After 86 years of near misses the Red Sox and the New England region shed their noble anxieties and drew a collective sigh of relief. But, where is that feeling of desperation with two weeks to go and the lead over the dreaded Yankees whittled to 1 1/2 games?
"We have to play well,'' Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said Thursday. "If we don't play well, we won't get to the playoffs or get deep into October. It's ours to lose.''
It's theirs to lose? It use to be the Yankees' to lose.
The triumphant comeback by the Red Sox in last year's ALCS and dominance in the World Series has brought a lackadaisacal confidence to the people of New England when, in fact, they should be acting out their annual pity party.
Last night Curt Schilling, after pitching brilliantly against the Yankees last week, was ripped by an Athletics team that can score 10 runs before the second inning just as well as go hitless for seven against anybody's fifth starter. Is Boston putting its hopes for a postseason run on Schilling's past performance? Specifically, a toss-up of which Schillings will show up?
The Red Sox are using this logic to the rest of this team. The rest of starting pitching is iffy, but the sentiment is their explosive offense will more than make up for it.
Matt Clement has the best stuff, but is unknown in the post-season. Tim Wakefield's knuckleball is dependent on where the wind is blowing that day and David Wells is being shadowed, at least he thinks so, by low-flying black helicopters sent by the commissioner Bud Selig.
There's a sense that the Yankees may overtake the Red Sox and force the ol' towne team to work its magic again when the two teams tangle at Fenway on the last weekend of the season. It will be interesting to see if that same old anxiety returns to the fans of New England.