Something’s seriously wrong in the world. Hard to explain.
Nuclear destabilization? Divisive politics? A twenty-year Arizona drought? All interesting, maybe even important.
But what really has the world off its axis is that, as of today, the Boston Red Sox are 7 ½ games ahead of the New York Yankees in the American League East division of Major League Baseball. As any Red Sox fan knows, this is not the time of year when Boston’s supposed to have a big lead on the Yankees. Never works that way.
Instead, the normal world order in September, closing in on the playoffs and World Series, is for the Red Sox to either (1) be looking up at the Yankees as they pull away from the pack with all their pedigrees and superstars and payroll checks, or (2) actually holding a slim lead over the New York gents, but losing that lead day by day in a death spiral of errors, silent bats and pitching that gets shelled faster than a bag of ballpark peanuts.
But here we are, almost mid-September, and Boston is not only comfortably ahead, but holding that lead with steady play and – can’t believe I’m writing this – a winning, confident attitude. What on earth is going on?
Whoa, whoa, whoa, fan boy. If you’re such an Arizona native, why do you care about baseball in Beantown?
An excellent question, and the answer is one that might be common among Arizona natives of a certain vintage (old).
In my childhood, like so many other kids, there was exactly one major professional sports team we could devote our hearts to: the Phoenix Suns. The Suns began as an NBA expansion team in 1968, and until the Arizona Cardinals came here in 1988 (actually, in the beginning, the team was the Phoenix Cardinals) major sports fans had to pick a favorite from somewhere else.
A quick note about the Phoenix Suns: I bleed for that team. If my veins were opened up, purple and orange would run all over the floor. Should those guys ever get it together enough to win the NBA Championship, I would know my life indeed had purpose and meaning.
That’s a little strong, but you get it.
Back to misplaced loyalty. If you were a sports-crazy Arizona kid in the 70s and wanted to love an MLB baseball team, you had to adopt. We didn’t have a team. I adopted the Red Sox.
Why? How should I remember? I was 10.
Probably because they were quite good at the time and I thought Boston was some kind of magical, patriotic place. So why not?
(An interesting aspect of loving the Red Sox from far away, via adoption? I don’t hate the Yankees. No one told me I was supposed to. I don’t wish death upon them, just hope they don’t beat the BoSox.)
In NFL football, I adopted the Pittsburgh Steelers because they were winning Super Bowls at the time, and I thought their black and gold uniforms were sinister looking. Any because they were winning. I’m nothing if not a bandwagon fan.
So like many other Arizonans of a certain age, either because we had no choice or because we came from somewhere else with our favorite teams already burned into our souls, we love the Cardinals, Coyotes and Diamondbacks (especially the DBacks, since they were born here), but those teams share space in our hearts with others who simply came before they arrived.
There’s little we can do. It’s the nature of things. Just like the Red Sox, and that sure losing streak that’s coming any day now. I know it. I can feel it.