ROME - The Red Sox were down three games to one in the playoffs against Cleveland the night we left for Rome. My husband, Brian, was excited about the trip - our first to Europe - but disappointed that he would miss part of the American League Championship Series and (knock on wood) the World Series. Brian flicked through the Air France television offerings in search of the game, with no luck.
On our layover at Charles de Gaulle Airport, a ripple passed through the customs line. Someone was talking about the Red Sox. Josh Beckett had done it. The Sox were still alive.
Saturday morning we ventured out into ancient Rome. Brian was wearing a Red Sox windbreaker that he has had for as long as I've known him. We were at the Forum when it happened first. "Hey, Red Sox!" A woman stopped Brian. "Do you know how they did?" she asked. Brian smiled, a little surprised, as he shared the good news. They had beaten Cleveland, 7-1. "Great, thanks!" she replied, and we heard her telling her family the score as we walked away.
Across the street at the Colosseum, we were about to climb an interior staircase when a woman ran up to us. Again, the same excited question: "Do you know how they did?" Not 20 minutes later, Brian was stopped again, this time by a family from Cleveland. Brian was besieged by at least five more fans before we left the Colosseum.
Sunday morning, using the spotty wireless connection at our bed-and breakfast, we logged onto redsox.com to see more good news: Curt Schilling, J.D. Drew, a 12-2 victory, and a forced Game 7. By the end of the day, we had lost track of the number of people who had asked for details. Some fans were forward, placing a hand on Brian's arm, treating him like a beacon from home. Others were a bit shy, like the guy in a Stonehill College sweatshirt who said, "Excuse me, do you mind if I ask . . . do you know how they did?" He pumped his fist silently at the answer. We ran into one couple twice. "I'm so glad we ran into you again," the woman said. "Hope to see you tomorrow!"
Near the Pantheon, a middle-aged couple hopped off a Vespa and pulled off their helmets. They razzed Brian about his jacket and his team: Yankee fans.
At the Piazza Navona, a woman from Norton nearly sprinted over looking for news. "Game 7 tonight," Brian said. "We're gonna win, I know it!" the woman proclaimed.
Red Sox fans were everywhere. They were at the Trevi Fountain tossing pennies over their shoulders, waiting in line for gelato, climbing the Spanish Steps. When we checked online Monday morning to discover that the Sox were headed to the World Series, it was as much for the fans we knew we would run into that day as it was for ourselves. Brian had become a Red Sox Nation ambassador, an envoy spreading the good word in a foreign land. He was duty bound to know the score.
There were even fans at the Vatican. Outside, a group of people hooted and pumped their arms in the air shouting, "Yeah, Red Sox," as they passed. In Saint Peter's Basilica, in front of Michelangelo's "Pieta," two older fans hooted a quiet cheer. And for the duration of the Vatican tour, our guide called us simply "Red Sox."
At first we were surprised at the number of people in Rome who cared about the team. But if Rome is the Eternal City, then maybe the Sox are the Eternal Team. They inspire love and loyalty - and loathing - that runs so deep, fans carry it with them wherever they go.
Alexandra Pecci, a freelance writer in Plaistow, N.H., can be reached at email@example.com.