I first discovered I was a Red Sox fan in 1975. That Fall I was a 2nd grader in Worcester, Massachusetts and the Sox were going to the World Series. It was all any of my friends at Tatnuck Elementary School could talk about, and all we heard on the radio or TV was Yaz and "Pudge" Fisk and Luis Tiant and "The Spaceman" and the "Gold Dust Twins." That golden October Fisk willed the ball fair in the immortal sixth game of the World Series against the Reds, and then the Big Red Machine broke the hearts of Red Sox nation in the seventh. The next year, we moved to upstate New York and I lost my way.
My father was a dyed in the pinstripes Yankee fan. Baseball was something of a religion in his family, and now that we were 85 miles as the proverbial crow flies from the House That Ruth Built, my sister and I strayed from the true faith and thought maybe we were Yankee fans too. I started collecting baseball cards and only had eyes for the Bronx Bombers. Dad started taking us to Yankee games where he had access to box seats off the first base line. My sister had a crush on Bucky Dent, and how we cheered in 1978 when what looked to be a high fly ball sailed out of there to clinch that season ending tiebreaker: another notch on the broad Yankee belt and another open wound for the Fenway Faithful.
Our Yankee apostasy ended in 1980. That summer we went to Fenway and for 8 bucks a ticket sat in the bleachers with the beach balls and the pot smoke watching Yaz and the Eck and Dewey and Rice and Lynn on that emerald grass. We brought along a sign that our father had suggested would attract the attention of the TV cameras: "Preserve our Pastime: Fire Kuhn!" The Commissioner of Baseball was a surrogate target for the real enemy: the loathsome owner of the Yankee franchise, George Steinbrenner. I can't remember whether it was the latest firing of Billy Martin or some other straw that finally laid that camel low. Perhaps it was this commercial that did it for him.
Whatever the reason, there came a point in that season when my father announced that Steinbrenner had killed the game and he was renouncing baseball.
He held out for about a year, then modified his exile to exclude only the Yankees and the Red Sox. The Yankees, of course, had worshiped false gods and betrayed the faith, so Dad needed a new team. It had to be the American League East, and it could not be the Red Sox. Somethings are hardwired and nurture has nothing to do with it. So Dad picked Detroit, guaranteeing that we would no longer be going to any home games and would have to find our own way out of the wilderness. For a season I flirted with Milwaukee, but by 1984 I knew in my heart that I had always been a Red Sox fan, and so I embraced that identity, just in time for Detroit to go all the way under Sparky Anderson (making Dad's random pick seem pretty prescient, at least for a season).
In 1986 I was a freshman in College. We had Roger then, and Wade, and poor, decent Bill Buckner. We watched him make the one mistake that would overshadow his entire career, making him the goat of the World Series and bringing down on his head the approbation of Boston fans for all eternity.
In the Fall of 2003 I was sitting in a high end restaurant in Hartford at a land negotiation that was going south. A former Lt. Governor had asked me and two of my colleagues to meet with the owners of a property we had been working to conserve and see if there was yet a deal to salvage. It was also the sixth game of the American League playoffs between the Red Sox and the Yankees, and as we sat around the table sizing each other up we could hear cheers and groans coming from the adjacent bar. Hartford is disputed territory in Red Sox Nation, and the landowners were from the central Connecticut coast, but it turned out that all of us were Red Sox fans (or professed to be that night), and with that basis for agreement to get us started we managed to find our way to yes.
And then 2004, the world changed for Red Sox Fans, and I spent the playoffs screaming and crying and clenching my teeth in a neighborhood bar as they clawed back from certain death to take it all from the Yankees after losing the first 3 of 7. The World Series sweep was icing on the cake, but the AL championship series was more than any self respecting Red Sox fan - particularly one that had come back to the fold after going over to the dark side - had a right to pray for.
The Yanks are at Fenway for a late season 3 game series this weekend. Sox are up 5-1 in the bottom of the 5th in the first game. My Dad is probably watching the game in Andover. And he's rooting for the Sox!