The German Red Sox

> New Jersey Transit 07.14 to New York Penn Station
& New Jersey Transit 17.47 to Morristown, NJ <

Now 14 years since Baddiel and Skinner wrote about “30 years of hurt” and the England football team are still incapable – unlike the ever-aging Jules Rimet – of gleaming.

Yes, I know, we’ve heard it all before… For Man Utd Rooney can make a good team great, for England a good team still more awful. For Liverpool Gerrard rampages, for England we settle to see him manfully try.

And so it goes – Upson out of his depth; Barry too slow; Terry too old; Heskey all too willing but also painfully too limited.

Watching England play (with such a lack of enterprise and fun even the very notion seems a joke), we get used to this natural order of things, don’t we? We don’t want to, of course, but with each new reliable disappointment we accept it a little more easily as our lot. Team England underperform when it matters most. ‘Our boys’ fall short of ever being men. We cower, the Germans strut. We rally against injustice, ill-fortune, the heat, the pressure, the long season and lack of winter break… the Germans hold tight and win.

Our satisfaction instead is that rare peek of sun through unremitting fog. Never long enough but always so full of promise, we live whole lifetimes wanting more (if only wishing made it so): dismantling the Netherlands in ’96; Platt’s volley versus Belgium; Paul Gascoigne’s real-time slow-motion goal against Scotland; Rooney’s first summer when rival defenders could at best gulp down the fear; England 5, Germany 1.

We live for these moments, few and far between, in the endless hope that someday some foreign alchemy of form, nerve and luck will string enough of them together to give us for a day what the Germans somehow take by right: unmistakable, unimpeachable, unforgettable success.


Here, though, I’m happy to report, is exactly what the England football team should do. They should copy, slavishly and devotedly, the example of the Boston Red Sox. Forget the many differences between two very different sports, what I’m scampering after here is another difference even more substantial. One it took the Red Sox 86 years and the overcoming of a curse to get from one end of to the other: the painfully hard one to miss between coming out on top… and not.

For an awful long time Boston were as England unfortunately still are. Ted Williams, for example, was as good a hitter as there’s ever been. But he never once won it all. Jimmie Foxx, Jackie Jensen and Jim Rice all collected MVP awards while treading Fenway grass but never wore a ring for their troubles. Even Carl Yastrzemski’s ‘Impossible Dream’ team of 1967 was so-named in spite of coming second – courageously close to absolute glory but still, conspicously, smoking no cigars.

And then 2004 happened. Incredibly and for the first time in forever – who knows how, who knows why – the Boston Red Sox simply refused to loose. With a greedy haste England football fans might yet pin a distant dream to, a team full of losers at once became a team full of Germans. (Alas Big Papi was to find his nickname didn’t translate too well…)

All of which gets me in a roundabout way to the Red Sox score the day of England’s latest loss. Against the San Francsico Giants and their preeminent pitcher Tim Lincecum they won as efficiently as can be.

In the grand scheme of things, here is a team that no longer lose. That’s why their man on the mound a few nights ago – Jon Lester – didn’t just win another ballgame, or get to be one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball, three and a bit years ago he beat cancer first. His numbers right after England got beat: 9IP, 5H, 1ER… Mark it, football fans: it turns out you can, in fact, be German without actually having to be a German.


About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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