Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » October 2004 » From the "Be Careful What You Pray For; You Just Might Get It" Department....

[« Best "Silver Lining to Losing the Series" Line I've read yet:] [The Red Sox just got no sense of proper timing.... »]

10/28/2004: From the "Be Careful What You Pray For; You Just Might Get It" Department....

Note that this isn't sour grapes; this is coming from the Providence Journal, which is a newspaper in the heart of Red Sox Nation. I'm going to reprint the whole thing here because a) the Journal uses an especially obnoxious registration system which even defeats BugMeNot, and b) in order to get to this content, I created user credentials which will tell the Journal exactly what I think of them and their registration (assuming anyone ever really looks at the usernames and passwords, which I doubt), but which may be too offensive for the more sensitive readers of this space.

Anyway, I've read a few people who are not mental health/psychology experts speculate that a team like the Cubs or the BoSox, which has become legendary for a legacy of failure, might actually find that winning it all isn't exactly to their benefit. Will Leitch of blacktable.com expressed it (in the context of the Cubs, though he mentioned the Red Sox in passing), in one of his columns like this:

An argument could be made that the Cubs are better off if they never make a World Series. In hockey, the New York Rangers were once the most treasured franchise in the league. They were adored by their fans and respected by their opponents. The city of New York worshipped the Rangers and their lovable futility. Then 1994 came around, and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, in dramatic and glorious fashion. Since 1994, no one has given a rat's ass about the New York Rangers. There is nothing cute about the Rangers anymore; they are just another mediocre franchise in a big city; actually winning was the worst thing that could ever happen to them. An argument could be made that the same could happen if the Cubs ever (cough-never-cough) won the World Series; they would go from the huggable Cubbies mired in perpetual futility to, you know, the DEFENDING CHAMPIONS. The same could be said for the Red Sox; when your team is associated with heartbreaking losses, if those losses are eliminated and forgotten, now what does your team stand for?
Anyway, Mark Patinkin of the Journal finds some support for the proposition that Will isn't just blowing this out of his nether regions:
There are those who believe a Red Sox World Series victory will mean only joy.

I'm afraid not.

A serious malaise may be on the way, my friends.

I know this because I talked to a counselor about it.

Dallas Gulley is a clinical social worker and program director at The Providence Center. I sought him out because I wondered what a mental health professional would say about a theory I had.

My theory is that despite all the complaints, Red Sox fans have pride in being losers. Having lost for almost a century, somewhere deep, we feel this makes us special. It's our identity. And a World Series victory could undermine it.

Gulley, 55, is a Red Sox fan himself. He's watched every post-season game.

Speaking as a counselor, does he think victory could send Red Sox Nation into an identity crisis?

For some, yes. Once the celebrations are over, he said, disappointment could set in.

For decades, he said, Red Sox fans have liked to tell themselves, "There'll always be next year." It gave them something to shoot for. A victory takes away that goal.

He compared world champion Red Sox fans to a climber who has finally scaled the highest peak. Afterwards, there can be a letdown, a sense of "Now what?" Many fans, he suggested, could find they liked the thrill of the hunt most of all, and will miss it.

Will we miss anything else?

Gulley said fans could also lose a sense of camaraderie. One thing that united Red Sox Nation, he said, is that we all felt the kinship of rooting for a team that never delivered. Sharing such pain drew us together. A World Series victory could, for some, take away that uniting force.

He also pointed out that psychologically, celebration doesn't last as long as commiseration. Sox fans, he said, have been able to commiserate year-round about loss since 1919. A victory party, no matter how ecstatic, is shorter. Weeks probably; months at the most.

And then?

"There could be a malaise."

Especially when you realize it'll take almost a century to build up another losing streak as distinguished as the last one.

I moved on to what I consider the ultimate Red Sox psychological dynamic: That we secretly have liked being victims. I think we've gotten something out of being perennially down. I'd argue we've even liked being victims of a curse. It brings us sympathy from others, and pride in being persecuted souls. It's been kind of fun being grimly under siege, hasn't it?

Gulley agreed.

"If a person continually has experiences where they're victimized," he said, "you can develop a victim mentality." He felt that may well apply to many Red Sox fans.

So what'll a victory do to that?

He said some fans could subconsciously yearn to go back to the old identity. People, he explained, are comfortable with what they know.

"Eighty-six years is a long time," he said. "It can be infectious."

Is he saying there could even be relief if the team goes back to losing?

At that point, he caught himself, and pointed out that as a fan, he's been waiting for a World Series victory a long time.

Haven't we all?

Still, 86 years of habit can warp you.

True, there's nothing like being champions.

But a malaise could be coming.
It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Len on 10.28.04 @ 07:39 AM CST

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