The following is a blog post that I wrote for my Social Foundations of Coaching course at Notre Dame. It can also be found on the Play Like A Champion Today blog:
As a Red Sox fan, the 2010 baseball season will be remembered as a lost opportunity, a season of wondering what could have been, if injuries had not plagued the Sox throughout the summer. Although Terry Francona and his players will be watching this year’s playoffs from their couches, and Boston sports fans will anxiously await the start of the NBA season, ESPN’s latest episode of its documentary series, 30 for 30, took Sox fans back to a happier time. Four Days in October, which debuted on Oct. 5, 2010, allows viewers to relive the magic of Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 ALCS, with an inside look at how the Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 series deficit against their longtime nemesis, the New York Yankees.
I understand that I have some bias towards Four Days in October. As someone who has followed the Red Sox closely for several years, the hour-long documentary did not teach me anything new or groundbreaking. Instead, what made Four Days in October a great trip down memory lane was that it reminded me of the power that sports have in bringing people together. Reliving Dave Roberts’ steal, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock and David Ortiz’s walk-off hits took me back to that exciting time during my sophomore year of high school. The TV and radio broadcast clips can make any diehard Sox fan a bit misty-eyed. However, watching the Red Sox defeat the Yankees, break the “Curse of the Bambino” and ultimately win their first World Series since 1918 was only part of what made 2004 a special year.
Four Days in October, the other documentaries and DVDs that chronicle the season, and the countless books that retell the incredible story, serve not only to reminisce about the events that took place between the baselines, but also those moments in schools, sports bars, and the living rooms of people across New England and “Red Sox Nation.” The clips of fans on the edge of their seats at Cask’n Flagon and the stories of generations of Bostonians long-awaiting a championship are a reminder of how the Red Sox improbable victory was about more than simply a team winning a few baseball games.
In 2004, the city had a long track record of success on the hardwood and recently, on the gridiron. The Celtics had won 16 NBA titles and the Patriots dynasty was in its heyday. Boston however, was truly a baseball city. But since 1919, when Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees, Red Sox fans had experienced disappointment time and time again.
After generations of frustration and decades of hearing “wait until next year,” things changed in 2004. Against incredible odds, the Red Sox, the self-proclaimed “idiots,” finally brought home a World Series title. The unlikely playoff run brought together families and friends, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters who had hoped and prayed that they would live to see a championship flag raised at Fenway Park.
Every true fan knows who they were with when the Red Sox defeated the Yankees in 2004, just as every Phillies fan can recall where they were when Brad Lidge recorded the final out of the 2008 World Series and how many Americans remember exactly what they were doing when Al Michaels shouted, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” during the 1980 Winter Olympics. It’s the moments like these that make sports special. Though we usually do not, and probably will never have any real connection or relationship with the athletes we cheer for, the power of sports to bring friends, family and even total strangers together is what makes them worth following.
Just as Domers strike up conversations when they pass someone wearing ND apparel, any Red Sox fan that sees an unfamiliar face with a “B” on his hat might be apt to yell, “Go Sox!” While some are critical of fandom and the occasionally obsessive nature of sports aficionados, many people view the teams they cheer for as part of their identity, as they do their hometown or alma mater. Just like we can identify with other people who have a connection to Notre Dame, we share a common bond with people who root for the same teams that we do.
Whether it is on an athletic team of our own or through one that we cheer for, follow faithfully and identify with, sports are a powerful means for bringing people together. We come together with families, friends, classmates and co-workers. We share memories of hope and elation, stories of disappointment and frustration and we feel unity with a group of people with whom we may have nothing else in common other than the logo on our baseball hat.
Class of 2011
Social Foundations of Coaching