Boston Sports Forum Commentary
Del N. Jones
It was no longer just a Green Line trolley. Friday night, it was the love train.
Jovial Red Sox fans heading home from Fenway Park after the local team completed a three-game sweep of Anaheim in the American League Division Series cheered in unison, sang familiar songs and hugged each other last weekend in a fit of sports solidarity that only a Red Sox home playoff victory could produce.
Shirtless folks with ‘‘Red Sox'' painted on their bare chests shared crowded space with fans in comfortably faded blue caps, while the jerseys of Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon and Curt Schilling were the desired garb of an area on a true baseball high.
"Let's go, Red-Sox!" was the familiar chant as the conductor of the trolley became the party starter, as well.
Nice appetizer. Now the rival New York Yankees are the next opponent in a rematch of the AL Championship Series, causing New England to burst with World Series dreamers and prognosticators.
What will happen between the Sox and the Bombers this time? It certainly won't be boring.
"It's going to be a battle," said Rich Scales, a Braintree taxi driver, "but I think the bats and the momentum and the confidence of the Red Sox, where they have no fear, will overtake the Yankees finally."
This October provides another chapter, and most local eyes will be watching.
Most of the region believe that this is the year that the Red Sox will overcome the curse, the karma, the bad baseball decisions, the famous fielding blunders and whatever else that might have prevented a Boston championship since 1918. New York has won 26 titles along the way, and the two clubs constantly enjoy a "have" and "have not" combustible relationship that has bred arguably the best rivalry in all of sports.
"I think it's really time for them because they're motivated by revenge from last year, and the mistakes they made with the manager and everything," said Quincy Home Depot sales associate Paul Brophy, who has been a Red Sox fan for five years after he moved here from Ireland. "I just feel like if they can really believe that they can win, then they're going to.
"I really enjoy the rivalry. I'm used to soccer rivalries between Ireland and Britain. They're very intense, close matches between hated rivals, and this is the closest thing to it."
The Sox have developed a local athletic brethren with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a franchise that understands a few things about winning big. The Patriots have been honored several times at Fenway and players such as Tom Brady are vocal supporters.
It's not a Pats/Jets matchup, but several Patriots players will be behind the Red Sox against the Yankees.
"They've been close a lot of times," said placekicker Adam Vinatieri, who predicted the Sox in six games. "It seems like the Yankees are their Achilles' heel. Maybe this is their year. They're playing well. So have the Yankees. It's going to be another tough-fought series, but hopefully (the Sox will win). I moved out here a long time ago, so I'm a Red Sox fan, too. I'd like to see them win."
Pats teammate Lonie Paxton agreed.
"I think they're going to do it this year," Paxton said. "They've been so close for so long. It's everyone's year. We had a good year last year, and we're keeping it rolling this year. I think some of it's rubbing off on them. Hopefully they can do it. It would be nice to get another championship here. The more the merrier. Boston might fall off the map if both of us win."
When a team approaches the crown, the local news services are lucky enough to go along for the ride. From mega-page preview sections to extra radio and television coverage, the Sox are receiving most of the attention right now.
These Sox have captured the region's imagination. And what it would mean if they ended the drought in 2004?
"It's just something about this team," said Ed Berliner, host of CN8's Sports Pulse who picks the Sox to beat New York in six games. "Right now this is the happiest team in America. This is the best mix of baseball professionalism and baseball clowns - and I mean that in a good way.
"I think the Yankees are the tight team this year. They are more aware of the Red Sox than they ever have been."
And the greater significance of the series?
"This team stands on the cusp of immortality - not only in baseball, but in all of sports with what this team means to a city," Berliner continued. "This is history. When you look at the passion play that this has become...
"Nothing can come close to this story if they win. People will be telling their grandchildren about this season. This will be in people's wills. This would outstretch those 49ers (championships). It would be bigger than Wayne Gretzky and the (Edmonton) Oilers. This would outstretch those Celtics/Lakers battles in what it does for an area and a city."
Right now, the area is enjoying every moment of it.
Commentaries by Del N. Jones are posted on Boston Sports Forum on Mondays. His weekend columns can also be read in the Saturday/Sunday edition of The Patriot Ledger or at patriotledger.com.