Belfast Telegraph

Bostonian true grit could help keep Richard Haass in the talks game

By Jim Dee

A year after finishing in last place, last week the Boston Red Sox beat the St Louis Cardinals to win baseball's World Series, capping a storybook worst-to-first tale that might even bolster the resolve of the American tasked with sorting Northern Ireland's most vexed issues.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness must surely be kicking themselves for leading a job mission to Boston a week before 'the Sox' won the World Series for the first time at Fenway Park since 1918. What a party they missed.

Born a Bostonian, I grew up hearing the Red Sox story as parable of grit and determination in the face of adversity and almost inevitable failure.

The star-crossed team imbued fans with a deep fatalism, as, prior to winning the World Series in 2004 for the first time in 86 years, they inevitability snatched defeat from the jaws of victory time after time.

But the post-2004 Red Sox are different. My father, who died at age 77 in 2002, lived his whole life without seeing them win the Series. My 15-year-old son has already seen them win three.

What made this year's Red Sox victory particularly remarkable is that no baseball pundits thought they'd make the playoffs.

The star of the show was David 'Big Papi' Ortiz, the Dominican Republic-born slugger who posted the second-highest-ever World Series batting average by getting a base hit seven out of every 10 times he batted.

Ortiz, (37), who defiantly shouted "This is our f**king city!" on national television in the wake of last April's Boston Marathon bombing, was himself a dramatic comeback story in October.

In the previous series against the Detroit Tigers, Ortiz only hit one in 10 times at bat. But one of his hits was truly legendary.

With Detroit having won the first of the opening two games in Boston, and leading the second by a score of 5-1 in the eighth inning of a nine-inning game, Ortiz hit a grand slam home run, driving in four runs to tie a game that the Sox eventually won.

Ortiz's heroics gave Boston a desperately needed lift, and they went on to bury Detroit in that series, and later St Louis, en route to the World Series title.

So what does any of this have to do with the price of fish in Belfast?

Of course it's trite to line up sporting analogies with the gritty realities that life deals up in places like Belfast. People are not usually physically harmed, scarred, or worse yet killed, when sporting events don't work out the way one wishes.

Yet tales of triumph against stiff odds can teach us that it's always worth it to stay in the game, to keep giving your all, because improbable things can – and sometimes do – happen.

Ever since his appointment in July, Richard Haass' end of the year deadline for forging deals on parading,and the legacy of the Troubles, has seemed very tight.

Haass last week expressed optimism that a comprise package can be agreed by year's end.

Hours before briefing Taoiseach Enda Kenney on developments in his current peace process mission, the Brooklyn-born Haass used his Twitter account to offer "congrats to #RedSox & their fans, although they'd better look out as they are becoming the new #Yankees." (a reference to Boston's hated New York rivals).

Perhaps the long-shot success of the 2013 Boston Red Sox, and 'Big Papi' Ortiz, might give him a boost during tough negotiations ahead.

Then again, maybe he'll just recall the against-all-odds forging of the Good Friday Agreement.

Belfast Telegraph


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