Tomase: Lamenting Schilling’s dark turn as Celtics ’04 Red Sox channel originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
As the Celtics try to steal a slice of that 2004 Red Sox magic, I remember the one player they absolutely can’t invite to Boston.
You want David Ortiz, he’ll wave the green flag and flash his World Series rings as the fans erupt. Put Pedro Martinez and his mischievous smile on the Jumbotron and watch the building explode. Give Kevin Millar a cowboy hat and a bottle of Jack, and you have a rallying cry.
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But Curt Schilling, the man whose blood-soaked tights in 2004 symbolized that unlikely comeback against the Yankees as much as anyone else, the man who should own Boston like Mike Eruzione or Cedric Maxwell or Adam Vinatieri? If the Celtics beat the Heat in Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 on Monday, Schilling shouldn’t be allowed within 1,000 miles of the Garden, not that that’s a concern. The Celtics would never invite him and he wouldn’t accept.
It’s an amazing, unnecessary and self-inflicted fall from grace. I am in the minority, but I would also say that it is tragic.
Even in his most sympathetic form, Schilling exuded bombast and arrogance. There’s a reason his teammates derisively called him “Top-step Schill” for his inauthentic rah-rah attitude. Phillies GM Ed Wade suggested that every fifth day Schilling was a horse and the other four a horse’s hindquarters.
And yet, there was something charming about the fat hoodlum who had an opinion on everything and acted like six-foot-five melodrama. He loved to practice with the media and he wasn’t afraid to call out the other guys. When the Yankees stole Alex Rodriguez from the Red Sox in the winter of 2004, a move seemingly intended to prolong the curse forever, Schilling felt it would make it even sweeter when the Red Sox won the World Series.
And then they came out and did it, overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series, the decisive victory coming in Game 6 when Schilling underwent emergency ankle surgery, then dominated for seven innings as sutures popped and blood stained his sock. . He said he couldn’t think of anything sweeter than silencing 55,000 New Yorkers and I mean bleeding to beat the Yankees in their own building? That’s enough to cement the legendary status of the Red Sox for several lifetimes.
Except it didn’t work out that way, not even up close. Schilling wrapped up his career with one final playoff win, beating the Rockies in Game 3 of the 2007 World Series en route to another title. He retired with 11 playoff wins and a legitimate claim as the best postseason pitcher of all time. He deserved to be mentioned alongside Ortiz as the most important figure in Red Sox history, because it cannot be overstated what his confidence meant to end an 86-year title drought, and without the first, there would not be the three that followed.
He stayed in Boston and took out $75 million in loans to start a video game company that imploded, leaving Rhode Island taxpayers on the hook. He moved to the broadcast booth, where he was a terrific senior analyst for ESPN before the Troubles started.
John McCain’s standard Republican during his tenure with the Red Sox, Schilling drifted into the feverish swamps that wage war on culture. He posted offensive memes that poked fun at transgender people and joked about the lynching of journalists. He lost his mainstream platforms, started a podcast on the Breitbart Network, missed his chance for a Hall of Fame induction, and retreated to the darkest corners of the online sewer, where he remains unfortunately.
It only takes five seconds on his verified Twitter page to see that Schilling remains hopelessly toxic, his posts are a mix of racist memes, threats of Christian violence and the standard far-right demonization of liberals as pedophiles and the like. . . . It would be sad if it weren’t so vile.
Schilling now feels beyond intervention, beyond rehabilitation. An organization as socially conscious as the Celtics could never let him into the building, even if he would have to be the first person to call for inspiration in the face of insurmountable odds.
It didn’t have to be that way, because Schilling once represented the best of Boston sports. The fact that he chose his fate doesn’t make it any less tragic that we lost him.