Catcher's helmet

Now that the Red Sox have won the World Series, there’s an odd sort of emptiness: a great space that this year’s baseball season used to fill. Now that J and I aren’t staying up late to watch postseason games, what exactly will we do with ourselves? Last night I watched a Bruins game—one of the few hockey games I’ve seen this year even though the NHL season is nearly a month old—and it seemed strange to be watching hockey, already. Wasn’t it just yesterday that J and I sat in the outfield bleachers on a sunny September Sunday watching the boys of summer play? Now, already, it’s November and time for football, hockey, and basketball, each of them seeming to arrive too soon.

Foam finger

But it’s not too soon: it’s never too soon. It’s my perceptions that are out-of-season, not the games currently in play. Baseball is a quintessential summer sport, ushered in with spring training and played on impossibly green fields, so there’s already something strange about a postseason that stretches far into October, long after the natural seasons have turned. October baseball games are the most exciting, with the competition heating up as the nighttime temperatures clearly cool, but October baseball games are also the most bittersweet, the nip in the air proclaiming that your playing days are numbered. It somehow seems unnatural to watch baseball in scarves, coats, and winter hats: shivering in the stands is what you do at football, not baseball, games. Wearing anything heavier than a windbreaker to a baseball game seems to go against the natural order of things, like wearing summer whites long after Labor Day.

Victorino makes a run for it

It has been difficult not to fall in love with this year’s Red Sox with their scrappy scruffiness and bearded exuberance. There have been lots of shallow platitudes (and some wicked satire) about the Red Sox’ playoff run bringing healing to Boston in the aftermath of this year’s bombings, but it’s true: baseball in Boston has felt more important than ever this year. J and I went to a game at Fenway Park less than a week after the Marathon bombings, and the simple act of stepping out in public only a few days after a citywide lockdown felt both therapeutic and proudly defiant: a kind of civic duty. In the face of fear and trauma, fans continued to show up in the stands, refusing to surrender even an inch of our fucking city. It seems entirely fitting that the players on the field returned the compliment, never backing down on a post-season run that seemed as long and improbable (at times) as a dark horse marathon finish.

Bullpen catchers

Now that the postseason is over and I have no need for playoff superstitions, I’ll swap the Red Sox ballcap I wore all summer for a Bruins cap that will see me through spring. I’ll change my Facebook cover from a panoramic shot of Fenway in all her green glory to something more autumnal, and I’ll reacquaint myself with the Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics teams I’ve recently neglected. Tomorrow the Red Sox will ride duck boats down the streets of Boston and into the dirty water of the Charles River: the fairytale end to an improbable season. J and I will be nowhere in the thronging crowds, however; instead, we’ll be sitting in the bleachers at a Boston Colege football game, the postseason of one sport giving way to the midseason of another.

Today’s photos come from the last Red Sox game J and I attended this year: a sunny September game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Felix Dubront started the game, Koji Uehara closed it, and the Red Sox won, 5-2.

This is my Day 1 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

One runner loves V-Tek!

You might remember me mentioning that Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek lives in Waban, the village of Newton, Massachusetts where I spend my long weekends. Although the fan-edited sign that re-named Varick Street “Varitek Street” is now gone, Varitek’s fans and neighbors here in Waban have transformed the Beacon Street bridge over the T tracks into a sort of shrine covered with encouraging signs. Whether or not the Sox sweep the Rockies in tonight’s World Series game, we know that Tek will be in his usual place behind the plate earning his stripes as the captain, and his fans here in Newton (yours truly included) will scream ourselves hoarse in the meantime.

Elsewhere in Waban, Red Sox Mania is reflected in the breakfast specials at Barry’s Village Deli, where this morning I did my loyal duty by ordering an optimistically named “World Series Winner Special”: two eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, and two slices of challah French toast.

Wishful eating

Call me superstitious, but I’m a big believer in Wishful Eating, especially in a deli where the walls are covered with Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia, and one of our regular waitresses was wearing (of course) a Jason Varitek T-shirt. With signs and omens like these, things are looking good for our beloved Sox…fingers crossed.

Click here for a photo set of the Jason Varitek/Boston Red Sox fan signs on the Beacon Street bridge.

Let's update this for 2007, okay?

Here’s hoping the kids at the John W. McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, MA have reason to update their playground billboards. (They could do us all a favor by painting over Johnny Damon with a portrait of Dustin Pedroia, for starters.)

I think NH blogger Amy Kane summed up the morning-after mood in Red Sox nation nicely in her post “Papi ate my homework“:

Boston Red Sox billboards

So we won and here we go again. Red Sox Nation (dark green, on this map, plus Japan) will effectively secede from the union for the next week and a half, all because of some guys who play a sport in their pajamas, have weird hair, and spit a lot.

We will be overexcited and overtired. We will get less done. We will pay little attention to national and local news. We will ignore politics. We will be poor citizens. Meetings will end early. Term papers and newspaper articles will be turned in late. Test scores will drop. There will be less charity and volunteering. On sidelines and in auditoriums parents will be tuned into small high tech devices rather than the strivings of their kids.

Production will be down! Emotions will be up! And oceans of cheap beer will be quaffed! (With fistfuls of Halloween candy.)

Painted Red Sox players

Amen to that second paragraph particularly! In the middle of an overloaded semester, I already feel “overexcited and overtired”; I’ve already been ignoring politics along with national and local news. Now that the Red Sox have clambered their way out of the almost-eliminated hole they’d allowed the Cleveland Indians to dig for them, I have an excuse for my grading backlog. How can I keep up with grading, for heaven’s sake, when the Red Sox are heading to the World Series?

In Newton, I watch baseball games on an enormous HDTV; in Keene, I have a tiny TV that doesn’t get any channels other than E! Although I’ll miss Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday, I’ll be in Newton for Games 2, 3, and 4…and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to catch the remaining games should they be necessary, even if that means getting up at the crack of dawn on the morning after a game to drive back to Keene for my 8am class.

A girl has to have priorities, after all, and I for one find weird-haired men in pajamas particularly persuasive.