Saturday, November 20

Remembering the Lesson of '04

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEY TO THE GAME.

As fall begins to easy into frigid winter, Jose ought to take a break from his busy schedule of sitting on the stoop and watching the world go buy to give thanks to the San Francisco Giants.

“But why, thank the Giants?” you may be asking. “You’re not a fan, supporter or even a well-wisher Jose.”

True enough. Nevertheless, Jose owes the Giants a heartfelt thanks, a big hug that includes backrubbing that goes on long enough that it gets a bit awkward. For you see, the Giants have reminded Jose of the greatest lesson of all—that God loves us.

Wait, that doesn’t sound like Jose.

Ah, here it is, the Giants have reminded Jose of the greatest lesson of all—the lesson of 2004.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

You’d think the lesson of 2004 would have stuck with Jose this long, that such a profound and valuable educational experience would have lasted far more than the six years it took to escape from Jose’s mind like so many facts about the periodic table of elements. And yet there, it went. All off to naught.

Some of you may be in the same predicament as Jose, struggling to remember exactly what was the lesson of that magical October. There are so many profound insights, that it is hard to remember what was the overriding lesson. Was it not to let us win tonight? Was it not to slap the ball out of a first baseman’s mitt? Or was it to never use Javier Vasquez in a seventh game? These are all good lessons, but none of them is THE lesson.

The lesson of 2004 is that the only way to break the cold chains of history is with focused will and brutal force. The Red Sox did it in 2004, and the Giants did it again in 2010. History repeats itself the first time as comedy, the second time also as comedy.

When the Red Sox won in 2004, Dan Shaughnessy, among others, suggested that at long last Lucy had let Charlie Brown kick the football, that finally, instead of yanking the football away and leaving old Chuck angry, distrustful and flat on his back, the bitch in the blue dress had left her finger on the ball, and let Charlie kick it swift and strong.

It’s a nice metaphor is some ways. The idea of the cycle being broken is appealing. Bruce Banner has stopped becoming the Hulk forever. Gilligan gets off the island. The sins of the father are not visited upon the son. But that’s not what happened.

Lucy did not let Charlie Brown kick the football. She wouldn’t. She can’t. Such an act of kindness would render her utterly un-Lucy. History is not made when the villains suddenly discover their kinder side.

No, what the Red Sox did it 2004 was seize their destiny by force. Charlie Brown ran to kick the football, and when Lucy yanked it back, instead of following through to the predictable, tragic confusion, Charlie floored her with a roundhouse kick. Then Charlie picked up the ball, as Lucy lay stunned, and drop kicked it through the uprights straight and true. 2004 was an act of defiance, not a concession.

The Giants in 2010 were a bit different. There was no clear Lucy, no Yankees to knock to the turf. But there is always a nemesis, whether tangible or implicit, and the Giants conquered theirs.

The lesson, to Jose, to all of us, is not to be a passive player in history, to allow one’s fate to be written by the Lucys of this world. Rather, we must realize that we have agency. The future is not written. The die is not cast.

Like the Red Sox, like the Giants, we can break the cycle if only we have the will, the strength and the flexibility to deliver that roundhouse kick.

I’m Jose Melendez, and that is my KEY TO THE GAME.