Red Sox Nation's in-your-face, often-gloating veneer covers up some of sports' greatest collapses.
But after a successful decade – two World Series titles, spend-happy ownership -- fans are mourning, with emotions spilling like a metaphoric oil spill in the Charles River after blowing a nine-game lead – and the AL wild card - to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Curse of the Bambino? How about the Curse of Longo?
"The Sox were set to pop champagne …," Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessey writes. "The earth opened up and swallowed the Sox and their fans."
His thoughts followed Wednesday night's dramatic loss in Baltimore, followed moments later by the Rays' improbable win over the Yankees in 12 innings.
No team has blown a bigger lead in September — a nine-game margin through Sept. 3 — and missed the playoffs. Boston went 6-18 after that and did not win consecutive games at any point in the month. It came months after a 2-10 start in April.
Wednesday's 4-3 loss at Baltimore came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a fly ball that could not be handled by left fielder Carl Crawford – former Rays star turned Beantown multimillionaire. Moments later in St. Petersburg, Longoria's game-winning home run beat the Yankees and eliminated the Red Sox.
"Sox fan Stephen King could not have imagined a night like this. It was one of the most bizarre evenings in the 111-year history of the franchise," wrote Shaughnessey.
Boston, of course, is no stranger to Red Sox collapses.
They blew a seven-game AL East lead in 1974 and finished third. There's the 1986 World Series and Bill Buckner. New York's Aaron Boone's walk-off homer for the 2003 AL pennant. Jonathan Papelbon blown lead to the Angels in the 2009 playoffs.
Most infamously, their nine-game East lead in 1978 finally evaporated off the bat of New York's Bucky Dent in a tiebreaker game.
"To all Red Sox fans age 33 & younger: this is what 1978 feels like. Minus the quaaludes and disco," tweeted Massachusetts native and "Rescue Me" actor Denis Leary.
Boston Fan is not happy. Boston media want answers.
"Good riddance," wrote Boston Herald columnist John Tomase.
"Baseball's second-highest-paid club whined about travel, blamed the media and didn't show up until the final two days of September, which was one day too late. So now they're left with one of the all-time great chokes in baseball history."
Jerry Remy, a homegrown Red Sox star in the 1970s and now the analyst for telecasts on NESN, said he was stunned.
"It's inexcusable," he told broadcast partner Don Orsillo. "This is a team that supposedly was built to go to the World Series. This was a team that was a lock to go to the postseason."
Of course, talk-radio phone lines on New England's WEEI radio were lit up Thursday morning.
"Excuses, excuses and lastly excuses," John, a longtime fan from Dartmouth, Mass., told the "Mut and Meloni" show. "… Never again will the media in this market say that 2-10 starts don't matter. Never in August will they say that the season's over. … Many (callers) tried to point it out that this wasn't over, and you guys blew them up."
Show co-host Mike Mutnansky noted a "hollow, numb, unlikeability about this team."
Tom, another caller from Boston, summed up the upcoming weekend in New England.
"Red Sox Nation should not be upset and gutted," he sald. "They should be mad and angry and say we're not going to take this anymore."