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I don’t want to piss all over everyone’s recent Nomar love-fest, but I feel someone needs to pipe up.
Look, I loved the guy when he was wearing a Red Sox uniform. When I played wiffleball, I would mimic his obsessive compulsive batting glove routine, just like every other kid (I still do, because admit it, it’s fun.) Nomar was idolized in this region. He was our ambassador to the outside world. Jimmy Fallon (badly I may add) played a character on Saturday Night Live based on our love for this guy (which is when I first started hating Jimmy Fallon, a passion (a) I carry on to this day and (b) can proudly say I had long before it was cool to hate Jimmy Fallon). Even Ted Williams, the greatest hitter ever, said that Nomar would be the one to inherit his throne. Hell, for all we know, Teddy Ballgame promised Nomar a spot in the freezer next to him when his life was over.
Nomar marked the resurgence of Red Sox Nation. He was our fearless leader, and like my fellow writer Matt, who posted a nice piece about Nomar retiring as a Red Sox, I was happy to hear about this re-sign/retire gesture. In a sports news cycle saturated with paternity suites and vehicular manslaughter cases, reading a story like this is more than welcome in my book.
But amidst this touchy-feely story, it seems we’re kind of forgetting a few things, or at the very least, quickly glancing them over. And it’s this—we, meaning most of us in Boston and New England (fans and media alike) were more than happy to see Nomar shipped out back in 2004.
Not only did we give two craps about the guy who we had loved so dearly being traded by some new hotshot GM barely old enough to buy a case of Old Milwaukee–we were sending him moving boxes and Google Map directions for the quickest route to Chicago (assuming Google Maps was around in 2004, I don’t know, I try not to do research for any of my pieces).
Terry Francona said Wednesday that Nomar was “Boston’d out” when he was dealt in ’04–like Nomar had enough of this town. Well believe me, the feeling was mutual. St. Nomar was suddenly in 2004 a “quitter,” a “friggin’ crybaby,” and my all-time favorite, “what kind of queer-ass name is Nomar anyway.”
What was once the guy who hustled, who played the game the way it was supposed to, who was beloved by the young kids and the old-timers alike, was now the guy who sat on the bench nursing a sore muscle and pouting, while Derek Jeter, the guy he was suppose to rival, was diving into the seats of Yankee Stadium to make one of the most memorable catches in baseball history.
The first half of the 2004 season, that July series against the Yanks and that classic play especially, epitomized our frayed dynamic. The Yankees were winners. We were losers. And we needed someone to blame for that—and that blame fell squarely on the shoulders of Nomar Garciaparra, because he was the guy sitting on the bench. He was the guy who committed a couple errors in the previous few games. He was the face of our failures, and we wanted to collectively punch that failing face.
Not that I entirely blame Nomar. Here was a guy who had given the Sox a string of great seasons, only to see management publicly lust after A-Rod, who was then with the Rangers. And when that trade fell through, they pretended like everything was all good. Imagine if your girlfriend spent the whole night hitting on some random dude at a bar, then when he rejected her, she just came and sat back next to you, acting like she hadn’t been willing to jump said random dude’s bones at the drop of a hat. Then imagine that said random dude was A-Rod (or someone you know of equal or greater douchiness, if that’s possible). Starting to get why Nomar quit on us back in ’04?
But that didn’t seem to matter to any of us then. Or even now, because of what happened next. We all know how the story unfolds: Nomar traded for a few players that help us win a World Series for the first time in 86 years. Red Sox flourish. Nomar flounders. He visits for the first time. Standing ovation! Tears! All is forgotten. He comes back! For a day! Retires. Happy ending.
Of course, this cute little re-signing/retirement doesn’t happen if October 2004 doesn’t happen. Those magical four games against the Cardinals erased any leftover animosity. After that event, no insult from the past was too great to be forgiven. Just as older fans forgave Bill Buckner, we forgave Nomar. We conveniently erased the bad times from our collective memories, even if those bad time had just occurred a few months prior. Nomar was now our wayward son, the player who was “our guy” and just caught a few bad breaks. He was always a Red Sox, no matter what uniform he wore–Wednesday reinforced that sentiment.
I’m not saying this little ceremonious signing is bad. Nor do I think it’s all that great. If anything, I think it’s useful–useful because it makes us Red Sox fans mindful of what the team (and by extension us as fans) used to be, and how that’s not what we are any more.
Like my late grandfather taught me, “You should never forget where you came from.” Thank you, Nomar, for reminding us.