The thrill of defeat and the agony of victory


In 2004, my lifelong Red Sox fandom came to fruition, with a unprecedented sense of contentment and peace after years of suffering. That lasted around a week, until Bush was reelected, offering a stomach punch to my other lifelong allegiance to progressive politics. For a native New Englander, these two events were uncomfortably related, the Powers that Be providing momentary joy only to remind us what’s really important.

Thus my sports fandom has gained a great deal of perspective this year, as the Red Sox’s failure to complete their third improbable ALCS comeback of the decade fell short. After last week’s remarkable win after trailing 7-0 in the 7th, I had mixed emotions – overjoyed that they did the impossible, but irrationally worried what it might mean. After all, McCain was down 7-0 in the 7th inning to a scrappy outsider with little track record. If the Sox could complete such a comeback, might McCain do the same? Thus while I was disappointed that the Sox won’t be in their third World Series in five years, I sought solace in renewed confidence that a large lead toward the end of an election is not a sign of doom, but a sign of hope. I’m at peace with baseball, and striving for hope and joy with more weighty contests.

Yes, it’s irrational to tie sports & politics like this (although I’m not the only one), but we all need things to obsess over and build crazy chains of causation.

Speaking of obsession, let me leave you with this excellent video, which was produced by some of my former students at Middlebury:

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