So the Red Sox lost a pitcher's duel last night. Our best wasn't as good as the Rays' best. The comeback in Game 5 preserved our dignity; the victory in Game 6 set up as exciting a baseball game as you can ask for. And our loss in Game 7 sent the best team in the AL to the World Series. Even I can admit that the Rays were the better team, both in the long haul and in a short series. It all boiled down to better starting pitching, game in, game out.
Why am I so comfortable with the loss? In no small part because during last night's 6th inning a woman dashed into the lounge where a few other fans and I were watching and breathlessly asked how the runs had scored. She was a Tampa Bay fan - and had been since going to Opening Day in 1998. Her family owns season tickets. She suffered through 10 seasons of ignominy. And she didn't really believe her team would pull it off. She said, in the 7th or 8th inning, "Even if they blow this, they've given us more than we could have imagined."
Watching a real fan take in the victory was good for the soul. She called her parents and planned for flying home to see Thursday's game in St. Petes. She was close to tears, hugging herself, hugging her friend, just staring at the bouncing mass of Tampa Bay players on the TV screen.
So for the real Tampa Bay fans - the ones who remember Fred McGriff... the ones who cheered Scott Kazmir when he was young and unproven... the ones who own ugly green-and-black gear, the ones who cried last night - GO RAYS!