By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Let's make one thing clear: This will be my last Page 2 column that mentions the phrase "Curse of the Bambino."

Babe Ruth
Red Sox fans don't sit around talking about Babe Ruth or their team's impending doom.

After putting the finishing touches on this absolutely provoked outburst you're about to read, I'm adding the Curse to the ever-expanding list of "Things I Refuse to Discuss in My Columns" -- along with the time my Mom made me wear a brown corduroy blazer to my first day of prep school in eighth grade, the time I cheated on my Advanced Placement Bio exam and still somehow ended up with a "2," the time I uttered the words "I think the Spin Doctors will be around for years to come" and everything else.

But we need to set the record straight about "The Curse" for three reasons:

1. It's the "Blair Witch Project" of sports legends. In other words, the vast majority of people don't understand it, so it assumed a life of its own.

2. The only people who keep mentioning "The Curse" are media people and uneducated non-Boston fans.

3. Red Sox fans don't talk about the Curse ... not because we're afraid of the Curse, but because it's so absurd that we wouldn't bother discussing it in the first place.

The "Curse" rose to prominence back in 1990, when Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy penned a historical book about the Red Sox. Looking for a way to spruce up 70 years of rehashed stories, Shaughnessy borrowed a Scituate preacher's theory that the Red Sox had been haunted ever since they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. It was a cute, efficient way to weave together every Sox-related heartbreak over the past eight decades. It also placed Shaughnessy on the map, made him a best-selling author and put his kids through college (to steal a line from local radio personality Gerry Callahan).

Of course, since nobody has more to gain from the "Curse" than Shaughnessy -- given that his 11-year-old book keeps pumping out printings and royalties -- he keeps bringing up the Curse in his highly visible Globe columns. And since casual fans and outsiders believe everything that makes it into print, they mistakenly believe that Shaughnessy's Curse-laden rhetoric represents the thoughts of the vast majority of Red Sox fans. Trust me, it doesn't.

His latest attempt to poison Red Sox Nation was yet another "we're doomed" column in Sunday's Globe (following two consecutive losses to the Yankees that probably knocked the Sox out of the pennant race for good), which made it seem like the entire city was practically shutting down in a state of panic. As an added dagger, Shaughnessy repackages this column every year around Labor Day for the influx of college students pouring into Boston, a blatant attempt to poison them with this Curse crap; every local freshman reading Sunday's column probably believed that they had moved into the baseball version of an insane asylum.

I'm telling you ... that wasn't the case.

Carl Everett
Of course, Boston fans were happy when Carl Everett broke up a perfect game by a Yankee. What else would you expect?

Last week's collapse coincided with a three-day holiday that offered the most pristine New England weather conditions of the summer. You really think our collective weekend was ruined because our flawed, struggling baseball team -- a team filled with countless DH/1B/LF types, washed-up veterans and injured superstars, a team that lacked any semblance of speed and defense, a team that didn't have its best three players playing together at any point of the season -- finally came apart at the seams? Puh-leeeeeeze. I can't speak for anyone else, but I was at the beach.

Of course, whenever the Sox go into the tank, the national media takes Shaughnessy's cue and kicks off the annual round of mocking columns, features and radio discussions about Sox fans: Look at what's happening in Boston! The wheels just came off again! Is there a more pathetic group of fans than Red Sox fans? Look at them panicking? That team is doomed! All they can talk about up there is the Curse! What a bunch of losers!"

I guess it's inevitable -- not only does "The Curse" make for a recognizable angle that casual sports fans understand, but most writers and radio hosts in this business aren't creative enough to come up with their own ideas or tackle anything even remotely original.

(And if there was any doubt that the Boston media doesn't accurately represent Red Sox fans, that was erased after Sunday night's Sox-Yanks game, when some local columnists and radio hosts were actually amazed that Sox fans rooted for their team to break up Mussina's perfect game bid. Are you kidding me? The Yankees were trying to cap off a pennant race sweep with a demoralizing perfect game -- in Fenway, no less! -- and any Sox fan who rooted against Mussina wasn't a "true sports fan?" Gimme a break.)

Admittedly, Sox fans are probably a little depressed and touchy right now ... but only because our baseball team probably isn't making the playoffs this season (it was only last March when Pedro, Nomar and Manny were all healthy and we were practically printing World Series tickets). We're not "fulfilling our annual prophecy of doom" or any of that crap; we're just disappointed, that's all.

As for the Curse, it would be totally irrelevant if media members didn't keep dredging it up. Just the concept of a "Curse" is moronic. As I've written before in this space, do you really think Babe Ruth devoted his afterlife to haunting the Red Sox franchise because they sold him to New York, undoubtedly the best thing that could have happened to his career? Wouldn't he devote his paranormal energies to haunting William Bendix's family or something?

Here's my point: Don't believe everything you read. For instance, my father and I discuss the Red Sox every time we talk on the phone, which is quite often. And under no circumstances have either of us ever uttered a sentence like "I can't believe the Sox are doomed" or "I wish we didn't have this Curse on us."

That has never happened. I can't emphasize that strongly enough. I mean, ever.

Dad and I complain about the same stuff everyone else complains about when they discuss their favorite baseball team -- what's wrong with the manager, why can't so-and-so get his act together and so on -- and when the season ends, we move on to the Celtics, Patriots and Bruins, like everyone else in Boston. Of course, deep down, we worry that our lives will pass us by without ever seeing the Red Sox win a World Series ... which is what this whole thing is really about in the first place.

That's why Red Sox fans are so insanely passionate about our team. We're haunted by the possibility of living an entire lifetime -- 80-90 years, followed by death -- without celebrating a World Series title. That's not a curse; it's an imaginary guillotine that hangs over us every season. We're just waiting for it to go away, that's all. And only Cubs fans can truly understand.

Believe me, don't believe me ... whatever. I don't really care. Just understand that I'm never mentioning the "Curse" again in this space, for the reasons laid out above. And in the words of the immortal Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Onto the Ramblings ...


Thoughts while waiting for Mats Wilander to stand up and start screaming, "put the lotion in the basket!" during Marat Safin's next U.S. Open match ...
Now that Little League officials have solved the Danny Almonte case, when will they reopen the Kelly Leek investigation?

It's not officially a salad bar unless bacon bits are involved.

Gary Condit seems like the kind of guy who wouldn't replace his divots during a round of golf.

My favorite running NFL training camp subplot is always the "Player who changes teams and wants his old number, so he has to bribe the teammate who has that number to give it up" saga.

Allow me to slip on my Dr. Sam Quincy scrubs and make the following announcements: 1) Dale Earnhardt died because he drove his car into a wall at 200 mph, and 2) Korey Stringer died because he was a 350-pound man overexerting himself in 100-degree heat.

(Now let's move on. Please.)

When it comes right down to it, Out Magazine's concoction of the "Gay Baseball Player/Boyfriend" was the greatest "Put this magazine on the map" stunt of all-time.

Nobody -- repeat, nobody -- has a bigger noggin than Oscar De La Hoya.

Joe Kerrigan, Rene Auberjonois
Have you ever seen Joe Kerrigan and Rene Auberjonois in the same place?

New Red Sox manager Joe Kerrigan hasn't looked this inept since he was working for Gov. Gatling on "Benson" and using the stage name "Rene Auberjonois" back in the 1980s.

I'll be honest: The fact that Pete Sampras has suddenly and inexplicably reached the "Sentimental Favorite" stage of his tennis career makes me feel old as hell.

Obscure sports movie trivia question of the day: What was Adrian Balboa's maiden name? (Answer below.)

That reminds me ... thanks to everyone who e-mailed me last week with the same superb point: The "Least Believable Sports Scene in Movie History" argument begins and ends with Ed Norton's two-handed reverse slam that ended the blacks-vs-whites pickup hoops game in "American History X."

(As Dan Dierdorf would say, "That's a great job, guys! Great job!")

Coming up next: Ryan Leaf and Cade McNown try to revive their careers in Florida, as VH1's "Behind the Music: The NFL QB Class of 1999" continues!

When they hold the "Guys With The Weirdest Beard" Olympics, the gold medal matchup between Ken Burns and George Lucas will be one for the ages.

Quick word of advice to anyone starting college this week: If the bartender's laughing at you, it's time to go home. Just trust me.

Two words for the Ewing Theory this fall: Virginia Tech.

Hearing any announcer say the words "Invesco Field at Mile High" gives me those awful "I hate sports/I wish things were the way they used to be" feelings.

Jimmy Jackson has turned into the Tim Matheson of the NBA ... not only is it impossible to figure out why the wheels came off during his career, you can't even really pinpoint when it happened.

Memo to Rhino Records: Start making "Best of the '90s" retro-hits albums and feature the Grunge Era. Just trust me. In the words of Terence Mann, "People will come."

Speaking of Terence Mann ... Moonlight Graham!

When I spent $150 on an authentic "Simmons, No. 81" Patriots jersey back in 1998 -- in honor of rookie WR Tony Simmons -- that might be the Disastrous Impulse Purchase by which all other Disastrous Impulse Purchases are measured.

No word in the English dictionary adequately captures the feeling of making a long ride home from a casino after you've just dropped $300. Depression, self-loathing, admitted foolishness, hatred, anger, denial, outright bitterness ... it's all there.

All right, I'll say it: MJ's comeback is starting to give off those "Ali-Holmes I" vibes.

My favorite Ray Pruit song was "Runnin' Away From Me."

The fact that Luis Gonzalez will finish with numbers in the ".330 average, 60 homers, 140 RBI" range should make all the 2001 baseball records moot. It's like the third season of the "White Shadow" or "Caddyshack 2" ... we just have to pretend like they never happened. I feel very strongly about this.

Deep down, every Boston fan's worst fear contains the words "Nomar," "free agency," "2004" and "West Coast." Don't let anyone tell you differently.

I could eat just about anything if enough A-1 sauce was involved.

Burning questions: is "C.C. Sabathia" a stage name? ... has there ever been a "live" doornail? ... does anyone botch an accent quite like Kevin Costner? ... during "Groundhog Day," why didn't Bill Murray just stay up all night? ... why can't Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller flip a coin to see who gets to keep the beard? ... where does Fred Funk rank on the "Best Golfer Who Hasn't Won a Major" list? ... and why has Dan Duquette apparently hired Gary Condit's PR firm?

Reason No. 423 why People Magazine is a must-read every week for me: the fact that Tara Reid has a dog named "Stoli." There's a girl you want to bring home to Mom and Dad.

Nothing gets a baseball announcer more riled up then a drunken fan running onto the field.

Every time ESPN Classic shows that 186-184 triple-OT game between Detroit and Denver from the early-'80s, I keep expecting to see Kelly Tripucka sitting on the Pistons bench between Elaine, Kramer and George.

I'm sorry, but I won't be bouncing my grandkids on my lap some day and describing what it was like to watch Cal Ripken Jr. play in his prime. It's just not happening. And while we're at it, please don't mention "Sampras-Agassi" in the same breath as "Ali-Frazier," "Borg-McEnroe," "Bird-Magic" and "Walsh-McKay" or else I'm throwing punches.

As the years pass, it's becoming more and more obvious that the O.J. Simpson Trial verdict was the most exciting During-the-Workday Office Moment of all-time.

I can't wait for the scene in the upcoming "Facts of Life" reunion movie when Jo Polniaczek drags the gang to a WNBA game.

Finally, here's the answer to the aforementioned trivia question: Adrian's maiden name was "Penino."

(Father Carmine says it during the wedding at the beginning of "Rocky 2." That's why ESPN pays me the big bucks, for information like that.)

Until next time ...

Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.



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