Bill Buckner seemed to be just shedding the scapegoat role he’s been saddled with since 1986.
After title wins in 2004 and 2007, Boston fans began to forgive him missing a ball between his legs in a Game 6 ninth inning against the Mets.
Just last week, he was featured in a lengthy segment about the nature of scapegoating in baseball, how arbitrary it seems to be — especially in terms of the other one profiled in Alex Gibney’s ESPN documentary, “Catching Hell,” about scapegoated Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman.
And early in September, Buckner was featured in a classic episode of the HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in which he plays himself, meeting show star and creator Larry David at a card show, where he is ignored.
Even as Buckner is jeered on the street by Boston fans, David takes his side, even though he misses a catch of a signed Mookie Wilson ball he was going to give to his friend Jeff. The episode culminates with Buckner vindicating himself — and perhaps his whole career — by catching a baby tossed from a burning building.
Yet it was that very episode that is being blamed for the subsequent September curse on the Red Sox.
New York Times political statistician Nate Silver wrote in a column Thursday that Boston, with a nine game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays with two dozen games to play, had a 99.6 percent chance of making the post season.
After the airing of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Buckner episode Sept. 4, though, the team went 6-18.
“Mr. David,” Silver noted, “is a Yankees fan.”
More than that, David provided the voice for George Steinbrenner on his earlier sitcom, “Seinfeld.”
Still, we can’t keep blaming Buckner for everything that continues to go wrong with the Sox, with or without him.
Curb your conspiracy theories. Sometimes teams just choke.