He had no idea, of course, propped on my lap as he watched; his eyes glazed over as more a result of his parents' decision to awaken him to witness it than any comprehension of the event unfolding.
The infant-sized Red Sox hat that friends had brought him sat nearby, still too big for his three-week old head to wear for the moment. In Rocky fashion, he thrust his fists into the air. It might have been his first celebratory gesture. Probably, it was just gas.
Less than a month into existence and my son gets to watch the Red Sox win the World Series.
No curse. No heartache or frustration. No close calls or missed opportunities. No Bill Buckner, Aaron Boone, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Laces to speak of. He gets the delight without any of the prerequisite anguish that once defined the Red Sox. Champions again, Boston is an entirely new atmosphere, the Red Sox making history instead of crumbling beneath it.
And yet, I feel it should be he that is jealous of the rest of us.
It is different this time, of course. Three years ago brought on the culmination of many lifetimes of waiting and hoping for a dream that never seemed to pass. Church bells rang and New Englanders poured into the streets of their towns to celebrate the title some never thought they'd see. Families visited gravestones of those who never did just to let them know, it actually did happen.
Today, there is joy after another World Series title has been secured. But there can be no comparison to 2004. There never can be.
It wasn't just the way they won, in improbable fashion with four straight wins over the Yankees, then four more against the Cardinals. It was watching the most ardent fans in America dive into the story that was the World Series run. A lifetime of passion and fantasizing how one would react when it finally happened came to fruition on that night. "Can you believe it?!" Joe Castiglione bellowed over the airwaves as Keith Foulke lobbed the final out to Doug Mientkiewicz. Many of us still couldn't. For some it took days for the magnitude to finally settle in.
It was the ultimate payback for the dedication of millions. It was the end of the anguish, and the beginning of something entirely different.
This time, there was no lunar eclipse, no various combinations of numerology. Johnny Damon and Gabe Kapler didn't stand side-by-side in the outfield with an eerie message for fans in right field (Kapler wore 19, Damon, 18). There was no foreboding 19-8 demolition to point to as signals that this was a happenstance of the divine. This time, the Red Sox were simply the best team in baseball.
For Red Sox fans, this is a moment to be celebrated, although those that were there in 2004, before Boston became THE team to root for, and a fan base increasingly being known more for Johnny come latelys, they will tell you the same: This one counts, but it certainly can't mean as much.
For all the bandwagon jumping, Grateful Dead-like groupies that Red Sox fans need to endure as their stigma across the country, the true fans can simply sit back with a grin, content in the knowledge that all those who have come on board for the ride can't possibly imagine the release of true fandom. Mention the days of Ed Romero, Rob Murphy, Eddie Jurak, and Gary Allenson, and they might greet you with a blank reaction. Forgive them if you bring up Stan Papi and they correct you that you must mean Big Papi.
They might be along for the ride, but you know where the journey started.
They come to sing "Sweet Caroline," have picked up multiple copies of "Tessie," and revel in wearing "alternative" hats that allow them to better match with their evening apparel. They have hopped on board because the Red Sox are a championship team, and everybody loves to attach themselves to a winner. They crowd the amusement park that is now Fenway, the benefactors of instant gratification. Many of them have waited three years to celebrate another World Series title.
They'll be out in force this week, celebrating the team that they've followed for a third of a decade, and letting the rest of the world know about it in what the rest of baseball will term a certain arrogance. Let them. They have no idea, and never will.
Someone asked me the other day if it was worth it. If we knew then what we know now about the Boston fan base, would we have wanted that World Series title? If we knew it would spawn a new generation of hang-ons, make the rest of the country hate us, and have our team classified as the new Yankees of the game, would we still revel in it? We were warned that very night that things would change. Most of us said, good riddance. Some knew that this meant passions would shift. Winning it all is nice, but it can't ever be the monumental moment that it was just three years ago.
It is a fan base of instant gratification. The Boston Red Sox and immediate reward, two terms never thought to go together in any of our lifetimes.
I was 12 when Marty Barrett went down swinging in 1986, as the New York Mets stole the World Series from Boston in seven. I cried, not fully understanding why. How did this game suck me in to the point of this emotion, to the point of feeling it in my aching chest? My mother sat on the end of my bed and apologized. Not for what had happened, but for introducing me to it. This was officially how I gained my membership into "Red Sox Nation."
Today it costs $19.99.
I'll be able to tell my son someday how he watched his first World Series unfold. By that time there could be three, four more in the bank, making titles no more special to him than Christmas morning, a once a year occurrence that we're lucky to enjoy. He may have a passion for baseball in the coming years, and if that's the case, I will never be able to express to him what it was like back then. It is now a foreign concept, replaced by a whole new attitude.
I waited 30 years. He waited three weeks. He'll never have to endure what the rest of us did, spared the pain and anguish that once defined us. But nor will he ever understand.
Most think it's better that way. Maybe. There will be no doom and gloom for him, but nor will there be a lifetime of emotion in the waiting.
I feel sorry for him.