When the United States competes in the Olympics, I want it to win. It doesn’t matter what sport or whether I even know anything about it.
And it doesn’t matter whether I like the president or not. One has nothing to do with the other.
It’s not a nationalistic thing. I don’t believe winning an Olympic event — even when it’s a gold medal — makes us any better, nor does losing make us any worse. And it’s not necessarily a question of blind loyalty or excessive devotion either. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. Life goes on either way (though it’s much more enjoyable when we win).
What it comes down to most of all is geography. I’m an American. And when the Americans beat the Soviets, the way they did in the 1980 hockey game; or when they beat the Canadians, the way the US women’s hockey team did last winter, I am happy for these athletes. And I am happy that my country has something to celebrate in the midst of what always appears to be an otherwise excessive drumbeat of bad news.
I bring all this up because Tuesday night, at Fenway Park, the Red Sox will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series (or, as I’ve always called it, the World Serious).
I’m no kid. And I’m certainly no rookie when it comes to celebrating championships. I’ve lived through 17 Celtics titles (and remember everything from about 1962 on), three Bruins Stanley Cups, five Super Bowl titles by the Patriots, and three (hopefully four) World Series victories by the Red Sox. I know what a duck boat looks like.
I’ve pretty much seen it all. And thanks to one of the best jobs a sports fan who still has a lot of little boy in him could ever have, I’ve seen much of it live.
Unlike some writers who seem to delight in seeing the home team lose, I’ve never gone that route. I may not care for Bill Belichick, and I may view Bob Kraft as a hypocrite, but I don’t want to see the New York Giants win just because of that. And while I want to run out to the mound and beat up Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel whenever they pitch, I still want them to do well. It’s ingrained in me.
I will admit that you have to do a lot of compartmentalization to be a sports fan. You have to be able to separate real life from what’s happening on the field, ice or in the gym. The Patriots — against much available advice — still drafted Aaron Hernandez. And there’s at least some evidence that former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey’s racial prejudices (or perhaps that of his subordinates) may have kept the team from signing the likes of Willie Mays (there’s no denying, however, that in the 1960s, the team out-and-out sent future 20-game winner Earl Wilson to Detroit because he bristled over a racial incident during spring training).
Those are shameful chapters in these teams’ histories. But Tom Brady is still a great quarterback, Mookie Betts will be the MVP, and I root for both to win.
I also have little patience with people who couldn’t take the annual disappointment of seeing the Red Sox and/or Bruins lose, and switched allegiances to the New York Yankees (rooting for them is like rooting for U.S. Steel, it was once said) and Montreal Canadiens.
This will be the seventh World Series in my lifetime. The first three didn’t go all that well, but I had the thrill of seeing Bernie Carbo’s and Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 homers in 1975 sail out of Fenway Park.
The last three — of course — have been marvelously successful. And five years ago, the Red Sox won their first World Series at Fenway in 95 years, and I was there to see it. That was a real bucket-list item for me — to be there when they won it all.
I’m not sports editor now, and I no longer have a guaranteed seat at these events. Now, like everyone else, I watch the games on TV (or, out of superstition, often don’t watch them). There’s no more pretense of objectivity. If the Red Sox do well, I can cheer from the comfort of my den. If they lose, I can emote (that’s a polite way of putting it). When Kelly or Kimbrel pitch, I can change the channel (though I always check online when the tension becomes too unbearable).
I stayed up late with everybody else last Wednesday, not understanding how anyone claiming to be a fan could go to bed and actually sleep. I’m sure that I won’t be getting much sleep this week either.
And Lord help us all if the series goes seven and it’s on Halloween night. Sorry, kids. No candy. The Sox are on.
I’m a Bostonian. I want them to win. And that’s all there is to say.