Friday, May 8, 2009

Manny being Manny

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I stand at the precipice of a dilemma, again. Manny Ramirez was being "Manny" again, this time, instead of whining about fake hurt knees and loafing on his team, he got caught using performance enhancing drugs. The benefit for me as a baseball fan is that at least he's not still playing for my beloved Red Sox.

If you all know me well, you know I am a ridiculous Red Sox nut. I love the "SAWX". And everyone always asks the same question, "Are you from Boston?" Nope, I am not. However, the Red Sox became my identity at age 20. You see, I had taken to leaving my hometown of Mt. Airy, NC, and exploring the rest of the world. That summer, I had booked a gig as a canoe instructor at a summer camp in New Hampshire. Coincidentally, my girlfriend (at that point in time) lived an hour away. Before she became totally crazy(one day I might tell the tales), she took to touring me around all of New England. And penultimately, the tour consisted of locking me into the lore of the Red Sox. She knew I was a hopeless romantic, and I guess she figured that since I was a sucker for lovable losers, I was a perfect candidate for the "Sawx".

I'll never forget that day, the park, the smells, the enthusiasm, every pore of that place oozed life, newness...a fresh start to a 20 year old with new ideas who just wanted to leave the repressing ideals of small-town America. It was like being reborn. The New Englanders adopted me at Fenway Park..."Oh a southerna who wants to cheer for the SAWX, you like to be miserable? Ok, have a beer and a Fenway Frank."

I was a welcomed stranger in a land I had been taught to fear all my life. "Those "NORTHERNERS"....THOSE "YANKEES" up there, they're so rude, they can't drive, you'll get shot if you look at them cross eyed". All my life, those were the quotes I heard from my "The South Shall Rise Again" compatriots of North Carolina.

On that day, and many days to come in the land of the "Northerners" I was adopted as the favorite son from the south. I was an honorary "New Englander". And I finally felt a place where I belonged. I could swear with ease, not trust anyone until I actually knew them, wear sear sucker suits, bowties, pastel shirts and pants, and say stuff like, "Wicked Good". I was looked at as intelligent for thinking forward, rather than just being a "fancy smart kid". Yeah, the Red Sox and New England became my identity.

And until 2004, the Red Sox kept losing with style. You see, they hadn't won the World Series since 1918. This was big, and I was a small cog in the Red Sox Nation wheel. There were old people hinging every last breath on living to see them win in their lifetime. Folks, this Red Sox thing was serious business. And countless times, the "SAWX" would get to the precipice, only to be knocked back down to base camp. They didn't just lose, they lost with style. Get your heart and soul into it, and they would gut you, stomp on your organs, burn them, and then feed them to birds of prey. Yet, again and again, the whole fan base would come back for another season.

In 2003, they broke my heart. Pedro was left in too long, Posada hit the game tying double, and Aaron "Bleeping" Boone hit the walk off in extra innings. However, I was back for '04. By then, I had adopted the same mentality as any New Englander/Red Sox fan. I was used to being miserable, never expecting anything to come of something that seemed good. "Yeah we're playing well May-July, just wait till the playoffs, they'll find another way to break our hearts again." In fact, it was my mantra for life..."Yeah life seems good, but I'll find some way to fuck it up when it counts."

And in 2004, everything changed. The greatest comeback EVER happened, we finally beat the "Evil Empire", and the curse was reversed when we swept the Cardinals. At the same time, I had met a girl named "Meghan" who later became my wife. Coincidentally, my attitude started to change. Things that were good could stay good, they didn't have to turn bad.

In 2007, when they won again, I was engaged, had bought a house, and was working at a successful job in Neurosurgery. My life had changed from dating fat psycho chicks and thinking I could do no better, to a guy who was a consistent winner. No longer was I waiting to fuck up, I was expecting to win.

When Manny was traded for Jason Bay last year, I asked my wife, "Do we have to change our cat's name to Jason Bay (Of course I named our cat Manny, and of course they won the series in 2007 when we adopted him)?" And now, tragedy has struck again, and I find myself thinking, "Do we need to change his name, or will our cat be associated with steroids and cheating?" On a broader level, do the recent championships count, or do they have the dreaded asterisk beside of their name?

More deeply, does this somehow give my life an asterisk? Did I really ever deserve everything good that happened to me? Quite seriously, you can correlate the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004, and Meghan and I first meeting and deciding to seriously date. In 2007 when they won again, I got an amazing job that boosted my self confidence to what it is today, oh yeah, and right around that time Meghan and I got married. Have you seen my t-shirt that says "My Wife is Hot"?...yeah, damn hot, I married the prom queen.

On the most personal of levels, I used to really like doubting and hating on myself. I loved to "almost" get to date the hottest girls, but then I would fail with the same style the Red Sox would, losing when the games counted most. I loved feeling sorry for myself, worrying about failing, failing, and then crying about it. Honestly, the early 20s of my life were the most inconsistent and stressful because I couldn't close the deal, and at the most opportune times I put myself in bad situations.

You can say what you want about Manny and whether these championships are now tainted by the dark cloud of steroids. But you can't put an asterisk on the positive changes in my life. Will I rename my cat? No, I can't, because to me, that places an asterisk on my life, that sends a message that says, "And I've changed to become a permanent winner, and now I'll go back to when life was less certain...when we hadn't won since 1918". Manny is Manny and will always be Manny. And Matty will always be Matty, it's just that ever since those Sox won, Matty did too.

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