Bidding farewell to the 2007 Sox

The celebration was less maniacal than in 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Championship after 86 years of epochal failure. This year’s talent-chocked team, after all, was expected to win the World Series.,On Oct. 28 at 11:50 p.m., Game four of the World Series was finished, and Red Sox fans everywhere were in ecstasy once again.

The celebration was less maniacal than in 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Championship after 86 years of epochal failure. This year’s talent-chocked team, after all, was expected to win the World Series. A quiet yet obvious conceit of the team’s assured success preempted some of the most raucous rejoicing (not that much of the rejoicing was not redeemingly raucous).

At about 11:55, amidst the showers of champagne, Sox fans shifted their attention from the “red hot” Rockies to the hot stove of the off-season’s impending roster moves. Had Curt Schilling pitched his last game with the Red Sox? Where would Lowell end up? Would the team try to bring in A-Rod? What would they do with Coco Crisp?

It is obvious the 2008 Red Sox will not and cannot look the same as this year’s squad of 25. Given free agency and trades, rosters change drastically from one season to the next. The 2007 Red Sox only had eight of the players that won the World Series in 2004. Seventeen players, now Boston folk heroes (except Johnny Damon), have since moved on.

The fluidity of baseball rosters mirrors the in-and-out nature of our lives. Next year will be different than this year. We graduate, we go abroad, we move, we take jobs that send us away from Boston throughout the world.

The night the Sox won the World Series, radio announcer Dave O’Brien pointed out that the day the season ended (Oct. 28) was exactly eight months after the day the team played their opening spring training game in Florida. For Red Sox fans, that idea that the year begins on Jan. 1 is arbitrary. Our New Year’s Day is April 1.

With the dismissing of underdog Colorado, the season was violently recategorized into the past tense. It was an amazing season. It was.

The adjustment to the winter months is difficult. The season is rhythmic, habitual, poetic. The structure of days are molded around the start time of that night’s game. Sportsradio WEEI in the morning, Red Sox pre-game in the background during dinner, the three-hour long game, the post-game show with Tom Caron and the snappily-dressed but oratorically challengedJim Rice.

After the initial post-championship euphoria fades, water cooler conversation becomes strained. No more after-the-fact gawking at the grandeur of Manny’s or Lowell’s or Papi’s latest home run. No more exasperated calls to bench Coco Crisp or move J.D. Drew down in the order. For seven months there have been games, and now, suddenly, there are games no more.

Thanks to football, from early September to the first weekend in February, many Americans still observe the sabbath, watching the NFL while hanging out with friends or family as a cultural mandate. The football season only has 16 games. They are all too important to miss.

With baseball’s 161 game, six month season, this is not how it works. Life goes on whether there’s a game or not, and to follow the team, fans need to be resourceful and a bit devious.

Transistor radios tuned to broadcasts with Joe Castigilione. Leaving a class or a meeting for the “bathroom”, which really involves furtively sneaking in a half-inning of the game on the nearest television. Repeatedly hitting refresh on the scoreboard page of ESPN’s Web site. Text message updates ($3.99 a month). Asking customers decked out in Sox gear for the score while at work (if a lot of Sox fans are around during the game, it usually means the team is losing badly).

These skills are required for a baseball fan to follow the Red Sox, the ever-present soundtrack of the summer and spring.

There is no Nicorette at the end of the season. The moment the season ends, Sox fans go cold turkey until April. No more baseball until spring. The great thing about the Red Sox winning the World Series is that the lengthy postseason shortens the winter, like an early Groundhog Day on the Autumn side of the barren, baseball-less New England winter.

No matter how satisfying the end to the season is, the reality of the four-month offs is enough to induce mild depression.

But it’s only a matter of time until pitchers and catchers report.