I needed something fun and easy to read so I picked up “Now I Can Die in Peace” by Bill Simmons, a writer for ESPN.com. Now, I have always enjoyed Simmons’ columns, I’ll admit that. I would describe him sort of as like the average joe fan who turns out to be an above average writer. Not a great writer; it’s a bit harder to read in book form and he definitely pales in comparison to other some-time ESPN contributers like Klosterman and Easterbrook. Those guys are on a whole different level.
Regardless, the focus of the book is about the journey of the 2004 Red Sox and all their long-suffering fans. 86 years between world championships for them, 1918 to 2004 (quickly followed by 2007, of course). And though Simmons’ refuses to use the word “curse” to describe the plight of Red Sox fans, he incessantly harps about how “this always happens to us”, saying how they’re so unlucky or this is so terrible, or it’s so hard to root for this team, blah blah blah.
What a bunch of whiny crap.
Look, unless you’re actually like 86 years old, I don’t buy any of this garbage about how long you’ve been suffering. This guy is like 10 years older than me, so I’ll give him like 10 more years of following his team, so that takes him to around 1976 or 1977. That’s like 30 seasons of baseball, out of which the Red Sox have only posted 5 seasons with losing records. The most they lost in a single season in that span was 89 games. They went to the playoffs 7 times from 1976 to 2003. So why are you crying so much you gigantic baby.
The Tigers last won a World Series in 1984. I was 5 at the time and had lived in Michigan for all of two months at that point, so I had no idea what was going on. I started to follow baseball in 1986 and was heartbroken when they lost in the playoffs in 1987. Now. Since 1986, the Tigers have posted 16 seasons with losing records, including four 100+ loss seasons. I almost feel like that 119 loss monstrosity in 2003 should count double. Even if a “Red Sox fan” could love their team as much as I love mine, you really think you’ve had it harder? You think you’re that freaking important? Just shut up.
In my lifetime, we’ve had two playoff appearances (1987 and 2006). Both times we fielded excellent teams, and yet somehow ended up losing to, by any objective measure, the TWO WORST WORLD SERIES “CHAMPIONS” OF ALL TIME (’87 Twins, ’06 Cards). You can’t know what this feels like. It’s like having your girlfriend stolen from you by Screech from Saved By the Bell. Twice.
And enough with the whole “Red Sox – Yankees is the best rivalry in sports” garbage. It’s a great rivalry, no doubt, and for the time being, it’s the best rivalry in baseball. But the best rivalry in the history of sports, past present or future, is Michigan – Ohio State. End of story.
My team has been terrible for most of my life. And if I were like a Red Sox fan, I would be crying and peeing all over myself, saying “Oh no….what if I grow old and die before my team wins a World Series?” Such a fan would use that as an excuse to expect the worst, to bail on their team when times get rough. Rough times? Try living through a 119 loss season. Seriously.
But even in 2003, I wasn’t bemoaning my fate of rooting for a doomed team. Hell no. I believed that things would be better. Maybe not right away, but I didn’t jump ship, I loved them with all their faults, maybe even because of their faults. And whether it was 1987, 2003 or 2006, I knew I would someday see the Tigers win the World Series. And not later on, like on my death bed. I knew I would see it in the foreseeable future. I knew it then. I know it now. I will see it happen.
So listen. I could give an exhaustive player-by-player breakdown about how I think the season will go. I could do that. I could give a Peter Gammons-esque list of things that need to break right for something to maybe happen, i.e. “if player X stays healthy, if player Y breaks out, then maybe Team Z has a shot at making noise in the playoffs.” I did this last year. I said, “if the Tigers stay healthy, they could win 90 to 105 games.” But what good is that? It’s useless. It’s gutless.
What is objectivity? What is factual truth? Can we ever truly know if the “facts” we hold to be true really are true? Is foresight any different from memory? Perhaps; knowledge of past is more than mere scienter; it’s memory corroborated by extrinsic evidence. Maybe knowledge of the future seems less substantial; belief corroborated by nothing more than hope. But if that belief and that hope are strong and virtuous enough, maybe that foundation is no less shaky than that of the “facts” we take for granted.
Maybe that seems tangential, but the point is this: THE DETROIT TIGERS WILL WIN THE 2008 WORLD SERIES. And that’s a fact.
EDIT: OK, I guess I was wrong.