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It's better if Red Sox fans get drunk, pass out for winter

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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The way Red Sox fans prattle on, win or lose, is enough to drive anyone to drink. (AP)  
The way Red Sox fans prattle on, win or lose, is enough to drive anyone to drink. (AP)  

The best thing about Wednesday night's baseball-pyrospectacular is -- well, hell. You saw it. Why belabor the obvious?

The worst thing is that we will be forced to endure months -- no, years -- of Boston fans talking about the Greatest Choke Job In Sports History with the same relentless deafening smugness as they talked about the Greatest Comeback In Sports History in 2004.

In short, there is no escape. When you talk triumph, they are there in your face. When you talk epic failure, they are there. In fact, if ever there is an argument about the best and worst .500 teams in history, they'll probably claim the '44 and '85 teams and leave you wishing you had never walked into the tavern in the first place.

It is the nature of the stereotypical Boston fan to share his or her feelings on all subjects, after all, and if you are a Boston fan who doesn't hold to that behavior, then we salute you. We've never seen you in the same way we've never seen a great white elk, but we believe you exist, and we salute you.

And with the spectacular nature of the 2011 Hindenburg-ing of the Red Sox season, most Bostonians will spend the winter bitching until you turn blue -- a neat trick they mastered when their lads came back from being down 3-0 to the Yankees in 2004 en route to their first World Series title in 86 years.

Indeed, by going down the way they did, first by playing .182 ball down the stretch, and then by blowing a 3-2 lead with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth to the Baltimore Orioles while the Tampa Bay Rays were beating the Yankees in 12 innings on Evan Longoria's tracer-bullet homer, they blowed up good -- they blowed up real good.

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It was great television, it was great baseball, it was great history. By any measure, it was a monumental evening in baseball annals, and you can stop giving Bud Selig credit for thinking up the wild-card scenario a billion years ago. He didn't see this coming any more than you did.

But this is the part where you would want the Red Sox to nurse their sorrows in a quiet smoldering rage, nursing a drink and asking with every nictitating nerve ending to be left alone to consider the futility and cruelty of sport.

Instead, we will get endless dissertations on how the Red Sox are somehow connected to the end of the American Empire, or the absence of greatness in our leaders, or Galileo Galilei, or some such damned thing. We will get soul-crushing prattling about why this is worse than the worst bad beat story you ever had, and why even when covered in shame and filth, the Red Sox just do it better than everyone else.

Well, this was pretty damned good. Maybe the math even bears that out, as nobody has ever blown a nine-game lead in September and missed the postseason.

It's just that most folks take their bad mood, nurse it and stay away from everyone else for a while, muttering vile and profane imprecations. Then they buy the house a round and laugh about it. It is the true American way, and the sign of a healthy psyche and a healthy culture. You let someone else pull you out of your doldrums. You don't buy a full set of doldrums and play them day and night even after the cops come and tell you to tone down the racket.

Wednesday was epochally great theatre, absolutely, and it was great theatre not just because the Red Sox cratered but because they cratered while Tampa defied death. The story works best when the two events are played in juxtaposition, like two screens duct-taped together. Surely MLB Network can manage that somehow.

But the Tampa story will manage to be obliterated, even though they came from nine back and seven down in the eighth inning of the last game of the regular season. Tampa fans don't have a big megaphone, and yes, there are fewer of them.

They are costars, though. You won't know it the way this plays out, of course, because it is the Red Sox way to sing louder in humiliating defeat than anyone else can manage in magnificent triumph.

There is, though, the one bit of good news for everyone. It means the Steve Bartman retrospective has run its course after two days. Nobody will give a damn about that after this. And if for that reason alone, we should acknowledge that while the Boston fans will make our ears bleed, they will have managed that much.

So thank you for that, Red Sox Nation. Now please modify your tone, and keep the sackcloth and ash off our lawns.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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