20A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows"

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

October 31, 2007

She was eleven, twelve, maybe thirteen.  Standing far out there in the left field bleachers.  Her cap skewed sideways, the rounded red seraph “B” barely visible.  She held the hand painted sign high above her head.  It read: “Believe.”   And so we did.  The thirty seven thousand fans that jammed into Fenway Park on a cool October night, and us watching on TV from far flung places.  We were all there because we believed.  If you looked close you could see we were from every walk of life; fat cats in jackets and ties, teens, old timers with cataracts, young Turks with girlfriends, mothers, fathers and their wide eyed children.  All there to watch our Boston Red Sox fight back from a three to one deficit in the seventh game of the ALCS playoff series.  Boston had already lost three in the best of seven and we needed to win the final seventh game to take the American League Championship - only the eleventh time in the history of baseball that a team would come back from a three to one deficit.  Could we do it?  After not winning a World Series for eighty six long years, could the famed, usually doomed Boston Red Sox get a second chance so soon after the 2004 World Championship?  In Boston we’re used to disappointment; and coming back; and in the end falling back on the one sure thing a baseball fan must do: believe.

For that matter this story is as much about the fans as it is about the heroes of Boston’s 2007 championship season.  For further matter this story is about fans the world over - of any sport, in any country, anywhere on the planet.  Because what I have come to love about being a Red Sox fan is being a part of the waves of disappointment, the unexpected turnarounds, and the sudden explosion of triumph that has marked their history since the beginning.  It’s probably the same with any sports team and their fans.  We attend the games peaked with hope and pride and confidence and often end up leaving the park with none of it.  But we attend because we want to see great athletes excel, and perhaps for posterity, to be there in the flesh, when something truly spectacular happens - something we will all remember fondly, with gratitude, at having witnessed.  What sports fans do the same as theatre audiences and church goers, meditators, Buddhists, Muslims, followers of faith traditions the world over  - is suspend disbelief.  It is a requirement for spiritual growth.  Because the chance of receiving the positive effect of these rituals is considerably lessened by disbelief.

It is strange that in today’s world, ruled by media despots, battered human rights, corporate greed and righteous fundamentalism, disbelief is a required skill.  We learn to pay little attention to the supermarket rags, the evening blood and gore reports, the divisive editorials and the hysterical gloom and doomers.   With media’s desperate need to capture human mindshare has come escalating stories of death, doom and destruction.  To survive this onslaught of fear mongering, people have by necessity developed layers of disbelief.  Reasonable men discount nearly everything we see and hear today because if we believed it all - we would be incapacitated.   Today’s world offers little to believe in because we are surrounded by fabrication, reproductions, phony fear and infantile exaggeration.  Which is why we turn to sports, and entertainment and our places of worship.  Because we desperately want things to believe in.  And we are offered not the feast of possibility, but the famine that despots would have us succumb to.  Have we ever turned on our evening newscast to see ten stories of human achievement?  Do we pick up a paper with a headline trumpeting reconciliation?  Do we focus our neighborly dialog on extraordinary acts of human compassion?

It is ever so important to be moved by the child holding her hand painted sign.  Because we adults do so little of it.  Belief is rarely offered without derision, or suspicion or outright hostility.  But in the ball park, the theatre, the temple and churches and mosques - we try to make up for our disbelief.  We reinsert ourselves into a world where the seeming impossible becomes possible and portent of good tidings becomes real.  For those all too brief moments when we suspend our disbelief we become the people we would like to be and truly are - if only
we continued to believe.   

Back in Fenway Dustin Pedroia hit a two run homer to give Boston a 5-2 lead in the seventh.  And later in the eighth Pedroia hit a smashing double that drove in three more runs bringing the score to 9-2.  Boston won the game and ace pitcher Jonathan Papelbon performed his promised Irish step dance in front of 37,000 adoring fans who didn’t want to leave.   During  the  next week a four game sweep of the Colorado Rockies gave the Red Sox the World Series Championship for the second time in four years. In Boston this is spelled, “Impossible!”  Was it a miracle?  Was it the result of Boston fans and their team catching a glimpse of that hand painted sign out there in the bleachers?  I don’t know.  What I do know is even if none of it was real, even if it was all a dream of some kind - I am grateful for that little girl.  Grateful for her reminder that the disbelief needed to survive this world - must be balanced by its opposite - belief.  Because without it there would be no way to know our greatest asset - the collective power of imagination that somewhere over the left field rainbow, makes dreams come true.