Can Boston survive without the Curse of the Bambino

Can Boston survive without feeling star-crossed?

It’s time to find a new curse.

The Bambino certainly held up his end of the deal. As curses go, the Babe’s was a thing of beauty: 86 years of tooth-gnashing, self-flagellating frustration, punctuated by occasional moments of pure cosmic whimsy. Think about it – Bucky Dent? Talk about a stroke of genius.

But now Ruth’s ghost is gone from Fenway – banished by David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and various others of Mr. Henry’s mercenaries. And with the curse now ended, the question arises: Can Boston afford to be curse-less?

Truth be told, the Curse of the Bambino was a handy little hex. It provided the Sox with a ready-made excuse for futility, and it provided the national media with a time-tested story line any time the Olde Towne Team got within spitting distance of the World Series trophy.

It even provided the local press with generations of goofy feature stories about bizarre curse-breaking expeditions. From the high-tech search for a piano that Ruth supposedly threw into a Sudbury pond to the demolition of a Watertown house once occupied by the Babe’s ex-wife, Ruthian exorcisms always made for good copy.

The curse made Boston special, at least in our own minds. It set us apart from cities where the baseball teams were simply bad – Chicago comes quickly to mind – and cast our decades of suffering in a different and nobler light. The White Sox and Cubs have each gone more than 86 years without winning the World Series, but that’s just a matter of lousy baseball; when the Red Sox lost, there was an irate Hall of Famer raging around in the ectoplasm.

Most of all, the curse provided all of us with an organizing principle for our civic angst. Are we obsessively jealous of New York? Overly eager to avenge past indignities, real and imagined? Too willing to wallow in self-pity? Too self-important? Too defeatist? Too conscious of that gargantuan chip on Boston’s municipal shoulder?

Blame the curse. It’s all the Bambino’s fault – at least until now.

Now that the Red Sox are winners, we need something else to excuse our failures and legitimize our collective crankiness. We need something big, something grand, something completely awash in outrageous bad fortune.

No, no, not the Big Dig – we want a curse, not a catastrophe. Does anybody out there really want to bet that the darn thing won’t still be leaking in 86 years?

No, the ideal curse should, like the Curse of the Bambino, involve something that doesn’t demand to be taken too seriously. Like, maybe, the Curse of the Casino: The Wampanoag and Nipmuc tribes join forces and spend the next 86 years winning back the land we stole from them, one hand of blackjack at a time.

Or perhaps the Curse of the Ruffino: Frustrated diners wander the North End for eight decades, in futile pursuit of a decent glass of Chianti.

Or, just possibly, the Curse of the Menino: Aided by a toothless City Council and the latest in medical technology, Tom Menino spends the next 86 years running for mayor unopposed.

The curse could have a sporting motif – it certainly looks as though the Celtics might go at least 86 years before winning another championship. Or it could have a corporate focus – the city might spend the next nine decades looking in vain for another major company to make its headquarters in Boston. It could even involve hapless physicists at MIT – the Curse of the Neutrino, anyone?

The again, maybe we don’t really need a curse, after all. Maybe with the Red Sox reigning as world champions and the Patriots emerging as the next NFL dynasty, with Boston Harbor cleaned up and the elevated Central Artery torn down, Boston might finally get over its obsession with failure and look to the future with confidence. Maybe we’ll get over the fact we’re not New York, and realize that we are still a city with world-class universities and hospitals and museums and all the other things that make a city truly great.

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Maybe we can even watch as the Red Sox allow a charismatic superstar – who happens to be one of the team’s best pitchers – escape to New York, and know that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. The Curse of Pedro? Never gonna happen.

At least, let’s hope not. See you in 2090.

Francis J. Connolly is a senior analyst at Kiley & Co., a Boston-based public opinion research firm.