"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Monday, October 31, 2005


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(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

“There was one point where there was a pile, and I was on the bottom of the pile and I thought, ‘My wife’s watching. Get up quick.’ Normally I’m slow to get up, taking inventory and stuff but I thought I’d better get up quick because she was watching.”
-Tedy Bruschi on last night’s game.

I’d venture a guess that his wife wasn’t the only person holding their breath the first time Tedy went down. But he popped right back up. Because he’s Tedy Bruschi and it’s gonna take a lot more than that to keep him down.

As fans, we didn’t know if this day was going to come. We weren’t sure if Tedy would ever walk or see properly again, let alone take the field. But perhaps that’s what explains the difference between us as fans and the players. We miss a week or two of watching football and we may get irritated and be dying to know what happened, but they miss a snap, and it starts killing them. Tedy Bruschi is a husband and a father first and foremost – and he’ll be the first to admit that – but he is a football player. And football players do not stalk the sidelines in headsets, calling out plays. Football players do not shuffle through papers on a clipboard and coach rookies. Football players do not mug for the camera and choreograph elaborate touchdown dances. Football players play football. All Tedy Bruschi wanted to do was play football.

I’ll admit, ESPN’s constant harping on Bruschi’s recovery and return was a little over the top. And the playing of “Hero” during every commercial break may have been just a teensy bit much. But I’m not gonna pretend like I didn’t tear up during pre-game when Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel were interviewed and they kept talking about how much Bruschi means to the team and how excited they were to have him back. I know, it’s manipulative, but it’s also true. And if you weren’t at least a little moved by it, you clearly are not in possession of a soul.

And look, clearly the team DID need him. Last night was the first time all season that the Pats’ defense (long their strong suit) had held the opponent to fewer than 20 points. I’m willing to bet that Bruschi’s presence had a little something to do with that.

That said, it was not a spectacular game. The first half was downright painful. Penalties and fumbles and sacks and WHO THE HELL IS THIS TEAM?!? Patrick Pass, who’d been having a nice game for himself, suddenly went down like he’d been shot by a sniper, dropping the ball in the process. And lemme tell you, the sight of a Patriots player clutching any part of his body in obvious pain is an all too familiar and unwelcome sight to any Pats fan this year. Which, naturally, the idiot announcing team could not help but harp on. “This team is decimated by injuries,” they said approximately 587 times. “No, really?” I said sarcastically to no one in particular. “You’d think we would have heard about that.”

This, of course, did not stop them from claiming that the Patriots were “undisciplined,” “unprofessional,” and “100% likely to be overturned” on the catch by Deion Branch. Which they WERE NOT, Joe Theisman so nyuh!

*sticks tongue out in general direction of ESPN broadcast booth*

And the inevitable Peyton Manning praising was apparent as well as, for no reason whatsoever, one of the announcers said, “It’s like when Peyton Manning needs to make the throws…” To which I yelled, “Is Peyton Manning anywhere near this game? Did Peyton Manning even play today? There is NO REASON for you to be talking about Peyton Manning right now. None, whatsoever.”

And you wonder why Pats fans claim the team gets no respect. I mean, yes, it’s a ridiculous claim and perhaps we’ve all been listening to Rodney Harrison for too long but when the announcers are openly rooting for the other team (and yes, yes they were), we tend to get a bit annoyed. When they claim the team is “decimated” by injuries and then turn around and say the Patriots can’t use that as an excuse (which, I’m pretty sure the Pats never did), they imply that the fact that the Pro Bowl secondary and half the defense is injured is what? Negligible? I don’t think so.

At least John Madden’s nonsensical rambling is humorous.

Anyway, a win is a win is a win and best of all, Tedy’s back! Let’s hope he has Peyton Manning quaking in his cleats.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Decidedly Underwhelming

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(This is...ecstatic?)

Chicago, come on now. Is that how we celebrate a World Series victory? Is that how we properly express our joy over a four-game sweep? Is that how we exult and delight in ending 87 years of misery and heartache and finally exorcising the demons of seasons past? Pathetic.

You call that a World Series celebration? Where were the Colombian soccer jerseys? Where were the goggles? Where were the painfully white boys with no rhythm (*ahem* JD, *ahem* Tek) singing off-key to Eminem? Where were the drunken interviews with your frat boy GM? Where, for the love of god, were the handshakes? That's all you've got to give us? Jermaine Dye? Oy. Maybe there's a reason that until last night, the White Sox hadn't won a World Series in a billion years. Lack of interest? I mean, if the team can't get it up enough to have a proper celebration, what are you gonna do?

You'd have thought at least Ozzie Guillen would be good for some insanity as he definitely knows from crazy and I swear to you, I've never understood a single word that man has said. But he stalked around the field like Bill Belichick. Where's the fire, Ozzie? Where's the passion? Where's the madness? "Goddamit, why'd it take us four whole games? You bastards are lazy. LAZY! I'm'a go after your families if you don't step it up." I expected him to come riding out of the tunnel on an elephant draped with a White Sox flag.

No one even seemed drunk. Surely that is not right.

I'm sure the Chicago fans had the time of their lives. I'm sure they ran through the streets and knocked shit over and danced and partied all night long. And good for them, they deserved it. But the players, man, the players just didn't seem all that excited. Now, I know the whole "act like you've been here before" chestnut, but the thing is, they haven't. The fans haven't and certainly none of the players have. Live it up.

The Chicago Tribune details a rally and a parade and good, the fans should enjoy it. But Paul Konerko probably won't steer a duck boat down the Illinois River. And Scott Podsednik most likely will not be holding a sign that says, "Vladimir is playing golf today. This is better." And there will most definitely be a shortage of the double finger points.

Look, I am fully aware of what I'm doing. I'm comparing the White Sox of this year to the Red Sox of last year and they fall short. But, if we're being honest with ourselves, every team from here until the end of time is going to fail miserably when compared to last year's Red Sox team. This year's Red Sox team had nothing on last year's team. They were wonderful and fun and insane and infuriating and ecstatic and addictive and surreal at the time and they've only grown more so as time has passed.

This is what we do as fans, we romanticize the good times. We talk about them and build them up and embellish them and our memories become gold-tinted and sun-dappled. We forget about the bad times and revel in the good. Maybe Neil Diamond is onto something after all. "Good times never seemed so good."

So my point, I guess, is this: If you're a White Sox fan, live it up. A time like this may never come again. And if you're a White Sox player, same goes for you. A little Eminem karaoke never hurt anyone.

Congratulations to the White Sox and their fans. It's great, ain't it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Remembering My Roots

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(Old habits die hard)

Apologies for the lack of updates lately, but if you want to know the truth, I've been largely sleepwalking through this World Series. It's not that it hasn't been interesting, because I guess it has, and it's not that it hasn't had it's moments of drama because - ask Brad Lidge - they've been there. I think it's just that the more I watch it, the more conflicted I become about who I want to win. At first I was all about Chicago. I mean, I was rooting against Houston (albeit half-heartedly) in the NLCS so it seemed strange to switch my allegiances once the series changed. And I'd gone along with the "Chicago beat the Red Sox and if they're eventually crowned World Champions, at least we can say we were beaten by the best" train of thought. And I still do...to an extent.

Here's the issue: The ball is bouncing Chicago's way. Just ask A.J. Pierzynski and Jermaine Dye. They're getting the calls. They're admitting they're getting the calls and they're taking advantage of the bogus calls. Which, okay, I guess, but it almost makes me hate them a little bit. I mean, not really, but the thing is, the Red Sox have been Houston before. We have seen this eleventy billion times. We've played against a team getting all the calls and no amount of fighting could snap us out of the funk and stigma that a run of bad luck brings.

(And yes, I realize the Red Sox had many calls go in their favor last year but, unless I'm overlooking something, I don't believe those calls were made in error. The ground-rule double was, in fact, a ground rule double. Bellhorn's home run was actually a home run. And A-Rod's slap play was, technically interference.)

I guess, in my infinite and irrational sense of justice and fairness in baseball, I have a hard time rooting for a team who gets things handed to them by the umps. Which is not to say that Chicago isn't doing the right thing by taking advantage of these calls. It just feels a little, well, cheap.

Okay, here's the real deal. I'm pretty sure that whoever was losing is who I'd be rooting for. I'm a Red Sox fan. And you know what they say about old habits dying hard.

And speaking of old habits, the Frank Thomas picture is largely for sentimental reasons. You see, when I was little, my favorite baseball players were Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn. I loved 'em. I loved The Big Hurt and had a White Sox hat that I wore proudly. I found it a couple of weeks ago as I was cleaning out my parents' attic and it all came back to me. Man, I used to
love that guy. Since then, he's been proven to be anything but infallible, but he was sure something. Because when you're young, at least in my case, it's not so much about the teams as it is about the players. When you're eleven-years-old, you don't understand what decades-long championship droughts mean or the stigma of having a cheapskate owner. You know only that you love the players and, in your young and unjaded hearts, you consider them your friends.

Remember when Nomar was traded last year? How there were all these stories of New England five-year-olds crying themselves to sleep? Those stories broke my heart. Not because I wanted Nomar back (and as we have seen, that was a shrewd, if ballsy move on Theo's part), but because I remember what it was like to be those five-year-olds. When the Bruins traded goalie Andy Moog to the Dallas Stars in 1993, my then nine-year-old brother was beside himself. He cried and cried. To him, the Bruins had just traded away one of his best friends. He didn't understand how someone could do that. I don't know when or where that mindset changes. I don't know if it's when fans come to understand free agency or when they first get their heart broken by a player they thought was their friend but at some point, we become less innocent and more jaded about our rooting interests. We start rooting for teams instead of players. Laundry instead of stats. And it's too bad, but it's the way it is. It's so rare these days that someone will have the same favorite player as his or her parents because that player has likely been traded four times or been sent to Colorado before the kids have gotten a chance to see him play. That's why the Troy Browns and Tedy Bruschis and Trot Nixons and Frank Thomasas are special. And that's why the Roger Clemens and Ty Laws and Nomar Garciaparras and Patrick Roys will always leave a trail of broken-hearted six-year-olds in their wake. I'm not saying they're bad people. They understand the business side of the game. And they do what they have to do. But the scars you suffer when you're young take the longest to heal. That's why a part of me still has a problem rooting for Roger Clemens. And it's the same reason that part of me wants the White Sox to win it all. Not for Frank Thomas and the eleven-year-old I used to be that loved him. But for the eleven-year-olds that love him now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Day The Earth Stood Still

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It's been a year. Twelve whole months since everything changed.

One year ago today, we all prepared to see our beloved Twenty-Five in Red Sox uniforms as a united front for the last time. We readied ourselves for a fond farewell to our dearly departed. We promised never to forget them.

One year ago today, Pedro Martinez, drenched in champagne, held up the American League trophy and spoke incredulously to his GM: "Hey Theo! Look at that, American League champs! Oh my goodness!"

One year ago today, David Ortiz launched himself out of the Red Sox dugout in the physical manifestation of pure, unadulterated joy.

One year ago today, a group of cowboys and idiots tap danced on the "sacred" mound at Yankee Stadium and celebrated on Steinbrenner's electric bill.

One year ago today, Tim Wakefield shed tears of joy in the very same place where he'd shed tears of anguish one year prior.

One year ago today, we all learned the power of believing.

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What is the Sound of One Shoulder Shrugging?

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(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

Guess all those people who predicted that Houston was done were wrong. Turns out Albert Pujols's titanic blast in Game 5 wasn't really the death knell to Houston's season after all but rather just a hiccup in the road.

Guess the 'Stros had no intention of going down without a fight. Good for them. And so, we are left with, as Annette said, a World Series that includes a "never been versus a haven't been since two years before they threw the thing on purpose. Interesting."

And yet, in all of this, I keep thinking of Cardinals fans and the Cardinals themselves and how I honestly believe they're a better baseball team than this and they don't deserve this sour runner's up trophy that's seemingly been handed to them. I mean, look, no one's gonna argue with the assertion that the Cardinals are a good team. No one's gonna say that they don't belong in the playoffs. This is not some barely peaking at .500 Padres team here. The Cardinals are a good freakin' baseball team and I'd be willing to bet that if most of us who appreciate fundamentally sound baseball had geographical and genetic restrictions lifted, we'd gravitate towards the Red Birds. They're just solid. So what the hell is going on here?

As a Red Sox fan, I'm surely not going to give them back any of the four games from last October. Those are ours and we get to keep them...forever. But I realized as I was watching Game 5, wherein I didn't previously think I had a rooting interest, that I was cheering for the Cards. Maybe it's because, having played them recently, I've come to like many of their players. The Astros were largely a big bag of NL mystery to me. I mean, I like Ausmus and Lidge. Berkman looks like a hockey player, or alternatively, like a lumberjack and who can't get behind that? And Bagwell and Biggio have been playing since I was crimping my hair and proudly wearing a flourescent pink Minnie Mouse fanny pack. But I'm probably still a little pissed off at Roger Clemens, petty as that might be, but you break my heart, especially my earnest and trusting 15-year-old heart and I'm going to remember it.

But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter to me. Major League Baseball has yet to make me commissioner - I have no idea why - so I don't get to choose these things. Perhaps I'm just nostalgic for last year's postseason which, though it nearly killed me multiple times, was such an adrenaline rush. If last year was a ride on that crazy-ass 420-foot, 120-mph, 90 degree roller coaster in Cedar Point, this year's postseason was like the kiddie ride at Canobie Lake. They're both fine and entertaining but only one of them makes you pee yourself with excitement and fear. And only one of them will have you bragging to your grandkids in 50 years about how you survived to tell the tale.

Obviously, I'm biased. I don't pretend not to be. You have your own team in the mix and it becomes a matter of life and death. I can see how this World Series is exciting for White Sox and Astros fans. And I have no ill will towards either of them. Two World Series virgins is a good way for things to sort themselves out. But my point, which I've belabored for far too long, is that I'm not going to lose sleep over this. At least emotionally, I've moved on from baseball for the year. Yes, I'll still watch the games and I'll appreciate good plays as well as boneheaded maneuvers, but I can't lie, the vast majority of my sporting subconscious is going to be thinking about the Patriots, and what they can do to turn things around, Tedy's return, the Bruins sad excuse for a defense and whether or not Sidney Crosby is as advertised.

So congratulations White Sox and Astros fans. Enjoy the ride. There's nothing like it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hype Machine Working Overtime?

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The following is an email exchange between myself and Mer. I read an article entitled “First One for the Next One” by Michael Farber in the October 17th issue of Sports Illustrated (subscription required to read online) and wanted to know Mer’s thoughts on the hyping of Penguins 18-year-old phenom, Sidney Crosby. What follows is our discussion.

Kristen: Okay so, baseball is winding down (though the World Series looks to be exciting), and football only happens once a week. So I'm gonna need to write about hockey. I was just reading this week's issue of SI at lunch and there's a short but interesting article on Sidney Crosby (or, more specifically Crosby's first NHL goal), but it compares him to Gretzky, Lemiuex, Lindros and says the hype is equivalent to LeBron James. Anyway, it's an interesting piece.

My question, I guess, after reading that is, is the hype too much? He already seems like he's trying to single-handedly save the team, (and re-energize the entire sport). Can we really expect that from an 18-year-old? When does it get to be too much?

Mer: Crosby is no doubt a huge talent, but I'm waiting a few years before I pass judgment on whether or not he'll be the next Gretzky. I remember when Lindros came into the league with the Flyers, and people were crowning him "The Next One" before he even stepped on the ice. He said it made him uncomfortable, and I don't think he dealt well with that kind of hype. He was a spectacular player to watch for those first few years, straight through to his MVP year. I mean, he was absolutely electric on the ice. But then came the head injuries, the personal problems with the Philly front office, and the problems with teammates, and eventually he went to the Rangers. Most people who didn't get to watch him play every day consider him a bust, but that's not even close to accurate. His points-per-game when he was with the Flyers was incredible. He's proving right now in Toronto that he hasn't lost it...he's a hell of a player. When people crown a player "The Next One," they're assuming there will be zero injuries, zero personality problems, zero off-ice issues. But casting that kind of hype on a 19 –year-old kid, you're guaranteed to be disappointed.

That said, I understand why Crosby is being hyped as such. The NHL needs a savior, and Crosby is it. The game needs to pulled out of the ground, and with new rules and new-look teams, it's almost perfect to be able to flash the baby face of an 18-year-old kid who you can compare to Gretzky, isn't it? Still, when you strap the future of an entire league on the back of a teenager, shouldn't you expect him to stumble a bit along the way?

That raises another issue: that's the trouble with the hype machine - it brings the attention and expectations to Crosby NOW, instead of maybe 5 years from now, when he's really coming into his own. Americans have very little patience, very short attention spans - that's a fact. So many casual fans (the ones we're using Crosby to attract to the game) expect Crosby to look like Gretzky this season, so when things start to unfold and they realize that this is just a kid who needs a few years of work to improve his game at this level, they become impatient, they feel they were lied to. Is that really beneficial to anyone?

After I got home from my soccer game on Friday night, I watched a TIVO'd version of the Flyers/Pens game. Crosby obviously has a touch around the net; that much is obvious. But the one thing I found most interesting was his play at the other end of the ice. He made a couple of bad plays that led to Flyers goals, and afterwards, he looked extremely frustrated and a bit lost. I think he's feeling the pressure to prove himself and live up to the hype right away, and so he is focusing on his offense and as a result, letting his defensive play suffer. I don't think any of that is particularly troublesome, given his age, and given the fact that if there's anyone who can mentor him right, it's Mario Lemieux.

Also, it frustrates me when people say that Crosby is the most hyped player since Wayne Gretzky. Helloooooo - how could you have forgotten Eric Lindros so soon? He was on the cover of The Hockey News when he was sixteen years old, three years away from even playing in the NHL. You called him "The Next One" - are your memories really that poor?

Kristen: I think you make really good points. Particularly about the comparison to Lindros (which the article also mentioned). And it said the same thing; Lindros wasn't comfortable with the attention, which, at least in part, led to problems.

Also, there was a comparison to LeBron James, in terms of level of hype. The difference is that James was going into a healthy league with a solid fan base and good TV revenues. Crosby is supposed to Save Hockey. It's a bit different. Especially considering that most people at least understand the basics of basketball. Not everyone understands hockey. It often looks like complete chaos. And yeah, you can tell if someone is talented if they're constantly on breakaways and scoring 8 goals a game but it's like you said, what about the times when they don't have the puck or aren't skating for a score?

SI also made reference to Crosby needing to work on his "middling face off skills" which is valid. I mean, Mario Lemieux scored his first NHL goal on his first shot of his first shift of his first game. So Crosby's already behind. I think the team needs to be cognizant of the fact that he's going to put an immense amount of pressure on himself because everyone has anointed him the savior of hockey. I think they need to let him know that he doesn't have to do everything. Because that kind of pressure would destroy him.

Mer: That LeBron James comparison is a great point. It is completely different to be expected to save an entire sport. If LeBron had a good year, but not spectacular, would people be so quick to give up on him? I don't think so. Because, as you pointed out, people understand basketball. They understand that it takes a year or two, maybe, to grow into your own. With hockey, it's different. It's expected to all be automatic, because most people have very little knowledge of how different the NHL is from the college, junior, or European levels.

That's a fantastic article. It makes lots of good points, but this is the most telling:

"Greatness isn't decided at 18," [Crosby] said last Thursday. "You can't say a player's good until he's played 10, 15 years in the league. Great players are the ones consistent year after year, the ones who win championships."

That kid is wise beyond his years. Eric Lindros arrived in Philly as a fresh-faced 19-year-old kid. He was immediately made Captain and expected to lead the team to a Cup. Crosby's situation, luckily for him, is a bit different. With Lemieux as his mentor, and guys like Recchi and LeClair to help guide him, he'll be just fine.

Kristen: I found him especially eloquent too. I was pleasantly surprised by his poise. I think he just needs to let himself be taught. He needs to let himself rely on the older mentors and not get a big head about things.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Happy Anniversary

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Million Dollar Idea

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"You know, if some ad exec was smart, she'd team up Tedy and Papi for a commercial. I'd buy whatever they were selling, no questions asked." - Annette


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Smoke and Mirrors

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And so for the second day in a row, we must pose the question: Why does A.J. run? And by this, of course, we mean what the bloody hell was going on there when he clearly struck out to end the game, the umpire made an out call, signifying THE GAME WAS OVER and THEN Pierzynski decided to take off for first, hoping he could con the umps into reversing the call? Which he did. Because there is no instant replay in baseball.

Then he steals second and Joe Crede hits a double and before you can say "Jeffrey Maier" or "phantom tag" a game that should be going to the top of the 10th inning is over and the ChiSox have won on a walk off hit.


I am justifiably pissed off if I'm an Angels fan right now. And aside from those godforsaken Thunder Stix, it looks like Orange County-ers might be starting to get the hang of this baseball thing. And this isn't good for them. This is how rivalries start. This is what gets blood boiling and starts tempers flaring.

It's not the fault of the White Sox, per se. They were just taking advantage of what the umps gave them. But the Yankees do that shit all the time and you'll never get a Red Sox fan to admit that it doesn't fuel the rivalry. So if you're an Angels fan, I say stomp your feet, curse the pale hose and throw something. Maybe a Thunder Stick.

It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. If the Halos lose this series, they're going to point to that botched call as the turning point. And I'm not sure they're wrong. Who knows? Maybe we're looking at the seeds of baseball's next great rivalry. Maybe in fifty years, Angels/ChiSox will make Red Sox/Yankees look like a tiff over a parking ticket. Of course, for that to happen, someone is actually going to need to physically kill someone else. And obviously I'm not wishing for murder here, I'm a (mostly) reasonable human being. But rivalries sure do make sports fun, no? Gotta say, it's nice to be a spectator for once, though. My poor heart, she can't take it.

I would also like to express my displeasure with the fact that Lou Piniella appeared to be heavily sedated during the broadcast. The commentators have the benefit of instant replay. They saw it was a bullshit call. I saw it was a bullshit call. Likely A.J. Pierzynski knew it was a bullshit call. The only people who didn't were the umps. But even still, Piniella calmly expressed his belief that it wasn't correct and piped down. What? What the shit is that? This is Lou Piniella! If I have to hear senile old men rambling on in the booth, I at least want one of them to throw a temper tantrum and start ranting about how in his day, the base paths ran uphill and it wasn't 90 feet to first, it was 180! And they played all year round and had to run through the snow in bare feet! And catchers didn't get those pansy-ass big gloves to catch things, they used their bare hands! And the only way you got to first was knocking the ball (or another player) out cold! None of this "dropped third strike" horseshit! I mean, c'mon. You mean to tell me that had that call gone against the Devil Rays, Sweet Lou wouldn't have eaten the catcher's mitt or one of his middle infielders to prove a point? I don't think so. Where's the fire, Lou? Where's the passion? Where's the madness?

As for the other game, welp, not terribly exciting. Reggie Sanders sure hit the shit outta that ball though, huh? Funny, I don't remember anyone talking about being scared of him last year. It was all Pujols, Edmonds, Walker, etc. But he can hit a piece, that's for sure.

But after watching the Cardinals play some AL style big homer ball and follow it up with some very NL type suicide squeeze action, I've decided they just might win the whole damn thing this year. And that'd be okay. Because St. Louis? Good people, it seems. I got no beef with them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Question for the Ages: Why Does A.J. Run?

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Dudes? This baseball thing? Kind of a good time when you're not full of bile and anger and spewing insults at the television every time Joe Torre is shown probing his nose with his Go-Go Yankee Finger.

In fact, last night's Angels/ChiSox Game 1 of the ALCS was actually kinda fun to watch. The Rick called about the third inning:

Dad: Whatcha up to?

Me: Oh, I'm just over at Annette's new apartment. Eating some pizza and watching the game on a fuzzy TV with Annette and Marianne. We're talking about how great Nomar used to be. And how the team went to hell in 2001 when Tek broke his elbow. It's a very civil discussion. We're hardly swearing at all.

Dad: I'm very proud of you.

Me: This is kind of fun, huh?

Dad: What's that?

Me: This not having to hate the other team thing. Baseball is kind of fun.

Dad: Imagine that.

And it was.

Of course, it being a Fox televised game, we were treated to a stream of utter inanities on the part of a one Mr. Tim McCarver. Perhaps the most entertaining of which was the philosophical discussion he set forth when, after seeing Paul Byrd throw over to first to keep A.J. Pierzynski honest he asked, seemingly out of nowhere, "Why does A.J. run?" But it wasn't the question so much as the tone. He asked it in such a reverent, awed tone one might say, "Do you take this woman?" or "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." He was positively wowed by this line of questioning.

It became a bit of a joke with us. Whenever someone would make a great play prompting the, "Wow, how did he do that?" question, one of us would inevitably say, "Yes, but the real question remains: Why does A.J. run?" You can only guess the fun we had when Pierzynski attempted to steal second, only to be gunned down by one of the Juggling Molina Brothers.

Oh, that's another thing. We've decided - in our position as commissioners of Imaginary Baseball World - that Bengie, Jose and Yadier Molina should hereinafter be referred to as the "Juggling Molina Brothers." And should the Angels meet the Cardinals in the World Series, they should entertain the crowd between innings by juggling chest protectors, helmets and shin guards. Maybe they could be lit on fire to really get the crowd into it. Their at bat music will also be changed to that circus song. You know the one, Do do doodle deedle do do do doo!

Aaaaanyway...Annette, Marianne and I also decided that if Theo and Bill Belichick ever teamed up on anything, they would rule the world. No one else would stand a chance. We even went so far as to invent an alternate sport for them to run. In which the players wear padding and the object is to knock the ball away from the other team. We went on like this for about twenty minutes without pause until I said, "Did we just invent rugby?"

"Huh," Marianne said, "I think we did."

"We so rule." Annette confirmed.

Other things that would happen if we ran baseball:
  • Lou Piniella is going to need to be drunk every time he appears in the broadcast booth from here on out. He was far too lucid last night and nary a base was tossed into right field. His hair even appeared to be combed. Next time, I want to see him gnawing on McCarver and calling Joe Buck "pretty boy." Additionally, if we ever decide to form a softball team, Marianne gets to be our manager because she has the Lou Piniella Edition glove. Obviously, this will entail her sending people out to the mound to browbeat the pitcher because she's too lazy and/or drunk to do it herself. At least she's got the drunk part down.
  • Curtis Leskanic and Dennis Eckersley will host a pre and post-game show every night. Tom Caron will sit between them, trying to make sense of the madness, wondering aloud where it all went wrong and openly swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. Leskanic will have to wear his kicky hat. Occasionally, Sam Horn will stick his head in the frame and scream "KaPOW!"
  • All games in which McCarver is used as a commentator will require the use of the Tim McCarver Drinking Game. Whenever McCarver makes a completely unrelated statement (like, say, when he starts stringing together random words, "Fire truck, parking meter, orange, belt buckle, light socket."), DRINK! Every time he mentions a random factoid that Fox backs up with video (like, say, the fact that Darin Erstad was a punter in college), DRINK! Every time the viewing audience can hear Joe Buck's eyes rolling, DRINK! See? It's fun and good times for everyone!
See? Giving yourself ultimate power over imaginary sports is fun! So I leave it to you, dear readers. What would you do if you ran baseball?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

You Win Some, You Lose Some

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Welp...guess that's it then, isn't it?

And you know what? It's okay. I mean, it's not OKAY. I'm not gonna pretend like I wasn't screaming my fool head off when Tek struck out for the eleventy billionth time this year on the high fastball or that I wasn't mainlining Corona in an effort to recapture summer or that I wasn't screaming curse words in front of my parents' friends. But even with all that, it's okay.

The thing is, as someone pointed out, had this happened last year, I would have been furious because I KNEW the Red Sox were a better team than that? I KNEW it. This year? I knew no such thing. The White Sox were clearly a better team. And good for them.

Their catcher and manager aside, I've got no beef with the White Sox. Yes, I would have preferred that we not be swept, and I would have preferred that we not lose in our house and see our field sullied by an opposing team's celebration but you know what? Maybe it is their time.

Doesn't mean I didn't want to win. Doesn't mean I don't want to win them all. But them's the breaks.

Here's how I look at it: prior to last year's World Series, everyone with a computer or a microphone kept talking about how, if the Red Sox won, their fans would lose the passion that had made them famous and they'd cease caring so much about their team. No, Bill Simmons argued, that's not it at all. People think Red Sox fans delight in our suffering when really, we just want to be like everyone else. And now, we are. Sure, other baseball fans of other teams are hurt and angered when their team either loses, misses the playoffs or is eliminated. But then they get over it, and they move on, focusing on next year. Red Sox fans can do that now. We can say, "Next year..." without the twinge of sadness and desperation that's plagued us for the past 8 decades. Because we remember. And the future does look bright. We're finally just like everyone else. And I'm okay with that.

And as for that future, it does look bright indeed. Yeah, a healthy Schilling and Foulke and blah, blah, blah. But what I'm really excited about is the new blood. I'm positively giddy about Papelbon and Manny El Camino has the potential to be dangerous. And if Craig Hansen can focus his brain behind his fastball, he'll be deadly.

Then there's Hanley and hopefully a better year from Edgar and Tek will still be here, leading the charge.

In the end, there is much to look forward to.

So yes, I'm upset. But I'm not surprised. I had such a fantastic time this season, following every pitch with my SG peeps and drinking far, far, far too much, that I'm left with an overwhelmingly positive experience. So while the team may have exited a little earlier than I'd have liked, I wouldn't change anything. Call this a love letter to the team if you want, but I think it's more a love letter to the people who love baseball. You know who you are.

And hey, it's already October. Spring training is only four months away.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Same Old Song and Dance

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Come on, Red Sox. This is nothing new for you. Most of y'all have been here before in either 2003 or, most notably, 2004. You're old hands at this. So get crackin.'

Nice of you to spot the White Sox (tenacious and firey lot, aren't they?), the first two games but it really wasn't necessary. And while I appreciate the flair for the dramatic, one of these days, your comeback kid powers are gonna run out. Might be tonight. I sincerely hope not. Whichever team they may be, I don't want to see them celebrating in our house.

There really isn't too much motivational hooey I can toss your way that you've never heard before. You've got Kevin Millar for that. If you feel the need to suture something, have at it. But you know the drill, boys. Backs against the wall and start fighting.

I want you to go out there tonight, guns blazing and playing like the badass sons of bitches I know you can be. Play like your lives depend on it. Because today, they actually do.

We play today. We win today. Get it done, boys.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Power of Free Stuff and Alcohol

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(Like this, but a wee bit smaller)

I'm'a get to the Sox shortly, but before I do, I thought I'd share with all of you one of the most entertaining moments of my evening last night.

So I went to the Bruins home opener. It was sweeeeeeeet! Apparently, hockey done some good business last night.

But the best part of the evening happened as we were leaving the Fleet/Garden/Arena/Dome/Whatever. We'd just gotten the final Sox score from Amy and seen the Bruins lose after a questionable obstruction call sent a man to the box and opened it up for Montreal to score the game winner with 11 seconds remaining in regulation and for a bunch of fans in attendance to throw their replica Stanley Cups on the ice.

You see, upon entering the Garden, we'd all been given teeny, tiny replica Stanley Cups as, I guess, a way of saying to the fans, "Our bad. Sorry. Please stick around." Marianne, who'd never been to a hockey game before, immediately assumed that she was supposed to throw it on the ice. When I informed her otherwise and then she saw everyone else do it, she gave me a stern look.

But the best thing, and the thing that was so absurd that it made me feel a good bit better about the sporting world in general occurred as we were getting on the escalator to go down to North Station. A very large, VERY drunk gentleman hoisted his tiny Stanley Cup over his head and started yelling at the top of his lungs, "Bob Kraft has nothing on us! Theo Epstein has nothing on us! They have Lombardi trophies and World Series trophies but we have...TRINKETS! EAT YOUR HEART OUT, BOB KRAFT! WE HAVE TRINKETS!"

It was so, so excellent.

Sometimes it's the absurdity of sports that makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Getting Something Off My Chest

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(Hey, New York, David Wells thinks you're full of shit)

So first this happened:

Yankees take umbrage with Rangers' in-game manuevers (registration required, sorry!)

And then this happened:

Accused Boomer in a lather.

And frankly, I just couldn't take it anymore. I unleashed a profanity-laden and malice-fueled tirade via email to some unsuspecting friends. Beth begged me to post it. Here you go:

So lemme get this straight: It's not enough that the Yankees, by some freakin' miracle, or, more likely Faustian bargain are in the playoffs to begin with, thereby utilizing cheating of the "Look the other way, nobody on THIS team does steroids but I heard something about that Damon fellow," school, but they are now attacking Texas for not winning that game against LAA that would have given the Skanks home field advantage (neglecting that had the Yankees just won the goddamn game against the Sox themselves, it would have been a moot point), and now they're saying that David Wells was cheating? So because they're the Yankees, and therefore, as our good friend Steve Brady has said, GOD'S OWN TEAM, their road to the postseason should be as swift and obstruction free as possible and also paved with good intentions and well wishes because they're the YANKEES, DAMMIT and THEY DESERVE IT!?!

Fuck them all right in the ear. THIS is why we hate the Yankees. We don't hate them because they're good. We hate them because THEY THINK THEY DESERVE IT. Based on absolutely nothing. Listen up, you fuckwads, the Red Sox won the World Series last year and it certainly seemed like the White Sox could not possibly have cared less about that last night. And nobody is crying for us. Nobody is calling it a poor show on Chicago's part with the curtain calls and the piling on. Nobody thinks we deserve a damn thing. So get your pinstriped, entitled heads out of your asses and play some fucking baseball if you want some goddamn respect. You have to fucking EARN IT. Nobody is going to give you anything. Just because you've won eight bazillion rings in the past doesn't give you a free pass for the rest of all eternity. That's not how the game is played. We all start the season at 0-0 and work from there. Last year, you bitched about hurricanes keeping the Devil Rays in Florida and you actually pissed and moaned and demanded that the DEVIL RAYS FORFEIT GAMES TO YOU BECAUSE THEY COULD NOT LEAVE THEIR STADIUM TO FLY TO NEW YORK BECAUSE OF A NATURAL DISASTER THAT PUT THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR HOMES IN JEOPARDY. You assholes. I STILL can't believe you did that. And now, you DESERVE home field advantage? Why? Because you're the Yankees? Mystique and aura and all that shit? Bite me. Seriously, get over your damn selves and EARN your respect.

And by the way, slapping balls in play, obstructing the umpire so he can't see that you didn't tag anyone (Shut UP, McCarver!) and fucking accusing the other team of cheating in a monumental display of sour grapes is NOT the way you earn respect, you assholes. Shut the fuck up, play the game the right way, (without the cheating or have you forgotten how to do that?), and quit your bitching. No one feels sorry for you. No. One. You have to earn it like the rest of us.

End rant.

*breathes deeply*

I actually feel much better now.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Deep Breath

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(A visual representation of the Sox in Game 1)


That was unpleasant. To the point of being downright funny by about the 6th inning. Thank god for beer.

The green shoe mojo didn't work. The Octoberfest mojo didn't work. The Dave Roberts T-shirt mojo didn't work (didn't help Dave Roberts either). But the thing is, no amount of mojo works if the team doesn't feel like executing and our starting pitcher mistakenly thinks he's still pitching BP.

I'd like to think that between innings, Tek took Matty aside and said, "Listen, buddy, you keep this shit up and I am going to let Millar and Wells give you those atomic wedgies they've been wanting to give you. I'm going to let them put Ben-Gay in your jockstrap. They're going to stuff you in the overhead compartment on the flight back to Boston and I AM NOT GOING TO STOP THEM!" Knowing that would make me feel marginally better. But only marginally.

While we're on the subject, I would also like to request something special from my brother for what was essentially Tek's bunt double. Because that's some special shit.

Wells needs to step up tomorrow. That's all there is to it. He needs to be the postseason pitcher he's been so many times in the past when I personally wanted to beat his skull in with a Louisville Slugger. Which I will do if he sucks it up tomorrow. Come on, Fat Man, I ain't got time for messin' around.

And now I need to turn off the TV and the computer and back slowly away as I just found myself agreeing with something Tim McCarver said. Granted, it was the assessment that Rocky V (Chone Figgins' favorite movie because Fox assumes everyone watching it's broadcast is functionally retarded and therefore, cares about that shit), is the worst of the Rocky movies. This is known fact. But still, you don't want to find yourself agreeing with Tim McCarver. From there, it's just a short bus jaunt to the nuthouse with the high-waisted pants and the socks and sandals. Sigh.

Tomorrow, boys. Tomorrow.

Red Sox Catcher Blood Feud Update: The Conclusion

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For those of you wondering how it all shakes out, the bets went thusly:

My brother was rewarded a 6-pack for every Doug Mirabelli double, a 12-pack for every triple and a case of his choosing for every inside-the-park home run (additionally, The Rick would have to eat his golf shirt). A late season addendum was added to reward an additional 6-pack for every successful stolen base (once it was discovered that Dougie, apparently, had wheels).

On the flip side, yours truly supported the Captain and was promised a 6-pack for every runner Varitek successfully threw out and a case of my choosing if Tek ended the season batting above .300.

The breakdowns are as follows:

Dougie: 7 doubles (42 beers), 0 triples (0 beers), 0 inside-the-park home runs (0 beers which I would have glady ponied up had it meant watching my dad injest an entire poly-cotton blend shirt), and 2 stolen bases (12 beers) for a grand total of 54 beers.

Tek: 21 runners thrown out attempting to steal (126 beers) and, thanks to a late season freefall, he did not finish the season anywhere in the vicinity of .300 (0 beers), for a total of 126 beers.

Ding, ding, ding! I think we have a winner.

*blows on fingers*

*buffs fingernails to a shine on Varitek jersey*

*calls brother to gloat*

Thank you all for playing along. But rest assured, the Blood Feud is not over. Not bloody likely since after Dougie pinch hit for Tek in Sunday's game and promptly launched a three-run shot to straightaway center, I received the following voicemail message:

"I just want to let you know that I saw my boy Doug E. Fresh take it to the hizzle. Oh, and Tek's not wearing batting gloves anymore. Wonder why that is?"

I wrote back: "Take it to the hizzle?"

And my brother, a white boy from New Hampshire responded, "Took it to the hizzle." Fo shizzle.

We're gonna need new wagers for the postseason. Suggestions?

The Road to Repeat

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Nobody said this was gonna be easy.

Nobody said anyone was gonna give us anything.

Nobody cares about last year.

Nobody thinks we deserve a damn thing.

To paraphrase Tom Petty, repeating is the hardest part.

Ask the Patriots. Better yet, don't. I'm still not speaking to them.

The Title Defense of Aught Five begins in earnest this afternoon at 4 o'clock. All over New England, and likely the world, people are remembering long forgotten "dentist appointments" and "chiropractic dates" and bosses are becoming more flexible with the concept of the 40-hour work week. I'm in at 8 and out at 4 both today and Friday and I'm counting my blessings that I work across the street from a great bar with good burgers, cold beer and plenty of televisions. Because that's what I did last year. And last year, it worked.

We're all trying to remember superstitions, talismans, rituals and prayers. We're all trying to find lucky hats, lucky shirts, lucky socks, lucky underwear. We're all trying to do our part.

Because when we win, we win as a Nation. And when we lose, we lose as one too.

Last year, I didn't have my Surviving Grady crew to celebrate with in victory and commiserate with in defeat. Last year, I went it pretty much alone. But this year, "internet friends" have become "real friends" and I know that no matter what happens, I won't be watching these games alone. That fact, in and of itself, makes it that much more fun.

Because what's a win if you can't share it with someone?

And what's a loss if there's no one else to help take out some of the sting?

So today it's Clement vs. Contreras, a fellow I remember smacking around a good deal some time in the past. Whether this is owing to his former Yankee-ness or the fact that he's actually 347-years-old remains to be seen. But if The Emancipator is on his game, I say we take him. Papi and Manny need to keep up their Pebbles and Bam Bam, Dominican Destroyer, "anything you can do, I can do better" act and show no mercy. I want Tek, (or "Mr. Varitek," to Matty) to bring us some of that early season dominance and I want Trot to go house on the pale hose. I want a win, gentlemen. Bring us a win.

The White Sox are tough, and they're not going down without a fight. But you know what, neither are we.

Real season begins today at 4. Be there.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

History Repeating

(photo from Yahoo! Sports)


Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you.

This feels like it was the fastest regular season on record. And here we are, set to defend our title in earnest.

Let's get it done.

Pats? We'll talk about you tomorrow.

*turns away in disgust*

Go Red Sox!

Just Win It

Just win today. There is no tomorrow. No excuses. Just do it.

Oh, and Pats? You too.