Joe Castiglione’s famous call still stands. Can you believe it?
The Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino and won their first World Series since 1918 exactly 10 years ago Monday. The triumph not only ended a stretch of intense playoff futility. It changed life as Boston fans knew it.
Back in 2004, the phrase “We believe” was tossed around with regularity. A more accurate rallying cry for Boston’s collective mindset, however, would have been “We want to believe.” A championship seemed unattainable despite the Red Sox’s close calls in October. The whole concept of “keeping the faith” didn’t specify “blind faith.” But perhaps it should have.
One win separated the Red Sox from World Series jubilation in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986. Substantial heartbreak also ravaged the city in 1978, when Bucky Dent hit a game-winning home run in the American League East tiebreaker game, and in 2003, when Aaron Boone sent the New York Yankees past the Sox and into the World Series with a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the ALCS.
On the one hand, you could say Boston had become numb to playoff agony. But on the other, does anyone ever grow comfortable with losing, even when it seems inevitable?
Curt Schilling proudly sported a T-shirt during the Red Sox’s 2004 run that asked, “Why not us?” While merely a piece of fabric, the shirt posed an interesting question, as Boston fans had long asked themselves, “Why us?” with regard to the seemingly endless supply of October misfortune.
The self-proclaimed “idiots” who shared a clubhouse on Yawkey Way a decade ago comprised the perfect group for ending 86 years of misery. They were fun, they were loose and they obviously didn’t give a damn about what history said should happen at the end of a Red Sox season. Instead, they were hell-bent on flipping the script, even after falling behind the Yankees 3-0 in the ALCS and creating an all-too-familiar feeling across Red Sox Nation.
“We have a chance to shock the United States of America,” former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said after Boston forced a decisive Game 7 in New York in 2004.
When asked why not shock the world, as opposed to one country, Millar’s response was perfect.
“Yeah, there you go, we’ll shock the world,” Millar replied. “If they’re watching in Japan, we’ll shock them, too.”
The Red Sox did shock the world by defeating the Yankees. And they then shocked the world by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic. It took a cast of misfits — albeit talented ones — with a nothing-to-lose mantra to buck an 86-year trend and launch a new era, but the forbidden fruit tasted that much sweeter.
The Red Sox, who also won the World Series in 2007 and 2013, have become synonymous with success rather than failure over the last 10 years. Sure, there have been some hiccups, including 2014. But Boston no longer hopes for a championship annually. It expects it. It demands it.
Ten years ago, duck boat use was sparse in the fall and winter months. Now, there’s always a chance they’ll parade down the streets of Boston at the conclusion of any baseball season.
Ten years ago, Dent, Boone and Bill Buckner were names begrudgingly mentioned in conjunction with Boston’s playoff history. Now, names like Schilling, David Ortiz and Jon Lester are revered as Red Sox playoff heroes.
Ten years ago, Boston’s story could have been described as a tragedy or a horror film. Now, it’s the greatest story ever told for at least one generation of Red Sox fans.
Ten years ago, Castiglione asked, “Can you believe it?” after the Red Sox won the World Series. Amazingly, the answer still is “no.”
There’s a new normal in Boston. But some things remain difficult to grasp.
Photo via Twitter/@sportsonthemarc
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