Not Wearing the Pink Hat

I have a confession to make. After the disastrous series with the Yankees, I considered not watching any more Sox games unless they, by some miracle, made the playoffs.

Then I read this article, which made me very sad. And I have now reconsidered. No matter how depressing watching the Sox gets, I will not be a pink hat fan. You know what I mean. Those fans who only watch the Sox games because 2004 made them trendy and Kapler and Papelbon are cute and isn’t this pink hat adorable. The “fans” who are the antithesis of what it really means to be a Sox fan.

Sox fans are their own breed. Every team has fans, but no other team has so frequently been compared to a religion. “Fenway faithful” is a commonly-heard term. “Still, we believe” became a mantra after the 2003 season. People refer to themselves as “devout” or “lapsed” Red Sox fans. My friend once wrote in her blog, “The Red Sox’ performance has been disappointing, but hardly surprising. But I still have faith. If only I could apply this faith toward religion…”

For a long time, believing in a team that hadn’t won the World Series since 1918 was a point of pride for Sox fans. Our religion dictated patience and loyalty, even in the face of infinite disappointments. We rejected the Yankees as Satan and believed wholeheartedly in the Coming of the World Series.

And then the World Series came, and there was joy throughout the land. But all strained metaphors aside, it was an incredible moment that brought together multiple generations: everyone from my ninety-year-old grandparents, who can still remember the play-by-play of the 1946 World Series, to five-year-old kids at the pool club who announce proudly that their favorite player is, “Big Papi!” When I went to the victory parade, everyone was so happy it just trumped anything negative. At least where I was standing, no one was pushy or obnoxious, just really, really happy. In a city where the Sox are such an inescapable part of local culture, where “Still We Believe” and “Why Not Us?” adorn every business marquis board, where people are pressed up against the doors of the T on game days, where the Dunkin’ Donuts has caricatures of the Sox drawn in the windows, it was a moment of unadulterated joy.

But it also kind of gave us an identity crisis. Suddenly, we weren’t rooting for a losing team anymore. We weren’t just going on blind faith; we knew we could win a championship. We were even expecting it. And although we didn’t win again in 2005, we had a good season, made the playoffs, and didn’t lose the final game to the Yankees. So no one came away with too much bitterness.

This August provided the first real challenge to our post-World Series faith. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when we get swept in a five-game series with the Yankees. Or when it seems like every day, there’s a new injury. Or when David Ortiz has an irregular heartbeat. Or when, in the most devastating piece of recent news, Jon Lester (who’s only 6 months older than me) is diagnosed with cancer.

But you know what? The Sox aren’t’ giving up. Depsite their constant talk of “the future” and “next year,” despite their trading of a certain scary-looking pitcher to San Diego, they’re still determined to win as many games as they can for the rest of the season. Last Friday, they had a ridiculous number of players out and Lester had just been diagnosed- and they still pulled off a win. Pitchers like Kason Gabbard, Kyle Snyder, and Julian Tavarez are stepping up. New guys like Carlos Pena are hitting walkoff homers. Papelbon doesn’t have a tear, just a “transient subluxation event,” which comes from a Latin term meaning, “He’ll be back.” And Varitek and Nixon are finally back in action.

So if the Sox themselves haven’t thrown in the towel, why should we? Moments like this test our faith, and we need to rise to the challenge. I’m sorry that I ever considered doing otherwise. While I can’t afford tickets (hence the “struggling” part of “Struggling Single Twenty-Something”), I’ll be sitting in front of NESN, listening to Remy and Orsillo, throwing my hat into the air as the Sox are victorious once again.

And the hat sure as heck isn’t pink.

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