I didn't really think of a definitive answer as to why this happened until recently. I've experienced something this season that I haven't experienced while watching the Sox since likely their last Championship season in 2007: Excitement. Every game served as a new adventure into the depths of my fandom. Different heroes were made on what was seemingly a nightly basis. Every game tugged at the nerves throughout your body with every ounce of force. The intense feeling that each game gave was not just a "take". It was also a "give". In fact, the Sox wound up "giving" 97 of those moment to me this season. Eleven of these came in the form of a pulse-pounding, exhilarating walk-off win.
I found myself constantly rooting for the game to go into the bottom of the 9th, or even extra frames. I wanted to experience more magic at Feway from the comfort of my own living room. I found myself wanting to see that half-hacked swing of Jonny "Ironsides" Gomes at the plate with the game on the line. I wanted to see Mike Napoli and his power-stroke up in a key spot. Every time something seemed like it could go right for the Sox, it just did.
Guys like Daniel Nava, who many thought wouldn't even find the bench of the Sox 25-man roster, had the second highest OBP(.385) for an AL outfielder. The only player ahead of him? Mike Trout. He's just one player out of the many who contributed in so many ways for this team, ways that extend beyond the starting nine men on the field on a nightly basis.
Jonny Gomes had two walkoff homeruns this year that are almost definitive of the season itself.
Koji Uehara is either a wizard or an extraterrestrial on the mound. Either way, he's been outright incredible this year.
The list could go on forever.
The statistics and wins, however, are not the basis of this team and it's magical run: The Red Sox have been rallying around the "Boston Strong" motto since that tragic Marathon Monday attack back in April. The team itself has been representative of the strength of the city of Boston. The identity this team has grown to have is one of a group of charismatic, loose, yet rock-strong willed men who have one goal: to bring a World Championship to a city that has been brought together in a common identity.
They wear it on their sleeves in the form of a patch, but they also wear it on their hearts.
Another identifying mark of this team is the beards that the majority of the players are sporting. Mike Napoli looks like a freakin lumberjack, and Jonny Gomes looks like someone straight out of a warzone. It started with them, and it's been infectious. Now you have guys like Dustin Pedroia and Salty rockin some intense beards. It's incredible, and for me at least it hearkens back to the Idiots of 2004 that brought the Sox their first title in 86 years.
The love for each other and the game they play is so evident. When a teammate with some scruff returns to the dugout after hitting a bomb, they tug on his beard. That's as dedicated as you can be.
When they get on base, throughout the year, they've been flexing their arms and pointing to the back of their jersey, something that's another physical identity of this team. It's been a part of the Boston Strong identity all season. So, essentially, not only do their uniform patches reflect their identity, but their facial hair and arm flexes do the same. That's pretty remarkable.
What I've experienced this season as a fan is something that is tough to put into words. After enduring a horrendous postseason collapse in 2011 and a 69-93 record last year (their worst season in my lifetime), I've become so enveloped within this team. I've found it so hard to leave the realm of joy the Sox provide that I guess I haven't felt inclined to post about it. Here and now, I feel obligated to share my experience this season. The four-day stretch from the end of the regular season to their first playoff game on friday at home has allowed me some reprieve from that. So, I figured, what better time than now? Oh, and about that card at the top? That is something I'll most definitely be picking up. It captures an incredible moment.
I feel like it's fate that the Red Sox are in this position. They have all the right reasons and every tool at their side to make a deep run into October. If they can pull it off, it'll be in no small part because of their chemistry and identity as a team. It'll be because of the beards. It'll be because of Boston Strong.
For in the words of David Ortiz, "This is our f*****g city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong!". Stay strong, indeed Boston...Stay Boston Strong.