|East coast envy|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
Despite the Schwarzenslide the other night, I'm still a California kid through and through. I've taken shots at the east and extolled the virtues of the west coast swing many a time on Page 2. So, it's with some trepidation that I admit the following: I envy the east this week.
More precisely, I envy the people of Boston and New York (and all their displaced brothers and sisters) who've got a rooting interest in the ALCS. Instead of watching the series from afar, I wish I was all twisted up in every sweaty-palmed pitch. I wish I had a dog in the fight, I wish ...
2. ... I felt the Yankee confidence. Outside Yankee nation, it looks cocky and it's everything we hate. So smug they are, so spoiled. But what must it be like to know you have 26 World Series titles in your back pocket? What must it be like to know Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle aren't abstractions or comic-book heroes, but the flesh-and-blood links in your team's chain from past to present? What must it be like to know, crazy as he is, that Steinbrenner's thirst for winning knows no bounds? It's got to feel good. It's got to give you a deep-breathed, deep-water sort of calm.
3. ... Fenway's musty odor and the Stadium's grime weren't tourist attractions to me but smells and touches I knew in my skin and my soul.
4. ... Pedro wasn't just the best pitcher in baseball but my guy, and that his wicked mechanics weren't just dazzling but moving, and that they weren't something to be admired but emulated, with throws at a fence out behind the house, mock wind-ups in line at the market, and follow-throughs in games of catch on the Commons grass.
5. ... Bucky Dent was a name I said in breathless tones, like parishioners whisper the names of saints and shamans sing the names of spirits.
6. ... I'd been through what it takes to forgive Buckner, Stanley and Schiraldi for their failings in October, '86. First comes the pain, right, and the pain is deep and searing, and you wander the streets like Lear out in the rain, rending garments and cursing the heavens. Then comes the living with it, the moving on, and you carry the hurt around like a lump of lard in your belly. It slows you, makes you feel queasy and dull. Finally, maybe years later, if your heart is true and your spirit willing, you find your way to forgiveness. You know they wanted what you wanted, you know they never meant to hurt you, and so you soften your hard heart to welcome them in and when you do it's a kind of release, a freedom that strengthens you and makes you ready, makes you hungry for the next shot at glory.
8. ... the series and the rivalry were a part of my family history, a thing handed down from one generation to the next. The Dodgers go way back, but their line is severed and shifted, from Brooklyn to L.A. There's a kind of rootlessness about rooting for them. In Boston and NYC, the bloodlines run 100 years straight and true.
9. ... I had a legit claim to wear one of either team's jerseys around the house on game night.
And 10. ... while I'd like to be a part of any of the eastern baseball buzz this week, in the end, I most wish I were a member of Red Sox Nation right now. Part of it is that I was on the losing end of the Reggie Jackson Yankee blitz in the late '70s and I'm still bitter, and part of it is that New York is always an overdog and I always lean more toward the speed-of-lightning-roar-of-thunder thing. But mostly, it's just this: Some year, maybe even this year, it's going to break. They're going to win the championship series and then the World Series, and the rush of feeling that'll go along with that, the flood of it, that's gonna be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Maybe if you're on the inside, it's not like any of this. Maybe it's too organic to spell out, too old to untangle and enumerate.
Watching this series unfold (and with my California teams all dead and buried out west), I sure wish I knew what it was like.
Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.