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Technology and the Sox

Nov 8th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick Kemper PhotoI don’t know where they’ll be when you read this, but right now, the Red Sox are preparing to play game 1 of the 2013 World Series. I have been a Red Sox fan since 1975 when I switched allegiance from the As, who had won the 1972, 1973, and 1974 World Series, to the Red Sox, who defeated the As in the 1975 LCS and played the Reds in the World Series. It was an epic World Series. I remember watching part of game 1 in a burger joint in Long Creek, Oregon, on our way home from deer hunting. I remember watching the Sox take a 3-0 lead in game 6, and then I had to go to open house at school that night. Someone had the game on in the common area of the school – a black-and-white TV – where I saw Bernie Carbo hit a 3-run pinch-hit homer to tie the game at 6-6 in the 8th. Then we went home and I remember jumping off the couch when Carlton Fisk hit the homer off the foul pole in the 12th to win it.

Then, the next day, the Reds took game 7.

Little did I know how long it would be before the Sox would win a World Series. I watched in ’86, when the game 6 disaster took place. Don’t complain to me about Bill Buckner. The man has been wrongly vilified for years. Talk to me about Calvin Schiraldi, who couldn’t get a third out, or Bob Stanley and Rich Gedman, who let a wild pitch get away. I have a baseball signed by Bill Buckner that my sister and her husband got for me this year – Buckner is a coach for the Single A Boise minor league team, and they were playing the local Hillsboro Hops.

I watched in 2003, and I turned off game 7 of the LCS when Grady Little left Pedro in too long and the Yankees tied up the game in the 8th. I turned it back on just after Aaron Boone hit the homer to beat the Sox in the 11th. I watched in 2004, when the Yankees went up 3 games to none in the LCS. The playoffs and World Series usually coincide with some kind of hunting season and that year I was hunting elk during game 4, and I got home in time to see the Dave Roberts steal of second, and later Big Papi’s homer to win it in the 12th.

When Keith Foulke got the final out against the Cardinals that year, I didn’t jump off the couch. I was in shock. Thirty years of heartbreak were over, and I had no idea how to react. In 2007, when the Sox beat the Rockies in the World Series, I enjoyed it more.

I don’t enjoy watching the playoff games. I get too nervous. I start trying to figure out where I should sit, or what I should eat, or which routine I should follow that day. Weekend before last I went deer hunting, started listening to game two of the LCS on the radio, and when the Sox fell behind, I turned it off. I turned it back on briefly on my way home and they were further behind. I stopped at a gas station and put $20 in the rig before getting home, and a few minutes later Big Papi hit a grand slam to tie the game. The following weekend I was again deer hunting and I didn’t turn game six on the radio until I was on my way home and the Sox were again trailing, so I turned it back off. As I approached the gas station, I turned in at the last second and put $20 in. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I turned on the radio, and Victorino hit the grand slam that put the Sox back in the World Series.

I love the connection between sports and superstition. I love watching a player follow the same routine every time he bats – Jonny Gomes adjusting his helmet up and down at least 4 times, like it doesn’t fit. Or changing the routine – Mike Napoli is slumping, so he changes his pants mid-game, from the high-sock look to the low pants look, and the next time he’s up he hits a home run. Belief drives success.

I also love the low-tech medium of radio. When we hunt deer in Eastern Oregon we are miles from the nearest town and radio signals are spotty at best. The old-school radio my mom keeps in the trailer fades in and out and I remember sitting in the car in 2007 during game two of the ALDS, 10 o’clock at night, everyone in camp asleep but me, and the signal got fuzzy just as Manny Ramirez took Francisco Rodriguez deep to win the game, so I wasn’t sure if he struck out or got a hit or got plunked and charged the mound. Sometimes the interconnectedness of our world is too much. I miss getting up in the morning and reading the box scores in the paper to find out what happened the day before, because there was no sports center or cell phone with internet service and my parents wouldn’t let me stay up late and watch the sports segment on the 11 o’clock news. After the Red Sox 1975 season concluded, I bought a mail-order album, as in phonograph, of season highlights, and that’s how I learned about much of what happened that season. Many things on the record were actually news to me six months after the season had concluded.

It’s kind of frightening to think that no matter what was happening with technology at different points in my life, I look back at how that technology related to my interest in the Red Sox and wax nostalgic for something lost that will never get back. What is frightening is, what is going to happen in the next 10-20 years that will make us look back to the 2013 era and talk with genuine longing about how quaint it was to watch the highlights on our smartphone?

Whatever happens, let’s hope the Sox are in the series.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper