Editor's Note: This article appears in the January 31 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Here's a movie idea: diehard Red Sox fan falls into a coma before the 2004 playoffs, spends the next four weeks fighting for his life, then regains his senses after the World Series. He survives ... only he feels ripped off, because as millions of Sox fans say, "I saw them win in my lifetime," this poor guy is the one who didn't see anything.
Never mind. It's too improbable, right?
Meet Steven Manganello, known from this day forward in Red Sox history as The Coma Guy. Growing up in Maine, his family followed the Sox because his grandfather did, one more diehard who ended up with these dates on his tombstone: 1917-2003. Ouch.
Last September, Steven scheduled a Japan vacation that would get him home two days before the playoffs began. On Oct. 1, the final night of his trip, he crossed a street in Tokyo and ... well, this is where it gets hazy. That tends to happen when you're pancaked by a taxi travelling at an estimated 50 mph. Steven spent the next four weeks in a Tokyo hospital, battling a potentially fatal brain hemorrhage, not to mention paralysis, a punctured lung and other critical injuries. The collision was so violent, he didn't just have five broken ribs, one of them had actually flipped around inside his body. Steven's head was so swollen that when his brother, Anthony, showed up the next day, he swears it was "three times its normal size."
In the movies, people spring out of a coma like Adrian in Rocky II, as if nothing happened. In real life, there's a tube jammed down your throat and enough drugs pump through your veins to bring Keith Richards to his knees. For 17 days Steven was a blank slate. Sometimes he woke for a few minutes, but his short-term memory was demolished. That didn't stop Anthony from constantly feeding him playoff updates, hoping the positive news would stimulate something in his brother. When the Sox dropped those first three to the Yanks, Anthony even lied, pretending they were winning. Anything to keep his brother going. When Steven heard the "good" news, he'd squeeze his brother's hand -- it was all he could do. A few minutes later, as Anthony puts it, "He'd be on vacation again."
When the Yankees orchestrated the Greatest Choke in Sports History, a semiconscious Steven was still disoriented (channeling Grady Little of the previous October). When the Sox won it all and his friends and family called to share the moment, he understood ... for about five minutes. Then he forgot what happened. It was like SNL's old Mr. Short-Term Memory sketch. As Steven says, "I could remember my childhood phone number, but I couldn't remember somebody's name." It wasn't until he flew home to California in November that his brain started to work again. By Thanksgiving, Steven was well enough to fully grasp two things: "Holy crap, I almost died!" and "Holy crap, the Red Sox won the World Series!"
Problem is, now he feels left out. He only vaguely remembers a buddy calling after the ALCS, a Yankee fan saying he was half-rooting for Boston for Steven's sake. That made him feel good. He remembers watching highlights of two Johnny Damon homers on Japanese television, a happy, if hazy, memory. He knows he absorbed his brother's updates and believes they helped him ... but he remembers nothing of them. And he is proud the Sox won. Still, Steven says, "I get hit by a car and boom, they win the Series. If you loved the Red Sox and waited your whole life for this, how would you feel?" In case you don't know, he'll tell you. "It's brutal."
Should any of this matter to a guy who has undergone a near-death experience, especially if he's still slurring his speech and the right side of his body isn't yet working right? "Hey, the guy watched every Sox game he could his whole life," Anthony explains. "When they won the Series, back home we were buying shots, bottles of champagne, it was crazy. He shoulda been there. It isn't fair."
Doctors expect Steven to be fully recovered by the summer. That, in itself, is practically a miracle ... right along the lines of the Red Sox winning the Series. He plans to watch the DVDs and tapes of the Yankees games some time this winter, although part of him is afraid to. The thrill of the ride may just make the after-the-fact experience too bittersweet.
"My grandfather died having never seen them win," Steven says. "I had my chance, but I didn't see it either. Even though it happened, even though we ended the Curse, I feel I missed something big."
For The Coma Guy, it's 87 years and counting.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.