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Reflections on the ten-year anniversary of the 2004 ALCS

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It's been ten years; let's try to painlessly wipe the dust off of these memories. Nope, it didn't work.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

We all remember where we were during Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series. I was only ten years old, so I couldn't stay up the whole game. My parents ushered me to bed as Pedro Martinez set down batter-after-batter--we all thought it was over. I was unable to fall asleep, and my parents rushed into my bedroom, shook me, and said, "You'll never believe it! They came all the way back and Posada tied the game!" I came out to watch the end of nine innings, and once again I went off to sleep. We all know how long Yankees-Red Sox games took back then, and there was no reason to stay up for two more hours on a school night. But, of course, I couldn't fall asleep. I went into my parents' room to check the score, and as I opened the door I saw Aaron Boone's home run sailing into left field. I was so exhausted yet elated that I said a quick good night and there was no problem falling asleep at that point.

In 2004, there was no chance I would miss a moment like that again. My parents finally got me my first television for my bedroom so I could watch baseball games as much as I wanted to, and I no longer had to worry about who was using the main television. For an eleven year old kid who loved baseball, this was the dream. But unfortunately, the only thought I have of that television is one moment: watching Johnny Damon hit a grand-slam in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS.

I think most Yankees fans, even the rational ones you may find here, pretty much ignore that 2004 even existed. We talk about the dynasty years, Aaron Boone, the silliness of the dinger-happy and horrible pitching staffs of the mid-2000's, the 2009 Championship team, and the mediocrity of the past two years. Heck, we even talk about the 2001 World Series; we talk about how great of a series it was despite the loss. Yet still, 2004 remains a black-hole in our psyche, even ten years later.

Fandom is a strange phenomenon. There's an allegiance to laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, for arbitrary reasons such as familial ties, location, nostalgia, or whatever it may be. And for better or worse, we put a heck of a lot of stock in the outcome of these random events that happen to totally random strangers for our arbitrary team. But for an eleven year old, this wasn't so gray. This was Yankees vs. Red Sox, Good vs. Evil, and Light vs. Dark. The Yankees were the clean-cut Derek Jeter's, Jorge Posada's, and Alex Rodriguez's. The Red Sox were just a bunch of bearded goons who clipped their toenails in the dugout. How could they be better than the mighty Yankees?

It took some time to realize a few facts: Yankees exceptional-ism is not real, and the only thing to blame for these unfortunate events is randomness, really. I had grown up believing and seeing that the Yankees were far superior to any organization, and this series ran counter to that fact. And when I tried to come up with why this had happened to such a good team, I thought it was because of some fundamental flaw in the team's structure. Assuming teams are equal, there is about a 0.78% chance that a seven game series will have this exact result. It's a surprise that this hadn't happened before, but it had to be somebody. Accepting this randomness can allow us not to accept unfortunate events as some indictment against us, and that we're merely victims of chance. This is not to take away from the greatness of that Red Sox team, but I wouldn't say that the Yankees were slackers, either.

I also learned another valuable lesson: even in the worst moments, life moves on. After that series, I didn't think baseball could ever happen. I felt like baseball had been cancelled and it would never be enjoyable again. But what it is great about being a fan is the cyclical nature of it all. Seasons, for good and bad, come and go. Once Spring Training begins, the only thing that exists is the present.

This is a bit of senseless rambling, but I think my point is that accepting the low points of our baseball fandom is akin to accepting the low points of our actual lives. We can't avoid them forever (Is Fever Pitch on television, again?) and we eventually have to look them in the eye and accept them for what they are (I eventually watched Fever Pitch, by the way). They are experiences to learn from and grow from--as fans and as people--and I think we're all better for that.  It all may sound overly dramatic and a false equivalence, but it didn't seem that way for an eleven-year old version of myself. I had maybe seven years of conscious thought under my belt, and for me this was devastating. I can honestly say that that series was my worst time as a Yankees fan, but all bad things eventually come to an end.

And now that this topic has been adequately examined, it can now go back to its rightful place alongside my old television that I watched the series on: deep into my dusty garage and covered in manure and rusty nails.