This morning, while walking my children into their school, a friend of my 6 year-old’s told me, “My dad was at the Red Sox game last night, but he left after the top of the seventh inning.”
Then, at the coffee shop, the guy at the cash register (observing the B on my sweatshirt) said to me, “I assume you stayed up to watch that game. I turned it off after they went down, 5 to nothing. But what a comeback. That was unreal.” Then another woman in line said, “What, they WON? I was there but I left after the fifth inning. They WON?”
Yes, I was at the game last night, and I could write pages and pages about what I saw and what I felt. But the morning after the greatest comeback in League Championship Series history, I’ve gotta write about Yogi’s profound quotation, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
The whole reason to attend a baseball game is to see the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. If you are leaving a game before it’s over, or turning off your TV before the game ends, you haven’t yet evolved to the point of understanding what baseball IS ALL ABOUT. (Or, you fell asleep on your couch after a long day at work…. regrettable, but understandable.)
I know that there are many reasons to attend a baseball game besides seeing great comebacks. The festive atmosphere, majestic home runs, phenomenal defensive plays, spending quality time with a child or sibling… but the core point of baseball is to remind us all that, in life, anything CAN happen, and anything WILL happen. And the decision to stop watching a game before it’s completely over nullifies a fan’s potential to personally experience this amazing truth in all its glory.
Now, I must say that only about 10% of Fenway’s seats were empty when J.D. Drew smoked that game-winning line drive over Gabe Gross’s head in the wee hours of the morning. It turns out that most of the fans who ventured out to the game last night were the kind who always stay ’til the end, and based on the LOUD noise they made when Pedroia drove in the first run of the comeback (to make it 7-1 Rays, still a bleak situation), they were a fervent band of believers. They “get it” about baseball.
To suck all the juice out of being a baseball fan, you must become A BELIEVER. You must resist the tug of logic that lectures to you, “This game is over, there’s no way they can come back and win.” You must ignore the mature voices in your head that advise, “If you leave now, you can beat the crowd and be asleep in your bed by midnight. After all, big day at work tomorrow.” To be rewarded with all that baseball has to offer, you must bet the house every game. Truly expect something spectacular to happen, and sacrifice convenient home-bound transportation, sleep, and even your reputation as a grounded human being to the Diamond Gods. Have faith in the unreal.
People who leave games early have their feet planted firmly in “reality,” and in “rationality,” and in “the odds are…”, and in “being smart,” and in avoiding life’s (and baseball’s) sublime exquisiteness! People who leave Red Sox elimination playoff games early …. well, they just haven’t learned yet that you don’t do that, despite the lesson of Dave Henderson in 1986, and the lesson of Dave Roberts in 2004, and the many other startling lessons from recent Sox history (some happy memories, some not).
“The Rays haven’t lost a game all season when leading by 4 or more runs”…. “no team since 1929 has overcome a 7-run deficit in an elimination playoff game”…. “the Red Sox are slumping and the Rays are at the peak of their game”…. all of these “facts” scream at us to “face reality,” give up, and go home. But reality doesn’t exist until it unfolds before us, and over and over again Red Sox fans have learned that in postseason play, the reality that unfolds is usually shocking!
A friend came into my office this morning and said, “Watching those hits by Coco, Papi, and Drew — it was like a DREAM.” Not only was it LIKE a dream, it WAS a dream. Reality and rationality and the odds and being smart go right out the window when the Sox have their backs against the wall. Red Sox playoff games – indeed, ALL baseball games are dreams that we get to participate in with eyes wide open. And you don’t leave dreams early.
To download the songs, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation” and “Opening Day” for free, please visit my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.
Here are my thoughts as we gear up for the ALCS:
1) The day
that the Mets lost and the Brewers won, on the last day of the season
(breaking their first place tie), was one of the most exciting
baseball-viewing experiences I’ve had in the last few years. My son and
I were watching the Mets game on the TV and the Brewers game on MLBtv
(Internet), and even though I’m not a Brewers fan, I could feel their
hunger to make it to the postseason (for the first time in 26 years).
Sabathia pitched like a God. And the pain that Mets fans feel, having
lost the division on the last day of the season TWO YEARS IN A ROW,
might be their payback for games 6 and 7 of the 1986 World Series. What
comes around goes around…
2) The Cubs’ problems were clearly
mental. You don’t finish the season with the best record in MLB and
then drop three in a row in the Division Series unless you’re psyched
out. And you don’t make three errors in one inning with your ace on the
mound unless you’re psyched out. What did the Red Sox do after game 3
of the 2004 ALCS (down, three games to none) to gain the momentum
they’ve had ever since? They didn’t suddenly get BETTER. Something
clicked in their heads. Oh, what would the Cubs give for the formula
for that “click?”
3) I enjoy watching the NLCS games almost as
much as I will enjoy watching the ALCS games. It’s baseball. Playoff
baseball. Every at bat, every pitch is one of the most important in
each player’s career. This is what these players dreamed about, playing
wiffle ball in their driveways growing up. The thousands of hours of
practice, the hundreds and thousands of games they have played in their
lives, have all led to playing in baseball’s “final four.” Every
starter, every bench player, every relief pitcher, even the managers
and third base coaches could be part of a moment that will define their
careers — and it could happen at any time. Plus, these are great
players, many of them future hall of famers — Howard, Utley, Rollins,
Hamels, Lidge, Ramirez, Furcal, Maddux, Lowe, and of course, Joe Torre.
4) I sent out a new poll to the Red Sox Nation governors this evening. Here are my answers to my own questions:
I expect the Red Sox to win the ALCS in four games. That’s right, a
sweep of the mighty, precocious Rays. Yes, it’s hard to really imagine
sweeping, but I have difficulty imagining a Red Sox loss — in fact, I
refuse to imagine that. So, I predict a sweep.
b) The National
League team that I would prefer to face in the World Series is the
Dodgers. Why? Boston-L.A. is a raucous rivalry, and it would be a blast
to “beat L.A.” twice in one year. It would be a classic battle of
coasts, a battle of cultures, a battle of climates, a battle of styles.
It’s two teams with incredibly rich baseball traditions. It would be a
reunion of the 2004 Red Sox, with almost as many members of that Red
Sox team on the current Dodgers squad (Manny, Lowe, and Nomar, though
Nomar was only on the Sox for the first half of 2004). You know they’d
show lots of highlights of the ’04 Series if the Dodgers were our
opponent — and that would be fine with me. Even the Manny highlights.
I still love the guy and what he brought our team.
c) When I
can’t be at Fenway, my preferred mode of watching the Red Sox in a
playoff game is to watch in my living room, sitting half the time and
pacing the other half of the time, drinking a Polar Orange Dry soft
drink, either alone or with my nine year-old son. (I’m not the best
company during a Red Sox playoff game…. “anti-social” would describe
me well during these three hours….)
5) I love that Francona is
showing such faith in his pitching staff by keeping them in order…
Daisuke, then Beckett, then Lester, with Tim Wakefield thrown in for