Free to Be (4 Games to 3) 

No disrespect to my blogging partner Elbo and his pinstriped heart, but last night's Red Sox victory was the best thing to happen to baseball in years.

The Sox victory was a breakthrough, a reminder that the Yankees can not only be beaten (we knew that already from 2001, 2002 and 2003), but humiliated. It's not just the money people resent, it's the arrogance. The birthright. The roboticism. The Bucky-Dent-on-the-mound-to-throw-out-the-first-pitch. And that elicits a strong reaction. (Disclaimer: I'm not a Yankee hater. Depending on their opponents, I root for them -- vs. Braves, D-Backs, Angels -- or against them -- vs. Red Sox, Giants, Twins. But I understand why others hate them.)

There are ghosts in the Bronx, all right, but this time they seemed to haunt the Yankees, to make their bats fall silent and their pitchers miss just enough to find the middle of the strike zone.

Not to say that the Yankees were Goliath and the Red Sox David. Fox had it wrong with one of their graphics last night. This was not one of the greatest sports upsets of all time. It was, however, the greatest comeback in American sports history. And to have that sentence apply to baseball -- not to Joe Montana, or the Philadelphia Flyers -- and more specifically to baseball's greatest rivalry, is a jewel in baseball's faded crown. A little less pastime (ie, passed time), a little more cultural currency in the here and now.

It was also good to clear some of the dust out of baseball's psychic attic. As I mentioned, the Sox weren't underdogs...not completely. They certainly weren't financial underdogs. They could have had Alex Rodriguez if not for a few extra million that they stupidly tried to squeeze from the deal.

They were not physical underdogs. The teams were more or less evenly matched: one great ace each (Mussina, Schilling); several starters who had had their seasons, even years of brilliance, but were no longer sure things (Kevin Brown, Pedro, Vazquez, D. Lowe); ice-veined closers, albeit with wildly contrasting styles; monster-mash lineups.

But the Sox were psychic underdogs, their fans expecting at every turn to submit once again to the Bronx boot-heel on their collective necks. It was no surprise that the very year that this latent sub/dom eroticism finally dared speak its name, with 50,000 people screaming "Who's Your Daddy" at Pedro as if he were leather-clad and tied to a "dungeon" wall somewhere near Folsom St., the demon was exorcised.

Perhaps Pedro knew what he was doing; after all those years of tasting the whip, the Red Sox and their fans needed to come to terms with their perverse enjoyment of being the submissive. (Soon it will be the Cubs turn: on your knees, Dusty Baker.)

It was also the year that long hair and beards were once again OK in the conservative milieu of big-business sports. The Sox were the flower children, the Pythonesque lumberjacks, the Zoroastrians, the idiots; the Yankees were the stern parents, the Bosses, the efficiency experts, the drill sargeants who inspect your shoeshine and your razor work. The improbable victory was a way of saying, hey, be who you are and you can still succeed. You can be a dainty leadoff hippie AND hit grand slams. You can grow silly beards AND break up double plays.

Now that the Boston Oedipals have slain Daddy, Mommy still has to tell them (and their fans) to clean up their mess and get to bed.

That's one Massachussetts comeback; now for another on Nov. 2...


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