going to get excited about a spurned barnyard animal?

(Editor's note: The Chicago White Sox also have endured a long world title drought, but in order for a curse to be official, somebody other than Jerry Reinsdorf has to care whether it ever ends.)

The Red Sox appear oblivious to the danger that a World Series victory might pose to the baseball world. Manager Terry Francona insisted yesterday that everyone was just "focused on winning," a typically selfish mind-set common among professional athletes and trial lawyers.

Sox officials also seemed unconcerned that fans might lose interest in the team once their 86-year hunger has been satisfied.

"I think people will keep coming," said public relations director Glenn Geffner, "and we'll always have the Yankees. I don't think winning the World Series would lead people to walk away from the Red Sox. I think it would just add to the mystique and the passion. Hopefully, we'll get to find out."

Well, what did you expect the guy to say? He's the PR director, for God's sake.

If the Red Sox win and the Bambino heads down the Mass- achusetts Turnpike for good, the face of baseball in the Northeast will be changed forever, but not necessarily for the better.

Fenway Park did not have a single seat go unsold this year. Who knows what will happen when the prevailing question changes from "Will they ever do it?" to "Can they do it again?" Suspense is a great salesman. Satisfaction is the enemy of enterprise. Bartlett's Quotations is a very useful book.

For some fans, just staging the historic comeback against the Yankees was enough.

"There are people here for whom that truly is sufficient," said the great Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, "but it's not the majority. It's not just about one-upsmanship over your college roommate who lives in New York."

Boston fans know from nearly a century of experience that it will only feel like the end of the world if the Sox lose. Bambino fans are similarly preparing themselves for the passing of the curse.

"There will be other teams to whine that God hates them," said San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto. "We're already doing it in San Francisco, and we were in the World Series two years ago."

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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