It happened when the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the World Series. I was watching the replay of the game when it hit me — that for the first time in my life, I might witness one of my teams winning a championship without having my brother Pat beside me.
As far as professional sports go, I’ve been extremely lucky. Before last month, I had watched my teams hoist the trophy on seven different occasions, with the Giants winning four Super Bowls, and the Red winning three World Series titles. And each time, my brother (who passed away in 2014 after a battle with colon cancer) and I watched the final game together.
Not to take anything away from the Giants’ victories — which were extremely memorable — but the Sox wins always meant the most to me. Before the epic 2004 win, being a Sox fan came with a range of emotions, from hope (every spring) to frustration to sheer agony, because the losses weren’t just painful — they were excruciating. They were games decided by infuriating managerial decisions, homeruns by the unlikeliest of players, and dribblers going between the legs. One heartache after another.
Then, 2004 happened. With the Sox one win away from clinching — and making history — I knew I had to be with Pat. So I hopped on a train to NYC and met him and our brother Danny at a Boston-friendly bar, where watched in awe as the Curse came to an end. Two days later, we made the trek to Beantown to watch the parade. I’ve never high-fived so many strangers.
Three years later, the Sox were back in the World Series, and my (now) husband Dan and I took the train to Bronxville, NY, where Pat and his wife lived, and we shared in another championship. Danny (who is a Mets fan but a Red Sox supporter) made the trip as well. It was a great night. We toasted Boston, and reveled in the fact that our team had won it all twice in a period of 36 months (the previous drought, in case you don’t know, had lasted 86 years).
A lot had changed since 2007; Danny had moved to Colorado, I was married with 16-month-old twins, and Pat had two sons (ages 4 and 1). He also had cancer, although you’d never know from looking at him. Despite going through aggressive chemotherapy, he still travelled, exercised, and never missed a Sox game.
And so, after the Red Sox took a 3-2 game lead in World Series, we made a pact to watch game 6 together. Because we lived a good 2 hours apart, we planned to meet at the home of our friend T.C., a Massachusetts native who had relocated to Madison, N.J. (which, strangely, was the town where I grew up). T.C. and Pat both took the train from NY, and I drove an hour north after putting my babies to bed. I know I wouldn’t get there before the third inning, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except watching the game with my brother, the one who “got me into this mess,” as I often said (usually following a heartbreaking loss).
My husband, who wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of me skipping town to watch the game, asked if I was returning that night. I said, “I’m not sure.” He then asked, “What if they don’t win tonight?” I simply shrugged. In my mind, it wasn’t even a possibility. They had to win, and it had to be that night.
They did. It was nothing short of amazing — the Sox were good that year, but they were far from a lock to win the World Series (especially given that they had finished dead last in the division the year before). But every ball seemed to bounce the right way; everything clicked. The next morning, I set my alarm for 5 a.m. so I could be home in time to get my little ones ready for their Halloween parade at daycare. I was exhausted, but I didn’t care.
Eight months later, we lost Pat. I was heartbroken. I remember thinking that it would never be the same watching a Sox game. I couldn’t even fathom going back to our city.
But I did; I had to. The first time I returned to Fenway (where Pat and I had gone at least a dozen times), the pain was palpable. But it also felt right. I knew the last thing my big brother ever wanted was for my love of the Sox to waver. And so I kept watching them, often still expecting a text (or 17) from Pat. It started to feel exciting again when the Sox won the division the past two seasons, but each time they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Oh well, I thought. At least I won’t have to endure a World Series without my brother.
And then, this year happened. I knew right away this team had something special, but even I didn’t expect them to dispatch of the Yankees and Astros. So when they did, then quickly took the first two games of the World Series, I realized for the first time that my team — our team — was on the verge of winning. And I lost it. I broke down and cried for a good half-hour, and then I reached out to my younger brother Steve.
He knew what I was asking, and promised we’d make a plan. There was just one hitch – he was attending a wedding on Saturday, when game 4 was scheduled. As it turned out, the Sox lost game 3 on Friday (a grueling 18-inning affair), meaning the earliest they could clinch would be Sunday.
The wedding, by the way, was in North Carolina (I live on the Jersey Shore). I would’ve understood completely if he couldn’t make it. But Steve knew how much it meant to me to have one of my brothers there, and so he showed up on Sunday night, wearing a Boston shirt (Steve is also a Mets fan).
Like 2013, there was no backup plan if they lost — and in fact, I was headed to San Diego for the CHIME Fall Forum on the days that games 6 and 7 were slated. They had to win on that night, and they did.
Minutes after the final out, we FaceTimed Danny in Colorado, then toasted the Sox, and Pat. Steve stayed the night, even though it meant waking up very early the next morning (by my little monsters, who are now 6). But to him, what mattered most was being there for his big sister. That’s the type of person he is, and it’s what all of us should strive to become. When someone needs you, be there for them. Plain and simple.
And so, when the Sox defeated the Dodgers to win their ninth World Series, I was able to enjoy the moment. It’s funny; all this time I was worried Pat wouldn’t be there with me to watch the game. But it sure felt like he was.