Dave Roberts steal

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of game four of the 2004 ALCS. Or, to put it simply, it’s been 16 years since The Steal. Everyone knows The Steal. Because it was The Steal. THE Steal. And the image of Dave Roberts hauling his righteous ass toward second base and diving in before Derek Jeter’s glove has been indelibly burned into my mind. Like the first time I saw a rainbow or Jimmy Franklin’s mother without her shirt on.

It’s a good memory. Perhaps one of the best I’ve ever experienced as a Red Sox fan.

Sure, there were a lot of factors that contributed to the Sox’ insane comeback. But facts are facts: Roberts doesn’t steal second base in Game Four and the Yankees are going to the World Series. Worse yet, they’re celebrating their second ALCS-clincher on the Fenway grass in five years. The Steal spared us the image of A-Rod and Jeter dry humping on our third base line. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

Without The Steal, nothing good happens. It was the catalyst. The turnaround. The blast of gamma radiation that turned a team of beat-down dudes into the Ultimate Machine of Torment and Alleged Jack Daniels Slurping. If it doesn’t happen, we get no parade, no sunshine, no expulsion of the deeply held belief that God really wants to see us cry. Tito would probably be working the aisles at Ace Hardware. I’d be doing my fifth tour of duty at the local detox.

But, thankfully, it did happen. And we must never let a day go by that we forget about it. Screw this crap about teaching the American Revolution in our public schools. Sit kids down on day one, show them The Steal, and remind them how lucky they are to live in these magical times.

And despite the fact that you and I have studied this clip more than the Zapruder film, it is an honor and privilege to once again present: The Steal:

One thing you have to admire about this clip: the fans. Think about it. This was 2004. Before the swinging of the pendulum. Before we entered an alternate universe where good things happen with alarming regularity to the Red Sox. Back then we were chumps, destined to only get the cheap cigars and second-rate hookers. Roughly 365 days earlier, we had our postseason dreams shit on again–by these Yankees, no less. If everyone in those stands decided to storm the field and wedgie our players within an inch of their lives, no jury would have convicted them. We were three outs away from being swept by New York with the greatest closer in the world on the mound and not a single ass was in a Fenway seat. Fans were up, they were loud, they were giving everything they had to keep this going just one. more. day. That’s why they call us the Fenway Faithful. And cliched as it may sound, it was nice to see that faith finally rewarded.

As for Dave Roberts, he’s had his share of curtain calls back in Boston. But I don’t think he ever should have been allowed to leave Boston for the left coast until he jogged around the entire city, accepting high-fives from anyone and everyone. It should have been its own parade, beginning at first base on the Fenway infield, and just going off from there. Through Kenmore, around Government Center, onto the Expressway. All the way to the state line. He could have totally made it. Just imagine it: People stopping their cars to wave, several thousand drunken knuckleheads trying to keep pace like the mob following Forrest Gump, and the adoring Nation hanging its collective head out of our godforsaken thirty-fifth floor office windows and screaming, “Thank you, Dave Roberts, you magnificent, fleet-footed bastard. Thank you for the greatest gift. The gift of victory.”

It would have been awesome. But that ALCS win was pretty fucking sweet, too.