It’s October 17, 2004, a miserable excuse for a Sunday. I’m tired as hell from my trip to New York, and its production night for Bryan McBournie and me at our college newspaper, The Tartan. We go in to start our layouts, and hardly say a word to anyone, people want to ask us if we’re ok, but even the non-sports fans knew that today was not the day to talk. Today is our death march. Today is what we have come to expect as individuals. Today we have our souls carved out again. Today is hell. Today the Red Sox get swept, and there is not a damn thing we can do but watch.
Normally when we go to our watering hole, BT’s, its all smiles. We know the bartenders, know the waitresses, and are occasionally rewarded for our patronage with a warm shot of house tequilla for free. Not tonight though. Even our most familiar bartender Todd has a grimace on his face when we come in during the sixth inning. He fills a pitcher of Keystone, hands us two mugs and forces a smile. McBournie and I sit in the semblance of a dining area that only a college “restaurant and fine dining” bar can offer. The game is on the big screen, it’s 4-3 New York, and we know were its headed, this is our fate as Red Sox fans. Doom. Elevated hope that eventually crushes even your will to want to even get up the next day. It’s sick that we get this way as fans, but we’re a different breed, and fate is a fickle broad.
We’ve come to watch our season end. It’s fitting that we’re ending this in a bar, ironic though that we’re about to be slapped with a pain that no amount of whiskey in BT’s can dull. Let’s just get this over with …
You see, that night I fully expected McBournie and I to go back to our respective apartments with our Red Sox getting swept in the ALCS despite all the promise that this might be “our year.” It wan an abysmal sight, pathetic really. And the unseasonably cold weather was no match for the death we already felt inside. But something magical happened that night, something that only over four hours of playoff baseball and god knows how many pitchers of Keystone can create: our faith was rewarded and our hope was restored.
Every true Boston fan knows that Dave Roberts needs to be mentioned at every wedding, funeral, birthday party, birth and christening forever, but that night, for me belonged to one David Ortiz. Well after midnight, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Ortiz stepped up to plate with Manny Ramirez on first, a tie ballgame, and the future crushed hopes of Sox fans everywhere sitting squarely on the 34 stictched into the back of his home white jersey. But that night was different, because with one swing of the bat, Ortiz effectively sent the Yankees, 86 years of anguish, and two mugs of Keystone deep into the Boston night. And as Papi rounded the bases, McBournie and I both did something we didn’t think we’d be able to do for a long time, we smiled.
Sure, we didn’t know what was about to unfold. Even after the game four comeback, if you had told either one of us that the Red Sox would complete the single greatest comeback in the history of sports, we would have told Todd to stop serving you. And what happened in the ensuing days not only kept us smiling, but re-affirmed every single wish that we had since we were kids, that maybe, just maybe, one day Boston would be victorious.
Papi’s subsequent heroics became the benchmark of our Boston faith. The man killed the Yankees. Ortiz was the symbol of good triumphing evil, he was our big, lovable mound of clutch hits, no fear and probably about $4,000 worth of Boston area donuts annualy. He turned our darkest moment of surefire catastrophe into the foundation of our ability to laugh, smile and know what it’s like to have 86 years of frustration lifted off of a collective back.
And that is why I can never be mad, upset or disappointed in what was revealed this past week. I truly believe that even if Ortiz tested positive for any substance, he truly did not know what he was taking was wrong. The baseball nation is in an uproar over “tainted titles” and Big Papi’s ruined legacy. But I’ll tell you what his legacy is to me: taking the worst fears of two dejected friends riding out the storm, and turning that into the biggest high that words will never do justice. That, my friends. is legacy. And no steroid allegations will ever tarnish my memories of a crisp October night in which one David Ortiz gave us back our hope.