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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Red Sox theology watch: After the scapegoat.

Sam Allis thinks we Red Sox fans — and, by extension, all of greater Boston — must finally confront our deepest vice:

Victimhood is the most seductive, self-indulgent of feelings. It breeds sloth and failure. It is the mother of all excuses whenever a challenge looms too large. For Bostonians, victimhood has been a fun house mirror that has warped our true reflection. In it, we appear in every shape but the right one.

The Sox have performed an act of public service by demolishing our enduring symbol of victimhood, the Curse of the Bambino. We can now call it by its secular name: close-but-no-cigar baseball. Also known as not-quite-good-enough baseball. And life-isn't-fair baseball. That's all it ever was.

Ah, the demystifying powers of victory! But are we ready to live in a disenchanted world? Would a World Series championship really provide a cathartic liberation from generations of cursedness? Can we Bostonians live in the moment, and not in a perpetual state of historical grievance? Can this city be redeemed? Will we recognize ourselves once 1918 has been banished as an existential condition and excuse? Underdog: that's almost ontological, almost "original sin"-like.

Allis thinks it's time for a new persona:

Was there ever a better underdog than the Sox? The Cubbies notwithstanding, no. We luxuriated in The Unfairness of It All and, over the years, felt it grow as comfy as an old flannel shirt.

Now, the Sox are simply a great team. Now, Boston is simply the hometown of a great team. Neither can be judged anymore through tired metaphors. New York is no longer Boston's daddy.

Huh. No more "Hub of the Universe"? Now it's just "Simply Boston"? That's so quotidian! And yet, for a World Series championship, why not? Allis doesn't propose a new modesty, though:

The city, by the way, has never considered itself a winner. An aristocrat, yes, but not a winner. It has preened over its treasure of brains and culture, sophistication and history, yet lacked the appropriate chutzpah to go with it. Sort of the Adlai Stevenson of cities. [Ha ha! Unitarian!]

With the recent exception of the Patriots, Boston has never displayed the swagger of a place with all the marbles at the end of a season. Even when our Celtics and Bruins were great, our peculiar elixir of arrogance and insecurity simply denied our pride access to our DNA. Boston arrogance derived from Puritan arrogance — pinched, tight, unfun. (That's why Brahmins consume so much gin.) We never afforded ourselves a loose swagger, and we've been the poorer for it.

A Boston swagger. That will be something to see. Three hundred seventy-odd years of Puritanism finally banished. Or perhaps we have been redeemed, liberated, and freed. Johnny is my homeboy! Alleluia! Why, I can almost feel myself swaggering now.

("Sob-storied History," Sam Allis, Boston Globe 10.24.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 24 October 2004 at 10:11 AM

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