Bringing Back Buckner

 

This Curb Your Entusiasm season was already filled with legendary episodes (Palestinian Chicken and The Bi-Sexual were both pretty, pretty, pretty good), but Sunday’s Mr. Softee might be the big whiner winner. And much like a black man when he puts on glasses, it gave me a whole new respect for Larry David.

Mr. Softee was classic Curb with multiple storylines intersecting at awkward moments (Suzy’s joyride with “the other man” will live on in infamy), but I found the most memorable part to be the subtext of the show itself: Larry David’s redemption of Bill Buckner.

By all statistical accounts, Bill Buckner shouldn’t need any redemption. He put in a respectable 20 years as a Major League first baseman. A career .289 hitter, Bucker smacked over 2,700 hits and won the NL Batting title in 1980.

But we tend to forget the good things, and instead focus on the HUGE World Series losing things.

You’ve seen the replay a million times. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Red Sox up 3-2, about to clinch the Series. Buckner somehow lets a weak Mookie Wilson grounder roll through his legs and straight into infamy. Cue Ray Knight and his flailing arms.

 

 

Obviously it’s foolish to blame Buckner for the loss. A game isn’t won or lost on one play alone. The score was tied when he Bucknered the ball so the out would have ended the inning, not won the game or the series. Everyone also seems to forget the Red Sox blew a 3-0 lead in Game 7 as well.

Yet Boston still blamed Buckner for the Series, the Curse, and everything else in their miserable 1980s Bostonian lives. That ground ball followed Bill for 25 years, and brought ridicule wherever he went. Rumors say the man even moved out of neighborhoods because of the torture.

Boston fans pretended to forgive him once they finally broke the Curse in 2004, but it wasn’t until they won their 2nd ring in 2007 (they had to be really, really sure) that the Sox invited Buckner to throw out the first pitch of the 2008 home opener. Fenway fans gave him a 4 minute standing ovation. Afterwards, he admitted:

“I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I’ve done that and I’m over that.”

There is no chance he’s over it. Maybe after thousands of dollars on therapy, plastic sheets, and wall Spackle, Buckner finally figured out how to deal with it. Maybe the few bucks earned from the embarrassing/therapeutic/sellout tour on the Autograph circuit with Mookie Wilson (where they both sign memorbilia to commemorate their moment in history together) help the pain subside, but there’s no way to be “over it”. We won’t let him.

Do I feel that way just because of the negative image stoked on by the media (who love replaying the error in every single highlight real ever cut) or because if it was me, I’d replay that day over and over in my head Groundhog Day style until my head exploded?

But along comes Larry David.

By all rules of a sports fan, Larry is 100% within his rights to hate Bill Buckner. Larry is a lifelong Yankee fan, and has earned his right to revel in the demise of any Red Sox player. The fact that his worst moment came at the hands of fellow New Yorkers makes it that much sweeter for bragging purposes.

Yet for some reason, David chose to commiserate with Buckner, befriend him, and dare I say…humanize him.

 

"I bet Derek Jeetah nevah caught a baby"

 

It was a bold decision and a rare example of social remedy by sitcom (think Britney Speares on How I Met Your Mother). For many of us, Curb was the first “real” image of Buckner we’ve had in 25 years, and it was the first time we saw him as something other than a punching bag. We saw him as a normal, upbeat, and NICE guy who gets subjected to horrendous treatment.

The man yelling at Larry for botching the softball-championship-losing ground ball is ridiculous, so we feel even more moronic once we realize we destroyed a man’s life and career by doing the same exact thing. Thankfully Curb (which often has its subject err again for humors sake) lets Buckner save the day in the end…by making a huge catch.

Larry’s character/caricature  on the show is the personification of all the socially unacceptable thoughts that float through our head, so hopefully Larry’s redemption of Buckner will equate to ours as well.

Sure, it might just be fake television, but I dare anyone to say that’s not a genuine ear-to-ear smile sported by Bill Buckner as he’s carried off on the shoulders of those around him.

Hey, Larry. That was a pretty, pretty, pretty good thing to do.

 

"Suck it, Mookie."

 

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