the red sox pulled another rabbit out of a hat, last night, and their improbably run through the playoffs continues.

i hate to say it, but i didn’t think they’d make it out of the first round this year … with Manny almost single-handedly destroying the team and the team bogged down with so many injuries.

So, when new kid Jed Lowrie slapped in new kid Jason Bay last night at the bottom of the ninth, the moment was that much more magical. and, all this excitement …

… just made me feel guilty.

earlier in the day, i had (yet another) water cooler conversation about playoff baseball.

one was a brewers fan, who was (mostly) content with Milwaukee’s valiant run to the playoffs, which would have been the envy of every small market team in baseball if the Tampa Rays weren’t still in the thick of things.

the other was an orioles fan was reminiscing about the last time they had young, promising talent good enough to win the rookie of the year award (answer: never) and bemoaning the groundswell of “fans” jumping on the red sox band wagon since ending their 86 year championship drought in 2004.

that’s when i felt the guilt … i was an orioles fan (*gasp!*) as recently as 2002.

it all started in earnest when i moved to a place about eight miles from Camden Yards. growing up, i had been raised to root for the home team: my Vermont brother (red sox), my Maine father (Boston braves, and then red sox) and my new york grandfather (Yankees) all supported the local teams. I’d argue that it’s your civic duty.

but then 2003 happened. i moved to dc (who was desperately trying to get their own team, one which i root for in the National League) which relieved the Orioles of their position as the team next door. I also came to the realization that Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles, was actually the anti-Christ based on his sad attempts to keep a team out of DC (a rant already rant-ed at length).

so, without a team to cheer for (the Nats hadn’t arrived yet, and i had blacklisted the O’s) i started shopping around.

basically, everyone in my family who follows baseball, follows the red sox … so there was some attraction there. also, i had already built up a healthy, low-boiling hatred of the Yankees (sorry, grand-pa) based lightly on those annoying 25 championships, but mostly on their thuggish jersey-based fans who streamed into Baltimore for the games each year. (if there is one thing the red sox and orioles share, it’s an un-abiding hatred of the Yankees.)

so, after spending most of 2003 without a team to cheer for, the post-season saw me rooting *against* the Yankees yet again, which based on their ALCS match up with Boston, meant i would need to root *for* the Red Sox.

i watched all seven games of the series that year, and got (what turned out to be) my only true flavor of the misery that being a Red Sox fan is associated with: series tied at 3 a piece, game tied 5-5, Yankees at bat to begin the bottom half of the 11th inning … first pitch is knocked out of the park by Aaron Boone. Yankees win the game. Boston loses the series.

(ironically enough, Aaron Boon is now with the Washington Nationals, and is the one player i can’t bring myself to cheer for.)

i barely knew what a baseball was during the last major Sox tragedy (Bill Buckner and the ball between the legs in ’86) but if it sucked anything like this did, I’m glad i was too young.

and, from that point on, i was hooked. i even converted the lady sparkler into enough of a fan that she believes “@$%#$” is J.D. Drew’s middle name, knows that Big Papi needs to get his act together and start bringing in some runs, and thinks Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are cute (I’ll take my in’s how ever i can get them).

so, there you go. red sox nation member since October 2003. five years and two championships later, life on the bandwagon is great. i just want you new punks to know that i was hear first, even if it wasn’t by much.