Thursday, October 21, 2004

i've always been a sports fan. as a boy i would spend countless hours in my yard - alone or with the boys from next door (anthony, ancil, andy) - playing all maner of sports. we concentrated mostly on cricket and football, but even when i was alone, i dreamed up elaborate systems in which i'd be surrounded by international superstars in my chosen sport of the day, and find a way to complete entire matches in which i was the bowler, the batsman, the kicker, the goalkeeper, the fielders, what-have-you.

i watched NASCAR and track and field with equal obsession. i played badminton like it was tackle football and talked shit at table tennis, basketball or marbles. young men are conditioned to take an interest in sports (more than young women are in most parts of the world) and as sport has always been - since someone thought of it way back in the beginning of civilization - it remains, preparation and metaphor, for war. the earliest sports (sprinting, discuss, javelin, jumping etc) were meant to develop skills particularly at use in combat; keep warriors trained, their bodies primed, even in times of peace, and most sports developed since have utilised some combination of these talents (including strategy) to prepare men for war through time. indeed, some sports were developed specifically out of war time activity (football-soccer has its roots in some garish combination of english-scottish activity involving the kicking around of the heads of one's enemies).

in the world of modern sport teams are still connected to cities (or countries) to which their fans are fiercely loyal, even to the point of violence and on whom the emotional psyche of its town or nation is dependent. if this sounds like overstatement, visit Brazil during the World Cup of Football, visit New Zealand during a Rugby Test Match, visit Australia during cricket season or... visit Game 7 of the New York Yankees vs the Boston Red Sox.

i don't like boston; the city. it is conservative, hostile to people of color and i feel largely alien when i'm there. i've lived in new york for the last 17 years so i am a fan of new york's teams (even though folks try to tell me i'm not allowed to be both a fan of the yankees AND the mets). still, one cannot deny the fascinating quest to break the 'curse of the bambino' that boston has been on for the last 86 years, and the major step they took last night to accomplishing it. they came from three games down to win emphatically in the last game and every cliche about war/sport could be applied. the beleaguered warrior who came back to pitch well-enough in the series to give his team a chance to come back (martinez), an injured soldier leading the charge (schilling) and a maligned squad leader who came through to destroy the enemy when it seemed he might not be a factor at all (damon).

there is something perverse in me that wants to root for boston the rest of the way. i like martinez' honesty and all-out pitching style. i like manny ramirez ability to change a game (even when you have no idea if he's going to be brilliant or bone-headed in defense). i like ortiz' steadiness, his ability to produce everyday and still be absolutely fearsome in the clutch. i like that cabrera has filled garciaparra's shoes without ever looking like he cared how they laced-up. in short, i like dem dominicans, who must look around boston and wonder how the fuck they ended up the heroes of a town that tried to convince us that larry bird was the greatest basketball team ever. pedro martinez maintained that boston isn't really fond of black folk and they tried to hang him for that; then he won the Cy Young award and they pretended he'd never said it or that it didn't matter.

so i'm rooting for boston's black beans in this upcoming series (that's you too Pokey Reese and dave Johnson), no matter what the team does. May all curses be lifted; the bambino AND the one in the white house, may there be a 7-game series and balmy weather, may the world series champions fete themselves with Rum and mamajuan, and soak this bitter root of a town in something rich.


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