By J. Sam Williams
The Spring of 2007. The time in my life when I transitioned from casual Red Sox fan to full blown Boston Sports Nut. It began under rather un-climatic circumstances. I mentioned to my dad one day that the Red Sox were doing well, something I’d heard about at school. He said we should watch the Red Sox and so we did. That’s it.
This happened at the exact right time for me, however. It was the end of my freshman year. I had no friends. I had reached the peak of my obesity. I had no hobbies. I would come home from school, do my homework and play video games. What’s funny is that the idea of watching the Red Sox didn’t necessarily excite me, the idea of my dad buying a new channel for our cable package did.
So, we watched.
I remember that first game we watched together with exquisite clarity. Why? The game took place on Mother’s Day. My mom silently fumed that we watched a sporting event during her day. When we did turn the game on (haven’t you been watchin the game up to this point? the bottom of the 9th inning loomed, and the Red Sox had laid an egg. Zero to five against the Orioles.
Flash forward a bit: Coco Crisp—one of the all-time-great baseball names—stood on base with David Ortiz up at the plate. One out wasted already, meaning the Red Sox had two outs to score five runs to tie, or six runs to win. Ortiz doubled to left-center field and Crisp scored. Haha, very cute. I wasn’t all that interested.
Soon the bases were loaded with Kevin Youkilis up at the plate, a full count in play. I was semi-interested. I remember asking my dad loads of questions about the rules. Youkilis walked, forcing a run to score. 5-2 now. Then Captain Jason Varitek lined to right field scoring two. 5-4, only one out, and I was on the edge of my seat.
Julio Lugo hit a ground ball to the first baseman which scored one run tying the game, but the Orioles made an error and threw away the ball. This let Varitek run from second all the way home to win the game. I remember the crowd went wild, the announcers went berserk, my dad whooped—a rarity for sure—and I fell in love with baseball.
This wasn’t my first time watching baseball. In 2003 I watched every game against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Too young to stay up on a school night, my dad woke me in the morning with the news that Aaron Boone murdered the Red Sox and all of Red Sox Nation.
I watched Dave Roberts steal off Mariano Rivera. I watched David Ortiz walk off twice. I watched Curt Schilling pitch with a bloody sock. I watched Damon hit a Grand Slam. I watched a curse broken in St. Louis. Yet, even with every fiber of my being invested in the Sox in 04, I still didn’t love baseball. I hadn’t fallen in love yet, not like I did on Mother’s Day of 07.
As it turned out 07 was a great year to become a full-blown Boston Sports Nut. The Patriots went undefeated in the regular season—let’s skip the Super Bowl aspect of that year. The Celtics traded for two superstars and beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals—excellent. And the Red Sox rallied from down 3-1 in the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians—thanks in part to Josh Beckett and J.D. Drew—to move onto the World Series where they swept a cute but unprepared Colorado Rockies team to win it all.
In the Fall of 2007 nothing but the Red Sox mattered to me. Baseball occupied every inch of my mind. My grades slipped a tad, my social interactions were limited to conversations about baseball at school. My home life relegated to doing my homework as fast as possible, eating as by the shovelful, and staring at a screen for three hours, my emotions spiking dangerously. My moods would swing with the bats. Red Sox losing? I would be sour. Red Sox winning? I would crack jokes.
I remember when the Red Sox won the World Series I leapt with them in my living room. My mom woke as I jumped, my aunt said quietly, “Congratulations.” Before I’d never understood why people would congratulate each other when their team won. Fans didn’t do anything. Why should people say, “Hey congrats, you won.” But right then I understood. I felt like Batman. Scratch that. I felt like Ortiz coming up to the plate, bases loaded—like I could hit anything, win everything. I’d never experienced that. It feels like an accomplishment when your team wins. It’s not a physical accomplishment, but it’s an emotional accomplishment. All that mental effort was worth the ecstasy of final win.
My dad was out of the country when the Sox won. He called a few minutes after the final out, spending money on a long-distance call from Hong Kong to celebrate with his son.
The Red Sox just won the World Series again, 11 years later. They won one in 2013 too. They’ve won four in the past 15 years. They’re being written about as “Baseball Royalty.” But this win, as with the win in 2013, doesn’t feel the same. In fact, sports haven’t felt the same in several years.
Don’t get me wrong. I still bleed Red Sox blood. I call my dad after all the postseason games to talk things through. But I just don’t invest my emotions the same way I did when I was 15.
It’s strange. To the outside eye someone would look at me—perhaps my wife—and say he’s an absolute sports nut. It’s true in some respect. I follow sports closely. When the baseball playoffs were happening, I couldn’t do anything else. I told my wife I was gonna be a bad husband and I’d sit in front of the computer and watch the game with my dinner in my lap.
I went clubbing in Santa Cruz during Game 3 of the World Series and kept checking the play-by-play updates, flabbergasted that the Dodgers tied it in the 13th on an error. I felt a gut punch when the Dodgers walked off in the 18th. When Sale struck out Machado to end game 5 and win it all I felt the familiar flip of my stomach and pounded my fist.
But the emotions of happiness or despair are duller and easier to move past. For years I’ve been realizing the lack of emotive presence in my fandom. Take earlier this year for instance. I went to a Red Sox game in Oakland up in the nose-bleeds of the worst baseball stadium known to mankind. The Red Sox were tearing up the league. I thought they had a good chance to win everything. I spent the whole Bart ride telling my wife, who very sweetly indulged my animated but one-sided conversation—how good this Sox team was. The Red Sox were no-hit that night (that’s bad).
As my wife and I left the stadium I realized I felt neither here nor there about what had transpired. Seeing a no-hitter is a rare occasion. I’d finally seen one. Your team getting no-hits is an absolute stinker. I’d seen it happen in person. But I also didn’t really care all that much.
Sometime between that no-hitter and the start of this seasons playoffs I began to realize it wasn’t just sports that I wasn’t emotionally connecting with, it was a lot of things in life. I didn’t care that much about bad drivers, about graduating grad school, about getting a new job, or friends flaking on me.
I began to wonder if it had much to do with my mom’s passing, nearly eight years ago. I tried to trace this emotional disenfranchisement back to that moment, and while it’s probably somewhat a contributing factor it doesn’t line up with my timeline.
The last sporting event that really boiled me up was an NFL game; Patriots vs Broncos where the Broncos narrowly beat a 10-0 Patriots team that I thought could have gone undefeated for a 19-0 season. With Deflategate, unfair calls by the refs, and lifetime of crap hearing about how the Patriots are cheaters and that Peyton Manning is way better than Brady, I was heated. That game was in 2015.
Since then, I haven’t faced trauma, or anything of that nature. I haven’t started liking sports less either. I realize, I’ve got bigger problems and bigger dreams, and those dwarf the emotions of the past.
I graduated from my MFA program a year after that NFL game. My wife graduated some six months before and suddenly I’d gone from school my entire life to nothing, no support system, no financial aid, no support. My wife and I had to fend for ourselves. We had to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, work real jobs. Now was the time for a career. Now was the time to get serious. No more frivolous writing. No more late nights crafting my art. Job. Money. Career.
Yet I knew more than ever that my career needed to be storytelling. I’d gotten my MFA. I had a community of writers to lean on, but I’d set myself up poorly. Sociology major, religion and sustainability minor; Creative Writing graduate—wannabe writer, untrained journalist, second choice of interviews, not enough experience, no talent. And no answer from agent queries.
Where was I to go?
These were and are real issues. Ones I am still dealing with. I want to write novels and I want to write children’s books. I write and re-write and send queries and work with other writers to produce quality products for free because I cannot generate money for my writing yet. But if I keep writing for free who will buy my writing? They can already get it for free. Yet I can’t generate money now without exposure. So I have to do it free now, don’t I?
These are such big issues, such real dilemmas to deal with, to grasp. I realized I never had to deal with them before. Everyone has told me I’ve got a good head on my shoulders, I’ll figure it out. The job will come. The money will come.
Jobs have come. Money has come. But the jobs aren’t fulfilling. The money isn’t enough. Not enough for healthcare, or property ownership, or the ability to actually afford education. Now I find myself pushing through, stressing to make sure I push and push until something comes of my writing. The pushing is hard, and not altogether good for my health, but if I don’t push I fall into the world of the everyman—into the world of people who gave up and became this or that because it was time to earn money.
I want to tell stories. I want to create. I am afraid of never fulfilling this life goal because I need shelter, I need to eat, I need my health—and these things take money which, for now I cannot write into existence.
I’ve come to a realization that makes sense to me. I feel the same emotions about the Red Sox winning the World Series now as when they did in 07. That whoop of joy, that edge on your seat thrill--it’s all there. What’s happened is that my perspective that has changed. My goals and dreams. My fears. They’re so much larger now than they were then. Some might say it has changed for me, that this is what change feels like--but for some reason that doesn’t ring true. What rings true is now I know what it’s like to have these bigger issues, to emotionally invest in something way larger than a sports victory. My fandom has remained the same, but the rest of me changed. That feels right.
The Red Sox winning the World Series no longer means the world to me. That’s probably good. Hopefully this change is putting me on the path to success. I certainly hope it hasn’t put me on the path to an emotional train wreck if I fail too many times. Perhaps I’ll look back and hope I’d have stayed in the emotional range of my 15-year-old self. I have a feeling I’ll be glad I didn’t.
J. Sam Williams is the Co-Head Blog Editor for Meow Meow Pow Pow. He graduated from Antioch University of Los Angeles with an MFA in Creative Writing. He is a MuggleNet Social Media Associate, and a cat lover. Be on the look out for Mew Meow Pow Pow's podcast, Meow Meow Pod Pod, which he will be co-hosting.
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