October 29, 2004

Random Thoughts on the Red Sox

Here's something I did not know: Theo Epstein, the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, is the grandson of Philip G. Epstein and the great-nephew of Julius J. Epstein, two of the screenwriters of Casablanca. I find that oddly intriguing. (Here's an American Prospectarticle on the Epstein twins, written by Leslie Epstein--Theo's dad--and published while I worked at the magazine.)

It's almost become a cliche to ask how Red Sox fans will react to their new-found success, given that the franchise's identity has been based on a long history of futility. Leslie Epstein touched on this question in The New York Times yesterday:

"They're going to be heartbroken at not being heartbroken," said Mr. Epstein, a novelist who is chairman of the creative writing department at Boston University. "It's not just a joke. That's what's made us unique. We were the Boston Red Sox that never could win."

Mr. Epstein, who has lived for 26 years in the Red Sox Nation, pointed out that A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former baseball commissioner and avid Red Sox fan, once said that Fenway Park was the place to understand Calvinism in America, to learn that people sometimes fail and that failure can build character.

"There's a crack in Calvinism now," Mr. Epstein said. "Now, we're going to have to find something else. Maybe Bostonians will be secretly wishing for a Kerry loss so they can wail about that."

I'm skeptical of a lot of what Epstein says--I don't think any Red Sox fans are going to be "heartbroken at not being heartbroken," and the Calvinism comparison seems overwrought to me--but Bostonians may well come to view their team in a different way. Then again, they might not. As I rode the bus to Harvard this morning, the driver and another passenger were laughing their heads off about the team's historical misadventures; the driver didn't seem too interested in discussing the current Red Sox, but the only thing stopping him from recounting the story of Bill Buckner's 1986 misfortunes was a serious bout of laughter. Then, as I ate lunch on the library steps, I overheard a group of Harvard cops loudly reminiscing about the 1975 and 1986 World Series. This may be a last hurrah for Red Sox fatalism, or perhaps Sox fans will continue to base their identity on the team's unfortunate past but with less bitterness and more humor.

(If there are any Red Sox fans "secretly wishing for a Kerry loss," by the way, then they may be in luck: I have the sinking feeling that the Democrats just lost the election. Update: actually, I don't feel quite as bad about what this foretells about the election as I did when I first wrote this entry. After seeing one sensationalistic CNN story about how bin Laden mocked Bush and about how Kerry was now on the defensive, I got kind of depressed about the election. [And CNN is supposedly pro-Kerry!] Most of the news coverage I've seen since then has been far more mild, which makes me optimistic that the tape won't make much difference either way. Leaving partisan calculations aside, that's exactly the way things should be.)

Posted by Ed at October 29, 2004 07:44 PM

The only pariotic response to Osama is not to respond at all. Anyone who permits his/her vote to be swayed by what ObL has to say is a fool, and next thing to a traitor. I say that whether that swayed voter ends up voting for Kerry or for Bush.

Posted by: John Casey at October 31, 2004 09:27 AM
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