Bottom of the ninth inning and David Ortiz stood in against Mariano Rivera. The bases were loaded, there were two outs and the Red Sox were down by 1 against the Yankees. Fenway was shaking with energy, with waves of noise cascading down from the Faithful on to the field as their Hero cocked his bat against the fireballer. Could Papi do it again? Or would the Best Closer In Baseball notch another save in the most enemy of enemy territories? A Sox win would extend out their lead in the East to five and a half. A Yankees win would keep the pressue on Boston down a grueling final stretch. Ramifications of a single at bat, a singular moment in time as watched by millions of fans. If a scientist were to distill an entire season to get the extract of pure Sport, he would get this. Mariano winds and delivers…
But alas, I wasn’t watching it. A diehard Yankee fan in front of a television on a Sunday night five miles from Fenway, and I wasn’t watching it. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was awake, and in my right mind, but had no interest in the outcome of the game at that moment. It was only this morning that I realized I don’t know how the game ended. I turned it off when Pedroia was batting, and so had to check the final score on my cell phone at 8:30 this morning. It was a stark realization on this windy day. The team I grew up rooting for was not my biggest sports priority.
It was a pretty jarring thought, and one that I wanted to make my peace with as soon as possible. Thank goodness I write for a sports blog, eh? On my commute to my office, I counted all of the sports-related concerns that were on my mind last night that took precedence over my Sox/Yankees interest. I shuddered when I realized that this relatively important baseball game barely cracked the Top Five. For sake of healing, I am putting my Top Five here:
1. Patriots/Chargers Sunday Night Football – There was a huge, controversial conspiracy and cheating-laden storyline coming into this game (which I’m not going to talk about here since I’m already tired of it), but that’s not why I was watching. The Pats deconstructed the Jets in Week 1 and if they’d be able to replicate a similar show of dominance against a vastly better San Diego team, I would finally allow myself to get giddy. Turns out they did, and I am as gleeful as a toddler with a lollipop today. Randy Moss has two fantastic games in a row, Adalius Thomas looked like a man amongst boys on a 61 yard interception return and Wes Welker performed a bust-out-the-cardboard-and-helicopter-spin-in-a-parking-lot backwards juke to turn a short yardage play into (if memory serves) a first down. Tom Brady was hardly touched by the Chargers. The roughest hit he sustained was on the sidelines when he and Matt Cassel pounded the rock after a TD pass. It was a pleasure to watch a brilliant game plan executed to perfection on the field. The game was more even one-sided than the 38-14 score would let on. And the Schilling-Clemens match-up hardly appeared on my radar.
2. Gentleman Thieves/Crutchfield Cavaliers Fantasy Football – I had Phil Rivers, Antonio Gates and Lawrence Maroney and between the three of them, they needed to give me 21 fantasy points. As I was out of the house for most of the day on Sunday, I had to do my fantasy stat-tracking via my cell phone, the flat screens at a bar in Kenmore Square and misheard conversations on the T. My hope was that by the time I got to my house, my squad would be neck and neck with my opponent’s and my three Sunday night players (all of his finished during the afternoon games) would be the difference. I’ve always said that fantasy football breeds some very bizarre cheering situations, especially when your real life favorite teams are involved. Case in point, I wanted the Pats to dominate at the line of scrimmage, but not pummel Rivers. I wanted Brady to move the ball effectively, but use Maroney often. I wanted a total blow-out, but Antonio Gates to find the endzone at least once. Mercifully, all of these things happened and I am 2-0 on the season. Which made me fail to notice that Jeter hit a booming three run homer late eighth.
3. Boston College Being 3-0 – And ranked 14th in the AP and 12th in the USA Today polls. There were a lot of question marks in the national media about BC’s team this year, mainly surrounding how the new coach (Jeff Jagodzinski for those who like exciting last names) with no head coaching experience would manage an experienced team who have only known the style of Tom O’Brien. After convincing wins against Wake Forest and NC State and a stellar victory at Georgia Tech, the doubts have been quashed. With a record of 3-0, after being the only team in the nation to play three straight games against conference opponents, BC warrants Top 15 ranking. The second quarter of the season will be against Army, UMass and Bowling Green, and the fans are expecting three easy wins that will showcase the new pass-happy, field-spreading offense of coordinator Steve Logan. My time cheering on my Boston College message board precluded me from seeing Joba Chamberlain strike out three with an array of fastballs.
4. Kickball’s Fall Season Starting – By this point, my assumption is that most folks reading this know someone that plays kickball. Not just in a random pick-up game but in an actual league. Walking the streets of Boston, I see at least a couple of WAKA shirts a week. There are leagues in every major city, and I’ve been hearing that most are full to capacity. In fact, there are now six in the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area. Anyway, my team started the season 1-0 by taking a decision against an experienced squad. The really intriguing thing about grown-ups playing this sport is the sheer level of athleticism on the field. Pitchers rarely just roll the ball. Instead, a veteran hurler can command a series of curves, quick bouncers and sidearm-thrown fastballs. Bunting becomes essential and prudent base-running is what scores runs. Rarely, if ever, can a team rely on homeruns and misplayed balls. As frightening as it sounds, Adult Kickball (not dirty) is about fundamentals. My favorite player, me, began the season with 1-for-1 with a bunt single as the starting center fielder. Somewhere, apparently, Melky Cabrera and Coco Crisp were roving a similar patch of sod.
5. Sox/Yankees at Fenway – Buried at the bottom of this list and in my mind. I wasn’t even sure when the first pitch was. My priorities have shifted, and I think it’s too soon to tell whether or not it’s happened because of the season or because of a new weight that my sports-addled brain is applying to the contests I love. Whatever it is, I’m trying not to be scared.
… Ortiz popped out, by the way. Yanks win.