(submitted to the Boston Globe, 8/12/09)

During one of the most eventful decades in their storied history, the Red Sox are caught in a triennial holding pattern that might best be described as the good, the bad, and the ugly: World Series championship, forgettable playoff exit, epic collapse to the hated Yankees. (Warning: the following paragraph may dredge up painful memories.)

The pattern first developed in 2003 when the role of the ugly was performed by Yankee Aaron Bleepin’ Boone, whose home run crushed visions of World Series redemption.  The really good came in 2004 with the team’s first championship in eighty-six years – a feat repeated right on schedule three years later.  Both seasons of championship defense ended in disappointing playoff departures.  Now, eerily reliving the demise of their 2006 predecessors, the 2009 Red Sox are suffering a typical late-season breakdown, punctuated in August by embarrassing series sweeps at the hands of our rivals.

If the pattern holds, I have good news and bad news.  First, the good news: the baseball gods might have another championship in store for us, if we just wait until next year.  The bad news?  2012 is going to be ugly.

The Red Sox should be looking forward to 2012.  After all, that is the year that Fenway Park will celebrate its hundredth birthday – the first time any major league ballpark will have reached that milestone.  What an opportune moment to honor one of baseball’s most distinguished landmarks and commemorate the grand history of our national pastime.  What a welcome opportunity to forget baseball’s ugly steroid era and reminisce instead about the game’s legends, past and present.

That is why Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is soon expected to confirm that the league will mark this historic occasion by holding the 2012 All-Star Game, the sport’s annual gala event, at… drum roll, please… Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

If the reports are true, Selig will be making an error to rival Bill Buckner’s.

Kansas Citians will say, “Quit whining, Boston.  You just had the All-Star Game in 1999.  We haven’t hosted a major national sporting event in decades.”  Ah, how could I forget 1999?  The event was touted as the baseball world’s final farewell to Friendly Fenway.  John Harrington, then CEO of the Red Sox, had recently announced that the ballpark – the city of Boston’s most profitable attraction – had somehow become “economically obsolete” and would soon be replaced by a state-of-the-art facility that could better compete with the league’s wildly successful new-wave retro ballparks of the 1990’s.  Even prominent members of the Red Sox faithful, including Dan Shaugnessy, Peter Gammons, and Hall of Famer Ted Williams, had come to acknowledge that it was time to say goodbye to Fenway.

Thankfully, local citizen action groups mounted a highly visible campaign to save their beloved cultural icon.  When Harrington put the team up for auction in late 2000, the winning group, led by Tom Werner, Les Otten, and John Henry, centered their bid on a commitment to preserving Fenway.  After bringing Larry Lucchino on board, along with ballpark architect Janet Marie Smith, the new ownership group has made almost universally applauded off-season renovations to the stadium every year since 2002.  The improvements have ensured that rumors of Fenway’s demise were decidedly premature.

Listen, Kansas City.  I don’t begrudge you the right to host the All-Star Game.  To your credit, Kauffman Stadium is one of precious few baseball-only stadiums built during a time when the unfriendly vacuum of the multi-use, suburban-style, donut stadium swallowed up the quaint, urban Fenways and Wrigleys that typify the uniquely American ballpark experience.  Your stadium has not hosted the Midsummer Classic since the year it opened in 1973.  And as your team approaches a quarter-century without making the playoffs, you deserve something to look forward to.

But would you mind looking forward just a little bit longer?  Give us 2012 and you can have the All-Star Game in 2013, when the most exciting centennial anniversary will be the passing of the Federal Reserve Act.  After Fenway summoned her magic to escape the jaws of death, shouldn’t we give her a birthday party to remember?

Alexander M. Weinstein is a third-generation Red Sox fan, who would like to believe the Red Sox will turn it around this year, but thinks they probably won’t.  He recently graduated from Yale University, where he fought valiantly in the border dispute between Red Sox Nation and the Evil Empire.


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