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Rolling rock
My first summer of absolute passion for the Boston Red Sox

By Naghmeh Sohrabi
April 27, 2001
The Iranian

Sisyphus, the cruel king of Corinth, was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a mountaintop. Every time he'd almost reach the top, the rock would start rolling down again. By some accounts, Sisyphus would have to out run the heavy rock at his heels. Sisyphus' punishment was an eternity of futile labor.

Baseball is a game of near hits, near runs, near scores, near rolling rocks up mountaintops. The essence of baseball is the Myth of Sisyphus, the beautiful futility of labor.

Baseball consists of nine innings. Each innings gives each team a chance to both bat (and hopefully score) and to pitch (and hopefully prevent the other team from scoring.) To score in baseball a player needs to hit a ball and in the time it takes the other team to catch it and throw it back, he needs to step on first, second, third, and home bases.

The process of scoring is usually incremental, a true labor of love. Within the limits of the game, batter after batter attempts to hit the ball and make it to first base. The next batter attempts to move the game forward, by moving his teammate up to second or third base, and if he is lucky, he tries to get on base too.

A team may load the bases: have a man on each of the three bases patiently waiting for their teammate to hit the ball successfully, thus scoring one with an RBI (Run Batted In) or all of them with a Grand Slam.

The bases may be loaded and no men out: The team may have every chance to score and have no strikes against it and quite possibly nothing will happen. No runs, home runs, nothing. The inning thus ends and the new one begins as if nothing had happened before, as if none of the previous excitement meant anything.

Sisyphus rolls his rock up the hill only to watch it roll down or even worse, roll down right behind him.

Last summer every time I sat down in my seat at the Boston Red Sox' Fenway park, my heart would flutter and I'd get nervous, the way I get when riding a plane or thinking about the future. Anything can happen, I think to myself, and that is both exhilarating and utterly frightening. And so much did and would happen.

The summer of 2000 was my first summer of absolute passion and love for the Boston Red Sox and they returned my love with bursts of intensity, unparalleled happiness and utter disappointment. Most of the time they managed to create all the above feelings in one game .

In my one summer of baseball, I have watched games played in the summer rain, where the Sox were behind, completely behind, only for one newcomer, someone born and bred in New England, to hit a Grand Slam at the last moment and win the game when all was imagined lost.

I have experienced the depths of disappointment as I watched my team unravel in the early part of the game only to watch them move that rock way up to the top of the mountain, defying the gods, if only for a day, and win the game three hours later.

And I have left a game early, in the belief that we had won, we were safe, only to reach home and find out we blew it all.

Most baseball lovers I know have been watching and playing this game since childhood. Baseball makes historians and nostalgists out of its lovers. So many baseball memoirs and memories begin in the storytellers' childhood and carry with them the whiff of innocence lost, both of the game and the people.

To become a baseball fan later in life is to take on a childhood that is not yours and to cherish it as if it is. It is to love as a child, uncynically, with the cynical knowledge of an adult.

Maybe more than any other sport baseball, despite its thick and complicated rules book, is a game minimalist at heart, thus leaving open so much to fate, to chance.

In a green field of grass, a ball is hurled. This ball can curve, can sink, can go fast, and within an imaginary box, it must be hit. And if hit, it must be caught. And if caught, it must be thrown. And if thrown, the player who is probably running, must be tagged, must be stopped so the next ball can be hurled.

The game is so simple and because of this simplicity, because it is stripped to the bare minimum of expectations, fate has a large field in which to play: Anything can go wrong, anything can happen. And if you're a Red Sox fan you expect it to go wrong. We are cursed.

I am a Red Sox fan, not only because I live in Boston, but also because it is a team enveloped in myth, in a story, in literature. It is a team that inspires its fans to spin yarns, to tell stories, to add to its tragic history. Red Sox fans are not just spectators, they are bards.

The Red Sox won five World Series between 1903 and 1918.

The owner sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919/1920.

We have not won a single World Series since.

The New York Yankees have won it 26 times.

The curse is not that we have not won the World Series since, it is that we have come so painfully close, so many times, and have lost, the story goes, to freak accidents, events that can only be explained by the Curse of the Bambino.

Baseball allows me to step out of the confines of my own history and to connect with people on an intense emotional level with whom I have nothing in common other than the fact that we all can feel and carry on conversations such as the following:

"Have they fucked up yet?"

"No, but they still have an inning to go."

"What do you think is wrong with Lowe?"

"He's just in a slump. He'll pull out." (But we're both thinking he's taken on the curse. He's become the current embodiment of the curse.)

"We need a closer." (Last year the sentence was "we need a starter" or "we need someone who can hit.")


And then we sit, watching the screen, our beer in front of us, as our beloved team blows a one point lead top of the 9th inning with two men out. But we expect it. It's what connects us.

So next time I mention the score last night, next time I tell you I was up at 5:30 pressing the refresh button every three minutes or so, that we were losing until the 8th when Manny hit a three-run homer, that Daubach is my daddy (inside joke), that it all depends on where the Sox will be in October, don't dismiss it; don't smile obligingly, and don't roll your eyes.

Just think of Sisyphus: It's okay to be cursed if you have a good story to tell at the end of the day.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Naghmeh Sohrabi


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