New England

October 27, 2004 by Josh Trudell

The radio whispered in time with the soft whistle of air through tubes, rising, falling and rising again. Outside, the season’s first snow fluttered down, catching the window’s glow before landing on maple leaves still tinged with orange and red. They would be brown and dead when the snow melt uncovered them in the spring.

Inside, framed yellowing photos of men in wool uniforms, wearing caps at the jaunty angle of a seven-year-old boy, covered the walls. Neat stacks of plastic cubes, each holding a ball with faded blue ink on one side, lined a bookcase.

The radio sputtered a bit, and his rheumy eyes rolled in response. “Foulke…” he muttered, squinting in pain and frustration.

A crumpled blue cap with a spoked red B hung from the top right corner bedpost, where it had been religiously placed every night for the last three weeks, after being thrown and catching there during a blowout loss. The effort had cost him a bloody coughing fit, but he couldn’t stand it any longer.

The next night, a miracle had happened, and like people all over New England, he didn’t change a thing for the next three weeks, so the cap stayed where it was.

Now, he couldn’t change anything. He listened, but his eyelids grew heavier and heavier. They settled closed as the radio sputtered again.

“…"Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He has it. He underhands to first. And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions. For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball's world championship. Can you believe it?"

The roar of the crowd was as loud as if he was sitting at the game…and then it broke off into static, which died out.

The growing storm whipped away the signal, leaving him silent, in silence.

Living in Fantasyland by Josh Trudell

“Zack (*^%ing Grienke!!”

The big man’s forehead reddened, then purpled. “&^(&, Steve*, you do this to me every year! $&*@!”

As we roared in laughter, he paced around the room, crumpling pieces of paper and throwing them in different directions, fuming. Empty Styrofoam cups and plastic bags went flying, before he finally calmed down.

Ah, the raging torrents of emotion, wrought to the surface by fantasy baseball.

It’s one of the touchstones of spring, for me - flowers start to bloom, the air conditioning starts to run constantly, and I get together with a small group of friends to hash out our fantasy baseball auction.

Without delving too deeply into the nerdity, it’s a group of eight guys – one brought his girlfriend one year, and hasn’t lived it down since – sitting around bidding on their favorite American League baseball players. This is New England, after all - none of that National League crap goes here.

This has been my first fantasy league, and the only one that’s ever stuck. The group’s core is made of people I worked with at my first real job – a reporter and editor at a small newspaper in southern New Hampshire.

One of the clichés about newspapers is the camaraderie – long hours, low pay and high stress forge a deeper working relationship than other jobs. These guys are my proof that it exists, and it’s why I fly 1,500 miles to hang out with them for a few hours.

Distance makes it harder now – I’ve only made it one of the last three years, and I can’t remember the last time I saw Steve (the guy who seems to win it EVERY YEAR).

I’m not a charter member of the league – there are a couple of those left – but I’ve been part of it long enough to see most notepads give way to laptops. During the most recent auction, held just a couple of days ago, we retired an old easel and huge sketch pad in favor of a high-definition TV and Google Docs to keep track of who chose which player.

Red Sox players are always expensive – it is New England, after all – but it’s the only time Yankees players might be valued just as highly. Old jokes are revived about Nomaaaaaah, new stories told about the latest indignities of the newspaper business, and the bids go round in circles.

Ironically, the process gets more competitive later in the game – the outburst above was during the last stage of the auction, when a promising pitcher was taken before the outburster’s next pick.

It’s become part of the history of this group, rolled out any time someone gets too excited about losing a bidding war.

After a rousing third-place finish last season, I’m hopeful about this year’s team – since, hope, like baseball, springs eternal.

*Names changed to protect the outburster and bursted-upon.