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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

Now what, Boston?

LONG-SUFFERING Boston Red Sox fans partied far into the night after their team won the 2004 World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games.

They were entitled. The Red Sox had just ended one of the longest records of futility in professional sports history in this country. Boston had not won a World Series since 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was president and World War I was winding down.

And Babe Ruth got all the blame. The "Curse of the Bambino" had presumably denied the Red Sox the glory of a World Series championship. As the legend goes, Boston was doomed the minute it sold Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 for $125,000.

Ruth, of course, went on to become a mythic figure who even in death still towers over the game as arguably baseball's greatest player ever. And the Red Sox went on to decades of frustration, forever chasing the mighty Yankees and making Bill Buckner's booted ground ball in the 1986 Series a moment that still lives in infamy in Red Sox Nation.

Along that long road, the Red Sox' loyal fan base wore the team's failure to win the big prize almost as a badge of honor. But the Sox' triumph is only part of the story.

Equally remarkable is how they achieved it. Down three games to none in the American League Championship Series, they rallied to win four games in a row, capturing Game Seven in, of all places, Yankee Stadium.

If the ALCS clincher could not come at venerable Fenway Park - along with Chicago's Wrigley Field one of America's two greatest ballparks - what better place for a post-game celebration than on the infield of the "House that Ruth Built"? Then the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in four straight, a stunning post-season run of eight victories in a row.

But even as the Sox closed in on their title Wednesday night, we are certain there were Red Sox fans who were convinced something would still go wrong.

That's why, impressive as it is, we see a downside to Boston's achievement. Now that the Curse of the Bambino is no more, we wonder if the lovable "losers" will be as lovable, since failure, not success, birthed the legend.

In other words, if the curse is dead, now what?

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