Baseball Isn’t a Life & Death Matter

                         ~~Mike Barnicle


(This is an excellent piece of writing by a former student of mine. I have been waiting for the right moment to include it on the blog, as she has so graciously agreed to publish here for the first time. As Red Sox nation feels the bitter pain of the Patriots loss, I thought now is the right time~~~Thomasox)





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away between those life-and-death matters lies love–a love for the Red Sox,
which surpasses the generality of a love of the game. A love that becomes
tattooed on the heart, a love that outlasts the rollercoaster of emotions
related to baseball and life. The Red Sox have their ups and downs just the
same as their fans but the love fans have for them is the kind quite capable of
becoming a life and death love.

a 2006 slump, where the losses began to outweigh the wins, added to injuries
piling up, the Red Sox were on their way to destroying their successes. Before
it could get worse their season ended 11 games behind the AL East Champions,
the Yankees.

was the rebound year. It had to be. They had hit a wall in 2006 and now their
option was to adjust their style of play or spend another 86 years in a coma of

changed their game.

And as
their game changed on the field, changes were brought about in the lives of
their fans. On August 25, 2007, my brother asked me if I wanted to watch the
Red Sox play the White Sox with him and his girlfriend. The first girl he
wanted to introduce me to. Though they had only been dating three weeks, it
must have been serious. The plan: order pizza, watch the game at our house, and
relax while our parents were away in New York for a wedding. 

With our
plans for the evening made, my brother left the house for work at 7:00 am, “I’m
so tired, I just want to sleep forever,” he said walking out the door. We
laughed off his comment and went our own ways for the day.

But just
as the nine innings never go the way they are planned, neither do the days.

In the
afternoon, I was called into work. The restaurant was shorthanded and I agreed
to go in. Once there, another woman asked if I would trade cuts with her. I
switched with her because it meant more money in tips. I was now the closer and
obviously missed the Red Sox game, but it was okay because my brother also
worked late to help a friend build a patio. 

I called my brother at
8:54pm to let him know I would not be home until later. We devised a new plan
of watching a movie and getting ice cream. He still wanted me to meet his
girlfriend. The next night was our sister’s birthday so we were glad to move
our plans of watching the Sox and getting pizza until then.

But plans
have a clever way of becoming the pathways for unintended circumstances. As the
Red Sox and their fans know, one can prepare and plan for the best outcomes but
the all the preparation will not amount to much if fate deals a bad hand.

I was
finally let off of work around midnight. At my brother’s earlier request, I
called to let him know I was on my way home. I called. No answer. I called
again. No answer. Again. No answer. The last time we spoke, he had said he
would most likely be home, but if not, he would leave a light on.

home, I passed a car accident. It was not his car but horrible thoughts flooded
my mind. “Please let him be okay”, I worried. But I have a tendency to over
think and worry too much about things.

I pulled
down our dark, dirt road. No lights. I pulled into the driveway. Mine was now
the only car in it. My stomach sank. That’s not like him, the lights should be
on. As I fumbled with my keys in the doorknob, I noticed a note stuck in the
frame, “Lynn and Mike please call me or go to Cape Cod Hospital. Kegan was in a
car accident, it doesn’t appear to be bad.”     

I sprinted
inside, straight to the blinking red light on the answering machine. Two new
messages. One from the police officer who left the note in the doorway. One
from an emergency room doctor. Both saying, “Please contact Cape Cod Hospital.
Kegan was involved in a car accident and arrived at the Hospital around

Numb. Unaware
of my actions, my mind blank, and my body, both tense and numb, I drove to the
hospital. Oblivious of my surroundings, I navigated the windy, wet roads. They
were extremely slick and the fog hung over the ground so heavy it was
impossible to see more than ten feet in front of the car.

racing into the hospital I sat in a small room with my sister. Around us lay
scattered pamphlets on coping with loss. It was 12: 42am on August 26, 2007,
officially her birthday and we had just learned that our brother’s car slid off
the road and hit a tree at 8:57pm. Three minutes after I had spoken with him to
rearrange our plans. He was in a coma, and brought to the hospital by ambulance
at 10:00pm after the med flight could not depart for Boston due to the fog.

18 hours
later, I saw my brother, sleeping, just as he had wished that fateful morning.
He remained in a coma for seven days. A square was cut into his skull and tubes
stuck out in every direction. He looked nothing like himself. His face was
swollen and black and blue. Dried blood covered his body where scratches and
cuts began to heal.

The only
thing recognizable was the Boston Red Sox tattoo on his uncovered chest. Two
red socks dangling above his heart.

I spent
the last days of summer, before returning to college, breathing the recycled
air in the Intensive Care Unit. I slept in the conference room of the hospital
with two chairs pushed together. I sat by his bed and watched the Red Sox. I
met his girlfriend during an airing of a game–no pizza though.

My brother
finally woke up and asked what the score of the game was. The score of the game
on August 25, the game Tim Wakefield pitched and the Red Sox beat the White Sox
14-2. The game we had planned to watch together.

On the day
the Sox began their series against the Baltimore Orioles, I left for school. I
returned home in October when the Red Sox were playing the Colorado Rockies in
the World Series and my brother was able to return home from the rehabilitation
center. My brother, his girlfriend, and I finally ordered pizza and watched as
the Red Sox won another World Series by sweeping the Rockies.

As this
off-season winds down, and the Red Sox begin to ready themselves for Spring
Training, the team can do their best to plan for the season, but it will be in
the hands of fate to determine if they have a 2011 success story. After last
season, one might think they will be on the rebound for something great. Either
way, the love fans have for the team will be reaffirmed in the passionate
discussions as the season begins.

The Boston
Red Sox are more than a baseball team. In the unpredictability of life, they
offer a symbol of hope for fans. In moments when life’s plans go awry and the
world feels like it’s crashing down, the Red Sox illustrate for fans that it
could be worse, it could have been 86 years instead of 7 days.

They teach
people that the love fans hold towards the team are a life and death kind of
love. A desperate love where hope is never truly lost, even when the losses are
mounting, even when the odds are not in their favor. 

years after his accident, my brother has found that kind of love, not only
towards the Red Sox, but also towards his girlfriend. The girlfriend he became
engaged to on New Year’s Eve, the one he wanted me to meet, the one who shares
that same desperate love–the kind that becomes tattooed on the heart.


One comment

  1. mattpeas

    That was a beautiful narrative that any baseball fan of any team can relate to. Heck, I’ve never had a playoff run to cheer for and vie only witnessed three winning seasons but the pirateshave still provided me with lifelong memories. I plan my schedule around them no matter if it’s opening day, a bobble head night or fighting to avoid100 losses in lateseptember. I can relate no matter what

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