From Minsk to Boston, Forced to Face the Facts

Let's say you are a native of Boston, and aside from food, water and Interfax, your sole source of subsistence is news of the Red Sox, a sport team whose fabled near-successes and spectacular failures over the years has made it the favorite tragic fetish of millions.

And let's just assume that, for once, this team with the silly name and the sad history is THE ABSOLUTE BEST CLUB IN SPORT TODAY, and your 32 years of unrequited obsession finally have a chance of actually justifying themselves.

And then suddenly, quicker than you can say na t'ye, "take that," your two sources of news about the Red Sox are cancelled within the space of a week.

What would you do? What could you do?

I am speaking, of course, of the decisions by both the International Herald Tribune and this paper, The Moscow Times, to cancel my subscriptions in the heat of baseball's pennant race! And without warning!

It must be some sort of conspiracy.

But what made the pain of waking up without tidings of my beloved Crimson Hose was the way in which it happened, and that is the point of this column: Postavili pered faktom!

Literally, this phrase means "they made me face the facts."

"Alternatively, we will be happy to suspend your subscription or send it to a different address," read the cheerful warning letter from the Trib that arrived three days after I received my last issue. "All we ask is three-weeks notice."

Call it a human-relations slam dunk.

To postavit' pered faktom, you need to be able to do something, then let those concerned know about it.

You need power.

You need to be decisive.

You need to be Alexander Lukashenko.

The effusive president of Belarus has, in the space of a very short time, banned strikes in the Minsk metro; locked up the organizers of a defiant work stoppage, including parliament members; revoked lawmakers' immunity; and, when parliament protested that, he returned all legislation on his desk. Na t'ye.

Lukashenko has made his parliament face the fact that there is only one top honcho in Minsk, but its the ipso facto way he did it that made it sting.

There are other examples of postavit' pered faktom -- those NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs over Russian protests come to mind -- but I wouldn't want to get into something so serious in a column that started off about a baseball team.