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What a range of the sports spectrum I was lucky to witness in attending Game 4 of the World Series in St. Louis. I watched the game from the next to highest row of seats in Busch Stadium, from where the famous arch looked to be beneath us. It would have taken two of David Ortiz' deepest drives to get to this perch; a place where the wheezing of stadium vendors nearly overwhelmed the rooting sounds of Red Sox fans.
But from this spot you could easily see the elegant ballet of baseball. With every batted ball, players moved in a choreography that does not come across easily on a television screen. Nor is it so easily observable from field boxes or the high-roller seats located behind home plate. From these locations, the game is a much different viewing experience, one where the pressure and strain of the competition must be much more evident. I presume.
The game itself ended for all practical purposes with the game's fourth pitch, the one Johnny Damon redirected like a laser to the right field stands. The collective sigh of Cardinal fans spread around the park like a wave, letting out the last air of their hopes. And while Busch Stadium went flat, Red Sox fans everywhere started to hold their breath. The team itself bore down and never let up as it notched twenty-seven Cardinal outs. What an incredible win.
Immediately as the game ended, Sox fans separated from those rooting for the Cardinals and moved to congregate down around the infield. There, Red Sox stars and the organizations's executive leadership reached out to the faithful in the stands. John Henry shook hands with fans through the netting behind home plate. Larry Lucchino hoisted the World Championship Trophy over his head as if to have everyone touch it. Pedro Martinez ran with it around the base paths, and it's likely that these gestures have now pushed aside the "curse" that has supposedly hung over Red Sox contests since the Babe departed. The much different memory of a sweet championship season will hover now.
It's clear now that the Boston Red Sox have succeeded wonderfully playing on the field. It's also likely to become just as clear that the Red Sox, as a business organization and corporate citizen, have succeeded just as effectively off it. What John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, and the many others who work in the organization have accomplished is the kind of success that the Patriots have displayed as an enterprise. Both organizations run smoothly on all cylinders. They pay attention to the mundane tasks that comprise every organization's operations. They honor those that make the effort. One Red Sox example is their decision to transport and cover the costs to bring virtually all their employees to St. Louis to see the game. It's these less publicized gestures and actions that will sustain their success over the long term.
What has yet to reveal itself is the extent to which the fan base will digest these accomplishments and incorporate them too. It would be a good thing if Boston's fans mimicked the civility and courtesy exemplified by the Cardinals' supporters. In the euphoria of the sweetest baseball victory in 86 years, it was dismaying to hear a segment of the core Red Sox faithful pick up the tired and infamous chant that the "Yankees suck." Synapses had not yet connected their actions to the new reality that the Red Sox had won the World Series. At that point, the Yankees didn't matter any more than the Florida Marlins or the Atlanta Braves. It's time to retire the chant and the attitude as well.
Instead, let's hope that the fan base picks up on the character that has coalesced around the team and its extended organization. It would really be a lasting imprint if this sports success connected with the efforts the city has been working for some time now to cement: the notion that Boston is world class, a place steeped in the nuances of a heritage of genuine individual accomplishment and action that at many times has been significant not only to the region but also to the country and the world at large.
Baseball is only a game, to be sure, but this game has focused the attention of just about all of us over the past two weeks. The Red Sox have shown, just as has the Patriots organization twice recently with their Super Bowl victories, that teamwork matters, that individual players need the support of their teammates at times just as they strive at other times to provide that support. Winning the World Series is a Red Sox victory that resulted from a series of small actions and connections. As fans, it would be wonderful if we could now use this experience to build a solid base of teamwork and optimism. In the context of real-world events, it's something that we could really use.
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