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Pony for Sale in N.C.

by Philip Wimberly
October 27, 2004

They got me again and I never saw it coming.

I was old enough to stay up and watch my first World Series end-to-end in 1975. I guess The Big Red Machine could’ve become my favorite team, but there was something about Carl Yastrzemski. He became my first and only Favorite Player of All Time. When they lost, I was 9 and had no idea what all the thrashing was about. Heck, lots of teams didn’t win the World Series. We’ll get ‘em next year. I was happy with my first favorite team.

Over the next couple of years I suffered a little and began to have my first inklings of the horror that was to come, but it was in 1978, at 12, that I became a Man in the way that only prison, war and The Curse can make a man.

With a huge regular season lead over the Yankees and only a few games to play, I began to look towards the World Series that we certainly would compete in. Then the Sox started losing. And the Yankees started winning.

Can’t even type the details. Collapse. One-game playoff. Bucky Dent. Next Year.

Though “next year” was starting to mean less to me, and by the time we lost the ’86 series to the Mets I had developed the bitter and twisted nature of a loser. From my college dorm room, I smirked at the silly people who called themselves Red Sox fans. I was a battle-hardened veteran. I knew what was going to happen. Not only did the loss not bother me, I gloated about my prescience and preparation. The Sox were my favorite team, but they could no longer hurt me. I’d joined the ranks of crabby, combat-tested, pessimistic, old cranks who complained and spit their way to the only “safe” place to be a Sox fan. I lived in The Curse.

Then the Sox sent me children. I didn’t know that they had done this when they were born – I thought my wife had something to do with it. But in the 7th game of the ’03 ALCS, with a big lead and Pedro on the mound against the Yankees, it dawned on me. “They couldn’t get me directly anymore, so they’re coming for my children.”

You see, in a parental failure so great as to warrant attention from child welfare services, I inadvertently allowed my boys to follow me into Red Sox Nation. As I watched in horror, the Sox crushed my children. I felt like Jeremiah next to his lame horse cursing God – “Fine to curse me with poverty and pain, but why do You have to hurt this poor, dumb animal?”

I needed them to win again. I wanted it again – desperately – for my boys. I didn’t want them to have to grow up as quickly as I did. I yelled and begged and prayed just like the pitiful and naive Sox fans of my ’86 dorm room. They’d found the chink and they’d exploited it. Never again.

This year the Sox went down 10.5 games to the Yanks during the regular season. As they closed the gap to 2, my sons bit. Jake said they were going to win it all. Sam was thrilled. I knew how to handle it this time and like a good and loving father, tried to crush their dreams at every turn. I knew it wouldn’t work. I knew from experience that they couldn’t be deterred from their youthful folly, but at least this time I would absolve myself from the guilt of their slaughter.

So it was, blinking and baffled, that I stared at the TV – and then again at – and then again at SportsCenter in the morning – and finally at the local sports page….the Red Sox had come back from 0-3 to win the ALCS. Against the Yankees. To go to the World Series. Huh? Oh and here’s the best part – making the Yankees the most historically pitiful chokers in the entire history of professional sports.

Impossible. But there it was. I had hoped for a Game 4 loss by the Sox – a sweep was better than another Game 7 loss – but I knew it wouldn’t happen and I was fine with it. I settled in for the train wreck, but they won 4 straight elimination games –– against the Yanks. Making the Yankees (can I say it again?) The Most Pitiful and Pathetic Losers Ever to Be Paid to Play a Sport. The Sox had transferred 86 years of the Curse in one week onto the backs of the institution I hated more than any in the world. I was totally safe.

Nothing bad could happen now. I didn’t care much about winning the World Series. Sure I’d take it as gravy, but even if the worst happened – a 4-game sweep by the Cardinals seemed like the worst thing at the time – I’d be satisfied. So fat, dumb and happy I began to enjoy the World Series. Curse forgotten and defenses down, the boys and I joked and laughed and high-fived our way through wins in games 1 and 2. Looking forward to Pedro on the mound in Game 3, we were taunting Yankees fans. I’d long since abandoned that practice as meaningless and painful. The tiny victories they allowed us through the seasons, I’d learned, were nothing to revel in….but here we were teasing and poking our Yankee-fan neighbors. Sam got a note sent home from his 5th grade teacher saying that he was “mouthy and disruptive” and saying “inappropriate things to other children about their baseball teams.”

I didn’t punish him. I bought him a pony.

I wasn’t even staying up to see the games. Just watching the Sox pummel the Cards for a few innings, then off to bed.

This morning, though, I heard the violins.

Staring at the sports page, the tragedy flooded my veins like the black poison of a death row injection. This was the only way it could happen. They threw me the Yankee Collapse/ALCS/0-3 bone ON PURPOSE!!!!! A four game drubbing by the Cards wasn’t the worst that could happen. Mother of Infield Flies!!!! It’s been right in front of me all along.

The Red Sox are going to blow a 3-0 lead in the World Series. Making them bigger losers than the Yankees.

It is so beautiful. So perfect. A plan so horrible and bloody in its inception as to pale all other world tragedy. They found me again. They teased and sold me. Like a trout caught and released too many times, they couldn’t lead me to my demise anymore so they devised the script that would send me running gleefully towards it. Laughing, children on my shoulders….riding a pony.

Named Yaz.

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Copyright © 2004 by Philip Wimberly. Article printed with permission of the author.