BEFORE GAME 5 OF THE 2008 ALCS BECAME A MAGIC ACT, while the Rays were still doing the pummeling and the Red Sox were the only ones at Fenway who didn’t know the season was over, I averted my eyes from the grim disaster unfolding on TV by reading Bill Simmons thoughts on the season’s other great loss:

I still miss Manny. I can’t lie. It took me four solid weeks to accept that he was really gone. Three weeks after the trade happened, I flicked on NESN for the opening pitch of a Sox game, noticed the SkyDome and thought, “Yes, Manny loves hitting in the SkyDome!” A second passed. A lightbulb went on. My shoulders slumped. Manny was gone.

All 9,000 words of his story are worth reading (and he even includes one of my favorite Manny anecdotes in a footnote), but here I’ll skip to the end:

So, how will this play out? I see Manny leading the Dodgers to the 2008 World Series, breaking their hearts and donning pinstripes next season. He won’t feel bad, because he’s Manny. The L.A. fans will feel bad. I will feel worse. It will be the single most painful sports transaction of my lifetime. It will make me question why I follow sports at all, why we spend so much time caring about people who don’t care about us. I don’t want to hear Manny booed at Fenway. I don’t want to root against him. I don’t want to hold a grudge. I don’t want to hear the “Mah-knee! Mah-knee!” chant echoing through the new Stadium. I am not ready for any of it. You love sports most when you’re 16, then you love it a little bit less every year. And it happens because of things like this. Like Manny breaking the hearts of everyone in Boston because his agent wanted to get paid, then Manny landing in New York because the Yanks offered the most money.