Let’s face it, the 2015 Boston Red Sox season is pretty much over. However, there is an old tradition that we can hang on to. Mark Schofield explains that for the Red Sox there is always next year.
I remember my first “next year” moment as if it were yesterday. A crisp, October morning at the breakfast table, my fingertips slowly became various shades of grey as I turned the pages of my childhood paper, read the titans of my youth, and tried to grasp just how the Boston Red Sox managed to lose a World Series when they were one strike away from winning so many times. I tried to reconcile my mind around how they would finally win, next year, but it was a resigned thought – not one from a position of confidence or strength.
Sadly, I would have many more “next year” moments ahead of me as a fan. Two years later was the next time. As I sat in the center-field bleachers with my grandfather, a man who came home from storming the beaches on D-Day to start a life in Boston – complete with season tickets that he would not surrender until the late 1990s – and the high point of our afternoon was serenading Oakland’s right fielder with a one-word song that questioned exactly how he had crafted such a sculpted physique. Or two years after that, as I watched the team’s ace become unraveled in the west, saliva dripping from his mouth and coming to rest upon the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoelaces on his spikes. All while bats, water coolers and heads exploded out of the visitor’s dugout, and a World Series window slammed shut.
As I aged, “next years” also formed in my mind around events in my own life. But like they did with the failings of my favorite team, they were often muttered with a tinge of sadness, or questioning. A junior season that ended without a state championship left me wondering about my own role with the team. A senior season that ended with a Thanksgiving Day loss had me looking forward to an uncertain freshman season in college – somewhere, hopefully – or maybe not.
Through it all, the Red Sox continued to disappoint, leading to many more “next year” moments. They lost one of the first playoff series in the Wild Card era. Years later Pedro Martinez’s Herculean efforts in Cleveland were washed away by a phantom tag, although the “Where is Roger?” chants certainly helped.
Of course there was another such moment, years later, where those words crept into my mind, loaded with a tremendous amount of doubt. I laid down on the dining room floor of my apartment a shocked, stunned and defeated ball on the floor on another October night. A night that began with so much promise, yet ended with Aaron Boone circling the bases.
The next morning my wife and I left Washington, D.C. for a long weekend in Pennsylvania. We made a stop on the way at a rest area in Maryland. It might as well have been Yankee Stadium, given the number of Yankee hats and gear that surrounded me. I found myself again thinking about next year, but for the first time in my life I actually felt myself believing it. No longer was there the tinge of disappointment and resignation – but rather, hope.
Fast-forward to another October night, and that same dining room floor. I sat there, having raced home with my wife from a crowded bar to be the only place I wanted to be at that moment. On the phone, with my grandfather. A man who had endured a lifetime of “next years.” And as Foulke underhanded that ball to first, Ray Paradiso simply said: “They finally did it. I never thought I’d see it.”
Next year had become this year.
Fandom, much like life, is filled with “next year” moments. Like when your team is eliminated from playoff contention, or suffers a horrific playoff loss, or the draft brings a new crop of talent to your squad. A new school year starts. New Year’s Eve arrives with the promise of another year ahead, with potential advancements in your profession, in your personal life, in your family life. A birthday, and the romanticism of what the next 365 days might bring. Or that morning when your infant son puts on a backpack, and climbs the steps into that big building on his first day of kindergarten – or college.
As the calendar turns from summer to fall, 29 baseball teams – and their fans – have next year moments on the horizon. But we all have those moments in our lives, filled with the promise of what is to come, and of what can be – or will be.
Next year is not depressing, or resignation. Next year is hope. Because at some point, next year becomes this year.
Thanks to John Quinn for pointing out that the Red Sox were not the first team to lose to a Wild Card winner. It has been changed in the text of the article.
Read some of Mark Schofield’s work at Inside the Pylon, including breaking down film, scouting prospects, and explaining the passing game.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Check out Ian York‘s look at Blake Swihart’s rookie season.