September 02, 2004,
Two questions have dominated my summer. In the realm of politics, friends, colleagues, and family want me to tell them whether “W” is going to pull it off in November. In the much more significant sphere of baseball, I’ve been dogged by questions of whether my beloved Red Sox are going to be the greatest $120 million disappointment in the history of baseball, or whether they’re going to make another run at the Series (before breaking my heart again). Lacking the prescience that my inquisitors seem to think I possess, I’ve waxed and waned on both questions with the latest headlines. Abu Gharib? Al Sadr’s siege? Nomar Garciaparra trade? It all seemed to be leading to a miserable September and October for my Red Sox, followed by a similarly depressing November for my president.
But something started to shift in August. Kerry’s well-scripted convention (yes, I know where it was held) left him without the historic post-convention bounce usually enjoyed by the challenger. The Swifties did not go quietly into the night, despite mainstream media’s attempt first to ignore them and then to discredit them. The electoral map began to change ever so slightly, with blue turning shades of purple, and purple starting to lean red. ABC News’s blog, which declared the race Kerry’s to lose at the beginning of the month, was discussing ways for Kerry to recapture momentum by its end. My win-this-day-lose-the-next political spirits began to look to the heavens and see political hope.
Meanwhile, the Old Towne Team, as they’re known on the pages of the Boston Globe (where politics can’t even stay off the sports pages), began the month of August in controversy, trading their disgruntled but perennial all-star shortstop Garciaparra in a four-team deal involving the equally star-crossed Chicago Cubs. A guy who left everything he had on the field for the last eight-plus years was gone. And, as with every divorce, blame and recrimination soon followed. Nomah was too thin skinned. Sox management turned their back on him in their failed quest to trade for Alex Rodriguez only to have A-Rod land with the hated Yankees. Meanwhile, the Sox dropped a few one-run games shortly after the trade, and the Yanks put the Sox well in their rear-view mirror, opening up a 10 ½-game lead.
Then something clicked. Somewhere about a week after all the shouting about Nomar stopped, the Sox turned the corner and ran off a six-game winning streak followed shortly thereafter by a seven-game winning streak to pull off their best month of the season, winning 21 games in the month of August. At the same time, the historically daunting Yankee pitching staff started to fold like a cheap suit.
So it was just last night that I realized it the planets are aligning in my insular little universe. On a night when Ahnold was chastising the “economic girlie men” of the Democratic party, miracles were happening just across the bridge from Manhattan. The Yankees were playing like girlie men, getting pounded 22-0 by a young Cleveland Indians team. What had been a 10 ½ game lead in the AL East stood at a mere 3 ½ on September 1. At the same time, sheer ebullience seemed to flow from the rafters of Madison Square Garden. A campaign that was stuck in idle to start the summer seems to have a spring in its step as the general campaign gets underway.
So to answer the most common question that I’ve been asked on both fronts: “Yes, I have now been sucked in again.” My baseball defenses have been eroded by a team that’s finally begun to play up to its potential, just as my confidence in President Bush’s ability to seal the electoral deal in November has swung back to the positive side of the dial. In both cases, it can change. President Bush can have a few more “can’t win the war on terrorism” moments, while the Sox September schedule could prove too tough to overcome the Yankees. But for now, all signs are pointing in the right direction.