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

Monday, October 22, 2007

Steve Perry says "Don't Stop Believin'." We ALWAYS listen to Steve Perry.

(Photo from Boston.com)

I woke up this morning - after not nearly enough sleep - to an email from my dad, subject line "Paps." "Just an observation," he said, "I don't think Jonathan Papelbon can hold his liquor very well." Photographic evidence would seem to support that claim.

These are the kind of things my family emails one another about. The Red Sox. The Patriots. Whether or not Tom Brady sends flowers to Randy Moss on a daily basis. If David Ortiz uses a slide rule to get his facial hair that perfect. Whether or not Jonathan Papelbon can hold his liquor. And, I suspect, these are the things a lot of families talk about. It's how we communicate. It's not like it was in 2004 when we spoke of faith rewarded and of all of this meaning more than what it meant. No one is talking about exorcising demons this time or validating the careers of those veterans who have played seemingly forever without a chance at a World Series. This time, it seems, most of us are talking about the young guys. About what a blessed way this is to begin a career. About the high standards they're setting for themselves. We are not talking about getting Tim Wakefield a ring a year after he walked off the mound a Game 7 loser in Yankee Stadium. We're not talking about Pedro having his shot at greatness validated. We're talking about Jacoby Ellsbury introducing himself to the world on the largest possible baseball stage. We're talking about Dustin Pedroia teaching the big guys something about hitting and being on your game. And yes, we're talking about Matsuzaka.

Whereas 2004 felt like vindication, like the brilliant end of an era that might've evaporated if not commemorated, 2007 feels like a coronation. It's different, but it's no less sweet.

Of course, the Red Sox haven't won anything yet. And I would imagine they would be the first ones to point that out. (Well, Bill Belichick might actually be the first one to point that out but we're not asking him). There is still baseball to be played and last night, until Pedroia broke the game open with his bases-clearing double, I wasn't at all sure the Sox would be playing any more baseball this year.

Amy and I chatted after the game.

Amy: I called the Pedroia thing, by the way.

Me: Nice work. I spent the first six innings with severe intestinal distress and my face buried in Greta's couch.

Amy: Yeah those innings were painful. I didn't think my eyebrows were ever going to go back to their proper spot.

Me: At one point, I actually started bludgeoning myself in the head with a football. Not a soft, Nerf type football, mind you, but an actual pigskin, NFL-type football.

Amy: As you would.

Me: Well, Julio Lugo's head was not available. Mine seemed the best available option.

Amy: Of course.

Our conversation then devolved into squealing and nonsense over Mike Lowell and Jacoby Ellsbury and trying to find video evidence of Kevin Millar's participation in the post game celebration. But the fact remains, this was a hard fought game. And a hard won game as well.

And the Indians - oh the Indians - my heart really does break for them and their fans. I've said it before and I'll say it again, and I would have said it had they come away the victors last night: they are an excellent baseball team. They are well-managed and they play a great game. I would be happy to call them my team and I would be proud to have any member of their team playing for me. In fact, at several points during the season I lamented the fact that we couldn't somehow morph the two teams into one and call ourselves the Indisox, or the Soxians and take on the Rockies together. But that is not the way of things. Indians fans are proud people, and I'm sure they don't want my sympathies. So instead I offer a metaphorical handshake over a series well-played and well-fought. It's certainly the most evenly matched competition I've seen in recent history, but someone had to win.

And I think the Sox can be proud of the way they won as well. Once again, we're talking about the little guys. Of course, we're talking about Beckett and Schilling as well because there is no World Series without Beckett and Schilling, especially without ALCS MVP Beckett, but there is equally no Series to talk about without Pedroia or Youkilis. And the public's clamoring for Ellsbury these past few days surely speaks volumes about the confidence we have in our rookies. I don't know about anyone else but I want them to play partially because I think they'll acquit themselves well, but also because I'm so proud of them and I want to hold them up, like some shiny, new toy to the light and say, "See? Look what we have! Isn't it great?" I want to show them off and have people admire them from afar.

So while 2004 was filled with more weeping relief, visits to cemeteries, prayers and poetry of the past, 2007 looks to the future. Getting off on the right foot, so to speak, though that sounds too trite. It's the bridge between the veterans who came before and the new breed of Sox who'll make up our team for years to come. It's the perfect storm of old and new coming together and colliding, for the briefest of moments, in an explosion of baseball dominance and celebration.

And yes, it's about Jonathan Papelbon dancing with a box on his head and not being able to hold his liquor.

See you all Wednesday.