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Confessions of a jaded Red Sox fan

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All right, boys and girls, everybody gather around the campfire. We're going to have an old fashioned sing-along. Do you remember "Those Were the Good Old Days," from Damn Yankees? No? Well, you better look it up, because we're singing to that tune.

Ready? A one, and a two, and a three:

I see Billy Buckner bending,

And all our hopes are ending;

The ball is rolling through his legs before our gaze.

And that horrible truth

When we learned they sold Ruth,

Those were the good old days.

I see Bucky Dent, of all guys,

The weakest of the small guys

That cheesy little homer floating through the haze.

And my heart is at risk,

They forgot to sign Fisk.

Those were the good old days.

I know it's not pretty

To wallow in pity,

There's nothing of value one can gain.

Then all of a sudden

I see Don Buddin

And again I'm awash in wondrous pain.

Was anybody happy?

I see Grady Little snoring

While Yankee runs are scoring,

Pedro's out of gas but in the game he stays.

And there's Slaughter's mad dash,

Another late season crash.

Those were the good old days.

Oh, I'd complain and I'd beef

But I miss the grief

Of those good old days.

There's a little part of us -- not a large part, mind you, but just a little bit -- that's kind of nostalgic for the days when the Yankees used to do to us what we just did to them; they left us for road kill on the side of the highway. Living in splendid misery was part of being a Red Sox fan. We not only learned to live with pain, but also we wore it as a badge of honor. Dare I say it? In a strange way we enjoyed our heartaches. It separated us from run-of-mill losers, often coming close but always coming up short.

It still feels kind of funny, doesn't it? Funny -- peculiar, not funny -- ha ha. This constant winning takes some getting used to. We've been conditioned over the years to expect that when there's a remote possibility that something can go wrong, it will.

I've been thinking a lot about Jerry Remy these days and the never-ending struggle he's been going through, but I've been thinking also about the day 40 years ago when he came through in the clutch and would have been the Red Sox hero of heroes, but for a last second lunge by Lou Piniella. It was the playoff game for the 1978 pennant between the Red Sox and the Yankees; it's known as the Bucky (Bleeping) Dent game, but it came within a nanosecond of being known as the Jerry Remy game. It was the last of the ninth inning, Red Sox trailing, four to three. There was one out, and Rick Burleson, who had walked, was on first. Yankee closer, Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, was on the mound. Remy, a left handed hitter, came up to bat. Piniella, in right field, was playing shallow to prevent Burleson from taking an extra base on a hit; besides, Remy, a little guy, was not a long-ball threat. The late afternoon sun hung just over the third base grandstand, shining right into Piniella's eyes. C-r-a-a-a-c-k! Remy hit a sharp line drive to right. From my seat behind the Red Sox dugout I could see Piniella shouting that he couldn't see the ball. He stood stalk still, blinded by the sun. Burleson, on first, held up, not knowing whether or not the ball would be caught. The ball skipped off the grass, just a few feet in front of Piniella. As it did, he was finally able to see it. He stuck out his glove at the last instant and managed to grab the ball just as it was going by, looking more like a hockey goalie than a right fielder. Burleson was able to advance only as far as second base. Remy was on first with a clutch single.

The rest is history. Jim Rice hit a long fly, advancing Burleson, representing the tying run, to third base. But Carl Yastrzemski popped out to third, thus ending still another frustrating season.

But think what could have happened if Remy's line drive had skipped past Piniella, as it came within a whisker of doing. It would have rolled all the way to the 380 foot sign, the big right fielder, not exactly a gazelle, lumbering after it. Burleson would have scored easily from first to tie the game. Remy, a speed merchant, might well have had an inside the park home run, but let's say the Sox played it conservatively and held him up at third. He'd have scored on Rice's long fly, and -- but that's not what happened, is it?

That's way it always seemed to be. It's why so many of us are so jaded.

Oh sure, it's been 14 years since the Miracle of '04, and then there was 2007 and 2013, but we still believe in our heart of hearts that those were just set-ups, that the great apocalypse will inevitably follow.

But maybe, just maybe, this Red Sox team is the real deal; maybe it's a team for the ages.


Whatever happens, the 2018 Red Sox are hard to ignore. We'll be talking about them for years to come. They've already given us hope, and that's a good thing.

Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox “Poet Laureate” and The Pilot’s recently minted Sports’ columnist.

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