When I was growing up in New York, I was a Rangers fan, which was a very difficult inheritance that my father had bestowed upon me. Going to school surrounded by seemingly countless Islanders fans, all reveling in the glory of Bossy and Trottier and He Who Shall Not Be Named (except at the appropriate moment when the rhythmic whistling rains down from the blue seats) as they won Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup.
Every year, the playoffs ended in yet another disappointment. Some years, we'd come close to ending the "1940" catcalls once and for all, but most years -- and usually at the hands of the Washington Capitals of all teams -- all we got for our fandom was a swift kick in the nether regions. A championship remained ever out of our reach. We'd have to settle for Ron Duguay's jeans commercial.
Then came Mark Messier. The guarantee. Stephane Matteau and the call by Howie Rose.
And finally... victory! Celebration! Ticker tape parades! And then... well, now what?
Once the afterglow had faded, here was a huge void that was suddenly present. I'm reminded of a line from a song in the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "The battle's done, and we (kind of) won, so we sound our victory cheer. Where do we go from here?"
The next season there was lockout, and when things finally got going, the Rangers barely squeaked into the playoffs, and were swept by the Flyers, and I happily gave them a mulligan. The same thing happened the next year when they lost to the Penguins in 5. Because the thrill of that Stanley Cup victory had been so long in coming and so intense... the "void" that had been filled by that euphoria no longer needed attention.
By 1997, the team wasn't even making the playoffs anymore, and I'd already lost interest. I'd moved on... The story was told. The book put back on the shelf. Nothing more to see here, move it along.
I think Red Sox fans might have some inkling of what I am talking about here... after all those years of coming so close to a World Series title and just missing out... and then finally the 3-0 comeback against the hated Yankees and that euphoria of finally reaching the top of the mountain. Of course, Boston has been a winning team ever since, so the investment is still paying off and I expect fewer fans have moved on to other pursuits... but I wonder if Cubs fans aren't headed for a similar fate -- should they ever win, that is.
All of which brings me back to the West Memphis 3, and the decade-long efforts of some of their supporters to get them released from prison. In some ways, the Alford Plea might be a good thing for them, since there's still a goal to be reached here -- namely, the clearing of their names.
After all this time of hoping for a victory, once the dust settles and Eddie Vedder has moved on. and the supporters have moved on, and the world has moved on -- Damien, Jessie and Jason may well be left sitting there saying, "Now what?" There's never been any other goal than their freedom. That consumed every waking moment, and likely the sleeping ones, too...
I'm glad Damien is a Red Sox fan. He's still not seen a World Series victory with his own eyes... so let another quest begin. There are still mountains to climb... time to take those first steps.