Among all phenomena we sports fans experience, there is nothing quite like what I call a “Moment of Clarity” game. It’s the type of game every sports fan should get to experience at least once in their lives, and it’s the type of game that affirms why we care so much about sports and just how fully rewarded we can be for our devotion.
In the absence of a strict definition, a Moment of Clarity game is sort of like obscenity according to the Supreme Court: We know it when we see it. It’s most often a championship-deciding game. The team has to have faced some adversity and overcome some obstacles that some considered unmanageable. And, above all else, there has to be that one special moment when the team “gets it.” That one extended sequence, usually early on in the contest, all culminating in a huge play that turns the tide for good and makes fans question why they were so worried in the first place. It’s the moment when you know your team is bound to win and the next couple hours are about enjoying the ride.
When the Red Sox beat the Cardinals on Wednesday night, it was the third time I’ve experienced a Moment of Clarity game. As a fan, three of these could be enough to suffice for a lifetime. I’ve seen three in the past five years, for which I’m incredibly grateful. The first was Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, when the Celtics obliterated the Lakers for the title. The second was Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, when the Bruins played a flawless game to down the crybaby Canucks. I don’t count the first two Sox titles or any of the Patriots’ Super Bowls as Moment of Clarity games because in the case of the Sox, there was never a doubt and both were sweeps, and in the case of the Patriots, the games came down to the wire and nothing was clear until the final whistle.
For the Celtics, it was the Kevin Garnett baseball style throw into the basket while being fouled. For the Bruins, it was the Patrice Bergeron goal in the first period. Those moments deflated the opponent and made it clear that the right team, the team who’d dominated the series, was going to win in both cases.
Now the Red Sox have their Moment of Clarity. Wednesday night’s moment came when Shane Victorino bopped one off the Green Monster to put the Sox up 3-0 in the third inning. All fears subsided and a game once in doubt suddenly became a joyride to the final pitch.
It’s strange, really. We worried about Wacha. We worried about Farrell. We worried about bridging Lackey to Koji. But once Gomes slid in safely to make it 3-0, every concern was assuaged.
Shortly after, you had John Farrell wishing Tim McCarver all the best in retirement. It was as if Farrell knew there would be no Game 7 and he wouldn’t be talking to McCarver again. Farrell had been shaky during the series, but if he’s all of a sudden going to relax, maybe we should follow suit. The ultimate sign that Farrell knew it was over was when he went to get Lackey and Lackey rebuffed the manager’s attempted switch. It was baffling. Farrell, who gave his pitchers quick hooks all series, was now going to trust a pitcher—John Lackey, no less—to play out an inning with multiple guys on base? Again, it’s like Farrell knew his team was going to win and nothing bad could happen. I’m not one to be optimistic, but I felt oddly comfortable hitching my optimism wagon to Farrell’s.
Once the moment occurred, it truly became clear. The Red Sox were the better team. They had been the best team in the league all season. Aside from some managerial quagmires and Breslow-based bullpen woes, the Sox were clearly the best team. I started thinking back about the year as a whole, and it all just made sense. The improbable turnaround from the 2012 season. All the walk-off wins. The good feelings and team harmony from day one of spring training. The earlier series wins, highlighted by Ortiz’s season-saving grand slam against Detroit. Once the Sox had the lead, the hopes we developed over the past six months were confirmed: this team is going to win it all.
Of course, there was one more element from the season that fed into the mentality of “There’s no f’ing way we’re losing this thing,” and that’s the Boston Marathon.
The Red Sox didn’t win the World Series because a couple bombs went off at the Marathon. They won the World Series because they were the best team in baseball from start to finish. But when I watched those montages of Marathon victims in their recoveries, they gave me goosebumps and instilled me with that same thought every time: There’s no f’ing way we’re losing this. My faith was tested. How could it not be when our manager couldn’t manage the bullpen, and the bullpen had issues holding a lead, and the lineup was littered with guaranteed outs? There were times when I thought, maybe we just don’t have the horses and the horseshoes.
You always want to think, “This is ours, we’re not losing.” This season we wanted to think it more than ever, and the Marathon tragedy was a major part of that. Once Victorino gave Boston it’s Moment of Clarity, it all made sense. It had to be the Red Sox. The Bruins almost did it. But the Red Sox actually did it.
Think about it. The Red Sox are the Marathon. They play around the corner from the finish line. They hold the Patriots’ Day game at 11am every year to help celebrate the holiday in tandem with the Marathon. The Red Sox are the oldest team in town and only five years younger than the Marathon. These are the two oldest sporting institutions in Boston, and they’ve always gone hand in hand.
Like the Red Sox winning, the Bruins didn’t lose because of what happened on April 15. They tried their damnedest to win the Cup because that’s what hockey players do. The Bruins became civic heroes in the aftermath. They spent hours upon hours at the hospitals, hell, I think Shawn Thornton is still at MGH hanging out with victims and their families. It’s long been said, accurately so, that the personality and culture of the Bruins embodies the city unlike any other team in town.
That is, until this year’s Red Sox came along and immediately forged strong team chemistry, played hard every day, and catered to the fans. The Red Sox were the pulse of the city. The team is comprised mostly of Americans. Their most prominent non-American player has been here so long that he may as well be not only an American, but also a Bostonian. You could tell me that David Ortiz descended from Samuel Adams himself and I’d believe it. The Sox kept the “Boston Strong 617” jersey in their dugout all season. They wore “B Strong” patches on their uniforms. They put up the massive decal on the Monster. And yeah, they were in the hospitals too.
From start to finish, it was the Red Sox. We should have known from the beginning. The players certainly did. But we were never quite sure. First place. Goodwill. Deep roster. We wanted to believe it could happen, but this being the Red Sox we’re dealing with, we could never rest easy.
Then, on a brisk night late in October, a guy whose free agent contract was universally panned as one of the worst in MLB history sent a ball sailing majestically off the most famous wall in baseball and gave the Red Sox and their fans a priceless Moment of Clarity. At that moment, we knew for sure: The Red Sox were going to win the World Series.