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Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season

Review

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season



Could horrormeister Stephen King and novelist Stewart O'Nan have
known, when they took on this venture, how important this past
season might be? Sure, the Sox had a great team "on paper," as the
saying goes; they looked like an ample match for the smug New York
Yankees, especially with the acquisition of pitching ace Curt
Schilling. But who could blame Red Sox rooters, with their long
history of disappointment, for not brimming with confidence. And
when the season was over, there were the Yankees, once again,
Division title winners.

But wait. With King involved, there has to be something
supernatural going on. And, unbelievable and improbable as it
seemed, the Sox, for once, did not falter, enjoying a "back from
the grave," three-games-to-none come-from-behind playoff series
victory --- never before accomplished in the annals of the game.
But professional sports is an industry that asks the eternal
question, "What have you done for us lately?" After the series,
sports pundits argued if this would suffice, if the "moral victory"
of just beating the hated Yankees would make a World Series title
anti-climactic. The majority ruled that, no, only a full running of
the board could purge "the curse of the Bambino," which had kept
the Red Sox title-less since 1918. Babe Ruth, a star pitcher as
well as watershed slugger for the Bostons, was sold to the Yankees
after the 1919 season, turning their fortunes around and making
them the poster team for sports success, while generations of Red
Sox fans had gone to their graves, unfulfilled.

O'Nan does the lion's share of the work, writing on an almost-daily
basis about the rise and fall of the team throughout the season,
reporting on "the thousands natural shocks that flesh is heir to,"
to borrow from another notable writer. King drops his own opinions
here and there. The style has been compared with that of a
broadcast team, with O'Nan doing the play-by-play, and King the
color commentary. It works quite well. On occasion, they share a
dialogue with their readers. (Some readers might have difficulty
differentiating between the two writers: King's comments appear in
bold type, but after a few pages, the distinction is hard to
tell.)

What could have been a celebrity stunt --- compared Faithful to
Larry King's saccharine Why I Love Baseball --- turns into a
thoughtful and enjoyable presentation (although, at times, they
do carry on like a couple of sports radio nerds). One can
easily believe King, who claims loyalty to the Sox since 1967, when
he compares his love for the game to an addiction: "This book
legitimizes my obsession and allows me to indulge in it to an even
greater degree."

"I am a baseball junkie, pure and simple," avers the man who wrote
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, an ode to the former Boston
reliever.

During spring training, O'Nan --- author of A Prayer for the Dying,
Snow Angels and The Speed Queen, among others --- wrote, "...it's
too early to wax really lyrical... (God knows there's too much
labored lyricism in baseball writing these days...)." Apparently by
May, the time for waxing was ripe, as he offered: "Baseball is a
lazy game, meant to be played on a long, lazy summer afternoon and
into the purple twilight" as he bemoaned the way money has changed
the game, making it more a vehicle for television than a pleasure
for the fans. How else to explain starting times for post-season
games that all but guarantee the contests won't be over before the
next day?

It would be hard to find a team whose fans are more manic than the
Red Sox. Their followers are used to accepting the best while
expecting the worst. After Boston's four game sweep of the
Cardinals, sportswriters wondered what the Red Sox rooters would do
now that they've lost the empathy that comes with having your heart
broken over and over.

Towards the end of Faithful, King writes:

"'Can you believe it?' Joe Castiglione [the long-time Red
Sox broadcaster] exults, and eighty-six years of disappointment
falls away in the length of time it takes the first-base ump to
hoist up his thumb in the out sign.

"This is not a dream.

"We are living real life."

For two men who make their living writing fiction, this heartfelt
paean to the team and, indeed, to the entire "Red Sox nation" will
let readers keep the warm feeling throughout the winter and for
years to come.

Reviewed by Ron Kaplan (ronk23@aol.com) on January 21, 2011

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season
Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King

  • Publication Date: December 2, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 0743267524
  • ISBN-13: 9780743267526