It is the embodiment of all that is off-kilter and absurd with sports -- from the misguided, misplaced adulation over all things athletic to the inane, overblown fanaticism of fans who really should have better things to do with their time. And money.
At a live auction in New York City on Saturday night, the bloodied sock worn by Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling in Game Two of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals was sold for (wait for it) $92,613. For a sock. Soaked in old sweat. Soiled with blood.
It speaks volumes about the wacky world of sports that someone's sock has reached such iconic status (what does this uppity sock think it is, a White House intern's stained blue dress?). Simply say "bloody sock" and most baseball fans catch the reference, while BoSox fans are likely to genuflect and praise the makers of this now-hallowed hosiery.
In case you're unfamiliar: 2004 was the season wherein the BoSox finally shed the surly bonds of the so-called Curse of the Bambino by winning the World Series for the first time in 86 long years. En route to ending that epic drought, Schilling conjured up a six-inning, one-run performance on tender tendons and a bum ankle that had been stitched up once or twice, and that was seeping blood over which announcers could not help but dote, and that the TV cameras could not help but soak up. The gutty outing propelled the BoSox to a sweep of the Cards, and said saturated sock became legendary.
But, still, $92,613? Ah, I know what you're thinking: how does the buyer even know that this is the actual sock worn by Schilling?
It speaks volumes about the wacky world of sports that following the game, the sock was supposedly sequestered, protected from potential theft, and eventually handed back to Schilling. Who, rather than tossing it in the laundry -- as would any normal, non-athletic soul -- naturally loaned it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which accepted the fabled sock with open arms.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
"Hey, National Baseball Hall of Fame, this is Curt Schilling calling, and I've got a bloody sock with your name written all over it!"
Alas, in the post-athletic life of many jocks, shit happens. Despite making $114-million over an 18-year career, Schilling has of late found himself in need of money. So he un-loaned the sock from the Hall and put it up for tender.
And someone bought it. Paid a Queen's ransom.
Speaking of queens, at a recent auction Queen Victoria's (not very) fetching bloomers fetched $15,000. That's right, someone paid for the right to brag about being in possession of Vic's "voluminous white silk underwear", which in comparison to the styles and standards of today's underpants, looks a lot like an old diaper. To boot, a mystery buyer -- believe it or not, some people are shy when it comes to announcing to the world that they're overpaying for someone else's underwear -- picked up singer Kylie Minogue's fire-engine-red bustier and silk underpants for a steal at $8,000. So, yes, we have confirmation: people do indeed buy weird crap. But to what end? What will the buyers do with this stuff? You can't talk about the items. By definition, they're unmentionables...
Sadly, I know sports people. I know the type of guy (not to be sexist, but trust me, the buyer is a guy) who bought the bloody sock. And I know he's the kind of sports knob who's going to host a big party with all the people in the world he thinks are his friends, and when these people are all good and snookered, he's going to make a huge production out of unveiling the sock.
It probably isn't the reaction he was shooting for when he shelled out $92,613, but it's what he's going to get. Because regardless of what he thinks of his little overpriced piece of history, it's a sock. Soaked in old sweat. Soiled with blood.