When Shane Victorino belted his bases-clearing Green Monster double in Game 6 of the World Series, I was not at the game or even in front of the television. Instead, I stood alone in the hallway of my girlfriend's apartment building. One might think that I had been ousted for getting too angry or doing something wrong. It was actually much "crazier" than that.
My girlfriend, Kristen, did not know what she signed up for when we met on May 11, 2012. As it appeared, I was a nice, decent looking guy, who worked in education and liked to make people laugh. Little did she know that I was also an irrational and obsessive Red Sox fan. She was tall and beautiful with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that lit up the room. She grew up in Connecticut and held no allegiance to a sports team. She was also a psychiatric nurse, a skill that would come in handy come playoff time. It sounded like the opening line to a joke: "A Red Sox fan and a psych nurse walk into bar ... " But it actually happened.
Kristen and I flirted through the night and not once did I mention Bobby Valentine, beer, fried chicken or even the Red Sox. Despite being in a loud bar, our conversation was intimate, quiet and real. There were no other sounds except for our voices. We were crazy about each other right away.
As Kristen and I grew together, I allowed her into my world of sports insanity. As a psychiatric nurse she was well-equipped to deal with me. She was patient, understanding, and didn’t judge me, especially when I spoke to myself. She caught a glimpse into my ways of yelling at the television, pacing in the hallway, and knocking on wood. She rarely reacted negatively, and even taught me to breathe slowly and relax a little bit, too. Apparently, I was reminiscent of some of her patients in the psych ward. The only difference was that I wore a Red Sox shirt.
To try to include her into my world, I bought her a Red Sox hat, taught her about the game, and convinced her to watch highlights on ESPN. In return, she bought us tickets for a Red Sox-Yankees game, and cautiously embraced the culture.
We both evolved on Sept. 5, 2013. The Red Sox had built a sizable lead in a game over the hated New York Yankees. Kristen smiled in excitement. She was hopeful and optimistic while I, on the other hand, harnessed my inner cynicism. Just as I feared, the Red Sox allowed six runs in the seventh inning, and blew the huge lead. I turned to her to irrationally explain my cynical views, and how I predicted that this would happen. She didn’t understand nor should she have. I was nuts, plain and simple. She shrugged it off and told me not to worry.
(Many might be confused by my continued pessimism especially after the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 and the won the title again in 2007. But the truth is, when you've been brainwashed your whole life to be a pessimist, a few great moments won't necessarily shake it. It’s always a part of you.)
Less than an hour later, the Red Sox rallied against the great Mariano Rivera, and then won the game in extra innings. Kristen looked at me in a classic "I told you so" moment. She didn't understand my lesson -- they were supposed to lose. I didn't understand either.
It was after that moment that I never doubted Kristen ever again. As we became closer, the Red Sox steamrolled into October and through playoff baseball. I grew my beard in solidarity and to show my Boston Strong pride. She hated it right away, but found a way to get through it somehow, once again proving to be an incredible girlfriend.
We scheduled our calendars based on playoff games, canceling dinners and functions so we could watch together as much as possible. While I attended Game 1 of the ALCS with my father, she still watched the entire game at home by herself, a feat that she had never done in her entire life.
As the team advanced deeper, she asked more questions about the game, about the Red Sox, about my obsession. It was not an analysis for a referral to the hospital, either. She truly wanted to be a part of it. And I loved her even more for it.
Kristen texted me updates of the classic Game 3 Lackey-Verlander duel while I was detained in a graduate school class. When Kristen announced that the Sox were victorious via text, I shouted exuberantly in class: "Yes! That's right!" The absent-minded professor assumed that I liked his class so much that I just had to let out a shout in honor of his teaching. The rest of the class just thought I was crazy.
Since then, Kristen learned about obstruction, walk offs, pick offs, balks, intentional walks, timely hitting, blood, sweat, beards, Big Papi, Flyin' Hawiian, Koji Time, teamwork, Boston Strong, pride, and utter joy. She wasn't bothered anymore as I lined up the clickers in the proper formation for good luck. She wasn’t bothered by the fact that I propped her Red Sox hat meticulously on the couch before every game. My knocking on wood and mumbling to myself no longer seemed so strange. In fact, Kristen sat in the same chair every night, and recorded every game knowing that this year it had been good luck. She never asked where to sit, what to do, she just knew. She innately understood the jinx rule, and knew to never discuss a good luck charm. It would be like announcing your birthday wish after blowing out the candles. If you talked about it, it wouldn’t come true. She understood.
It was now Game 6 of the World Series, and Shane Victorino came to bat with the bases loaded.
After spending what seemed like an eternity in the hallway, I entered the apartment in trepidation. Kristen smiled and pointed to the TV. Victorino glided into third base and pounded his chest with excitement. It had worked. Somehow, I was a part of this. And I knew I wasn't crazy because I had Kristen by my side.
Kristen and I embraced after the final out, a cathartic and affectionate hug. The Boston Red Sox were the World Series champions. That’s when I realized the truth. Kristen was now crazy about the Red Sox, but even better, I was crazy about her.