Tomase: Lamenting Schilling’s dark turn as Celtics channel ’04 Red Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
As the Celtics try to steal a slice of that 2004 Red Sox magic, I’m reminded of the one player they absolutely, positively cannot invite to Boston.
You want David Ortiz, he’ll wave the green flag and flash his World Series rings while the fans erupt. Put Pedro Martinez and his impish smile on the Jumbotron and watch the building explode. Give Kevin Millar a cowboy hat and a bottle of Jack, and you’ve got yourself a rallying cry.
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But Curt Schilling, the man whose blood-soaked hosiery in 2004 symbolized that improbable comeback vs. the Yankees as much as any other, 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 it’s a worry. The Celtics would never invite him, and he wouldn’t accept.
It’s a stunning, needless, and self-inflicted fall from grace. I’m in the minority, but I’d call it tragic, too.
Even at his most likable, Schilling exuded pomposity and arrogance. There’s a reason teammates derisively referred to him as “Top-step Schill” for his inauthentic rah-rah attitude. Phillies GM Ed Wade famously 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 big lug who had an opinion about everything and carried himself like six feet and five inches of melodrama. He enjoyed sparring 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 destined to extend the Curse forever, Schilling sniffed that it would make it that much sweeter when the Red Sox won the World Series.
Except it didn’t work that way, not even close. Schilling concluded his career with one final postseason victory, 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 best postseason pitcher ever. He deserved mention alongside Ortiz as the most pivotal figure in Red Sox history, because there’s no overstating what his confidence meant to ending an 86-year title drought, and without the first one, there wouldn’t be the three that followed.
He stayed in Boston and took $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 tremendous lead analyst for ESPN before the troubles started.
A standard John McCain Republican during his Red Sox tenure, Schilling drifted into the culture-warring fever swamps. He posted offensive memes that mocked transgender people and joked about lynching reporters. He lost his mainstream platforms, launched a podcast on the Breitbart network, blew his chance at induction into the Hall of Fame, and retreated into the darkest corners of the online sewer, where he sadly remains.
It only takes five seconds on his verified Twitter page to see that Schilling remains hopelessly toxic, his posts a mix of racist memes, threats of Christian violence, and the boilerplate far-right demonization of liberals as pedophiles, etc. . . . It would be sad if it wasn’t so vile.
Schilling now feels beyond intervention, beyond rehabilitation. An organization as socially conscious as the Celtics could never let him in the building, even though he should be the first person to call for inspiration in the face of insurmountable odds.
It didn’t have to be this way, because Schilling once represented the absolute best of Boston sports. The fact that he chose his fate doesn’t make it any less tragic that we’ve lost him.