It’s always bottom of the ninth in Hollywood
by Claudia Grazioso
You Are Entering The Home Of A Devout Red Sox Fan.
Cheer Accordingly Or Shut Up.
This is the sign that greets visitors at my parents’ house and as it makes clear, my father is a devoted Sox fan and has been his whole life. And when I became an adult I decided that that was the reason for his melancholic nature, that the Red Sox might be a leading cause of depression for men of a certain age on the Eastern seaboard.
So many summers I remember seeing my Dad sitting on the deck on summer nights, listening to Boston sports radio as only the most devoted fans do, wearing his lucky jersey and two Red Sox hats. His shoulders would heave in anticipation, in hope. And then, more often than not, slump in defeat. For many years – in fact for all of my childhood – the Red Sox were a difficult love. This difficult love was a perfect primer for my career in Hollywood.
As a kid I was also a devoted Sox fan. We named our backyard after Fenway Park, the looming bushes at the far end that robbed every neighborhood kid of at least one wiffle ball home run, was our Big Green Monster. I pored over playing cards of Fred Lynn, Carl Yazstremski, my hero Jim Rice and my first official crush – if a six-year-old can really have a crush – Carlton Fisk. The Red Sox to me were unbeatable, the heroes. They were the League of Justice, Robin Hood’s Merrymen and the Avengers all rolled into one unstoppable force.
Except for that part about never actually winning when it counted. One of my first real Red Sox memories was watching a pivotal game with our cousins – devoted Yankee fans. (We are not a family without issues.) Jim Rice was up. And I knew, I just knew that he would hit a home run, because he was Jim Rice. And no one beats Jim Rice. Not even Ron Guidry with his gangly pitching style. He can’t do anything against the Red Sox. They’re the good guys. They’re it. So when Jim Rice struck out it was, to me, a profound childhood moment. My cousins and uncle cheered while with my father, I fell into a choking and confused silence. Heroes do fall. Dreams don’t come true. Endings aren’t always happy.
I was home this summer to visit my family, and as has occasionally been the case throughout my years in Hollywood, I was starting my vacation on a bit of a low note. A sure-thing project had stalled. A job that I was waiting for an offer on had seemingly evaporated. All of my blinking green lights had turned red, or more accurately, a shade unique to Hollywood – perpetual yellow. Perhaps appropriately, I returned to the House Of The Red Sox Fan in a fog of frustration and despair, with the occasional smattering of Hollywood hope: “If we can attach So and So…”, “If such and such pilot doesn’t get picked up…” Which, a long stint in Hollywood has taught me, is never really cause for hope anyway.
However, while I was back, something amazing slowly happened over the course of one night. The childhood Red Sox fan I was slowly merged with the writer I’ve become. I was watching a Red Sox game with my dad. Eighth inning, the Red Sox down by one. The tying run at third base, a hit, the runner on third speeds home. Tie game! The Red Sox might be able to pull this one out. My father and I whooped in delight. Except the home base umpire – in a truly bad call – called him out. Out! We couldn’t believe it. The announcers couldn’t believe it. The instant replay refuted it and yet, there it was. The tying run, the small bit of hope – out.
I sighed, got up and kissed my father. “Goodnight Dad. Sorry the Sox didn’t win.”
His eyes didn’t leave the screen. “It’s not over,” he said.
I went upstairs and laughed to myself as I got into the shower.
My dad is not a man known for his sunny optimism, and yet I realized, that’s what the Sox have given him, have trained him in – hope. Maybe their legacy wasn’t just melancholia, but eternal hope. The flip side of endless defeat, after all, is endless effort. Faith, some might call it. Or love.
And this made me think of our wedding. I wasn’t a bride who spent a lot of time planning – my mom had done most of it for me since we were getting married back east. But when the wedding rolled around, she had just been diagnosed with cancer and was in the hospital. I fumbled through finishing up the plans, but two days before the wedding we had no one to play music, and my husband and I ended up walking to a public parking lot to hitch a ride home after the reception because it hadn’t occurred to me to get a car. I also didn’t have time to choose what passages would be read, and just went with the standard fare, and so the famous passage about faith, hope and love was read. And I remember standing next to my husband thinking that that was not a bad combination.
I had never really imagined that I would get married, and certainly not so quickly. I had never even had a long-term relationship – at least not a good long term relationship. And now my mom, who was the best role model you could have for being a good partner, was sick. So faith, hope and love – that was pretty much all I had. And it was all I had when I packed up my life, said goodbye to my childhood friends and moved three thousand miles to Los Angeles too.
And true to the spirit of the longtime wife of a Sox fan, my mom pulled through.
In the shower, I suddenly heard shouting. Startled, I turned off the water and heard my husband clamber out of bed. “Bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded!” he shouted at me as he tore down the stairs.
“They’re going to do it! They’re going to do it!” My father cheered wildly.
I heard ice cubes hitting cocktail glasses as my dad and husband settled in and the Fenway crowd cheered. I heard victory. Impossibly, it was going to happen – that rare, rare instance when victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat. “Way to go Sox,” I thought as I stepped back into my shower.
Later, I walked into the bedroom and saw my husband reading. I smiled at him, “Well?” He shook his head. “The guy struck out.” I stared at him. Bases loaded. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. And the Red Sox hitter strikes out. My shoulders slumped: typical. And yet my husband was smiling, almost laughing at the small drama that had just played out in Boston. He’s a screenwriter too. He gets it.
Faith. Hope. Love.
The Red Sox. A career built on dreams. A marriage.
I walked downstairs to see how my dad was doing after the Sox’s loss. He too, was oddly jubilant, flushed with the whiff of triumph, the giddiness of even a moment of “blinking green.” The same giddiness that, in the words of Maxwell Anderson, has “filled my heart before it breaks it” time and again; that has fired my dreams; that has compelled me to pick up a pen and start scribbling ideas, even when I am feeling most defeated. My dad’s eyes sparkled at me over his glass of bourbon.
“Almost,” he grinned. “Almost.”Tags: Boston Red Sox, Claudia Grazioso, Hollywood, Screenwriter