The other day I was at a local market and one of the vendors looked me up and down and observed, “So you’re a Red Sox fan.” I walked away and took a good look at myself. I was wearing a Red Sox hat, t-shirt, sweat shirt and jacket. I guess I do like the Red Sox! As I travel about Halifax people will see me dressed this way and ask if I saw the game last night. They will ask me how I feel about the team this year. I am embarrassed to say I don’t watch the Red Sox and don’t know how they are doing this year. For one thing we don’t have cable any more so even if I wanted to I could not watch any Red Sox games. But the truth is I wouldn’t be watching baseball games even if they were available to me. The only professional sport I pay attention to these days is NFL and even there because I now work Sunday afternoons and nights I don’t follow the league like I used to.
So why all the Red Sox garb? I am not trying to fit in or follow a trend, the Blue Jays are Halifax’s and Canada’s team these days. The truth is the Red Sox are part of my nostalgia, a memory of a very good time in my life when I followed the team very closely and felt my moods change as the team succeeded and failed. I can tell you about every player then, 1975-1978. Cable was a fairly recent thing in Halifax and our local affiliate was Bangor, Maine. For the same reasons that Eddie Driscoll and Dick Stacey were household names then the Red Sox were supported by hundreds of Halifax youth. Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Jim Rice and Luis Tiant were three of my favorite players. I modelled my catching style specifically after Carlton Fisk, my centre field style after Fred Lynn, my batting stance and swing after Jim Rice. If there was a bigger Red Sox fan then I did not meet him/her.
At 52 (one more day) I dabble in nostalgia. Unlike many I do not keep things to hold on to the past, I don’t try to replicate my former surroundings. Nor am I a retro person, can anyone tell me why you would choose those old scratchy and warped LP’s over an iPod player? My affection for nostalgia is not a function of a yearning for former times, a need to return to simpler and happier times. I do believe I am a kind of anti-nostalgia person, someone who worries such people who hold to the past miss out on what lies in front of them. But I do value those moments when I can return to a happy time, in mind’s eye I can just be present in those memories and feel the joy I felt then. Such are the memories of sitting in a lazy boy chair watching the Red Sox on the weekends on a floor model TV. The Red Sox were always contenders, they were always full of talent and the possibility of greatness lay at their feet.
But the Red Sox were the kind of team that were great and talented but never winners, they always came close and just at the last moment, defeat. It was a powerful narrative and I rode the wave each year, all the time knowing how it would end. If you want to know how it felt then and how it felt when the team finally became a winner watch this video.
In the Old Testament the exiles and their experience is the dominant narrative. To summarize a people who thought they had a special relationship to the Creator and found expression for that experience in the city of Jerusalem are invaded, enslaved and systematically oppressed by the Babylonians. But then something strange and unexpected happens. Some exiles find in foreign lands they do have a voice, that as a minority they are motivated and sustained to be that special people in a way they were not as the dominant people. In fact when the Babylonians are replaced by another occupying nation and the exiles are permitted to return to the Promised Land there is ambivalence. Things for many of them turn out to be worse than they were in the foreign lands surrounded by people who worshipped other gods.
Nostalgia is important because it returns us to good times, special times, times that remind us who and whose we are. But they are not necessarily predictors and connectors to the present or the future. It’s one thing to surround yourself with memories of good times, it is another to do the same with the expectation that these things, these memories, will make the present and the future the adventure we dream of. To connect to the present and the future we require an openness and excitement nostalgia can impede.
Ten years from now I will be dreaming of the nights Lucy and I watched Gotham and Daredevil together. And who knows what I will be wearing then…