After barely surviving the Buckner debacle of 1986, I decided that following the Red Sox was too stressful and gave them up for about 15 years. I had 15 years of not feeling my blood pressure rise when certain pitchers were up, 15 years of not yelling at the TV, 15 years of going to bed when I wanted to, no matter how many extra innings were being played in that big green place less than a mile from my apartment.
But then, early in this century, my husband got interested in the team again — because the team was interesting, for a change — and I got hooked. Again.
But I took protective measures. I try not to pay too much attention until August. There are a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of wear and tear on both players (physical) and fans (emotional) between April and July, and I find it's safer and less exhausting to remain somewhat detached. By August, you're past the traditional July slump, and you have a pretty clear idea where the team is heading, although it can still get "interesting." I still try to cultivate a philosophical attitude in August. I've been following the season closely enough to know the team's issues, but I refrain from freaking out about every bad game. (Although lately there have been plenty of games worthy of freak-outs).
August baseball is fun. The month becomes increasingly exciting, unless the team is a complete disaster, which hasn't happened in recent years. There's still hope and optimism but, during this stretch of the season, every game is much more meaningful than the games of May and June.
September baseball is exciting. Every game matters a lot, every fan is more obsessed, and all across New England, people are talking to their televisions. There are probably plenty of reasons to yell at your own.
If you're lucky enough to have any, October baseball is exhausting and often exhilarating. You're hopeful, even though you know those hopes have been dashed in more than 80 seasons. You're tired, because games run to extra innings, or we're playing the Yankees. You're scared. You're excited. And you never feel alone despite your bizarre emotional state — you're part of a whole Nation experiencing the very same mood swings. You can validate your deepest feelings and your worst fears with almost anyone, even strangers.
We're close enough to Fenway that — when the wind blows our way — we can hear the roar of the crowd seconds before a hit or homer appeared on our screen. You have no idea how helpful this is (yeah, the audio delay is only a few seconds, but as you know, in a Red Sox game, a few seconds can be an eternity) can be when a game is tense. During play-offs and Series, the crowd was so loud we could hear "Sweet Caroline."
We'll be hearing all that happy crowd noise this September and October. We hope.