Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Best Series Ever

I know I promised an end of season wrap on the A's, and it's coming, but the numbers are taking more time than I thought, and the whole thing is so depressing that every time I sit down to write it I end up crying a eating a pint of Chubby Hubby.

Anyway, I had to weigh in on this Sox/ Yanks series as we sit here on the cusp of a game seven that simply should not be happening. So here's my thoughts, unedited, unformatted and totally stream of consciousness.


The 2001 World Series was hailed as one of the best ever played. The Yanks, playing for all of New York, and indeed the country, representing the city after 9/11. The Diamondbacks, representing everyone who hates the Yanks. The best performance by two pitchers since Koufax and Drysdale. The 2001 series had everything including a last chance rally against the most sure thing closer in the game. If you don't believe me, if your memory has faded, run out and buy Buster Olney's "Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," a must read for all sports fans, especially those who hate the Yanks.

Next came last year's ALCS. After another stunning collapse by the A's, the Sox and Yanks went down to the wire in a series that rivaled the 2001 WS. ESPN Classic has already done an hour-long documentary on that series and there is a book, "One Night at Fenway," about the game, the team, and the history of the Sox as played out that night. I haven't read it yet, but I will soon. The point is, that series was going to go down in history as one of the greatest ever, the epitome of the rivalry, untoppable.

Until this year. Just as it took only one night for these teams to surpass their own record for the longest playoff game ever played, it took only one year for them to supplant their own great series. This is “The Natural,” this is “Hoosiers,” this is every sports movie ever made. People write this stuff; this never happens in real life. A team left for dead after a record-setting loss rising up to force a decisive game 7. This is the absolute best story in sports. This is “Miracle;” this is Charlie Brown and that little red haired girl; this is what we fans hope for. This is “Angels in the Outfield of Dreams.”

No team has ever gone down love-3 and forced a game seven. This team has. No team has ever won a best of seven series after trailing 0-3. This team could. Why not?

Admit it, even the most die-hard Sox fan knew this series was over after game three. Then, as we sat down to snooze through game four, all of a sudden, it wasn't over. Still, game five is a no-brainer, the Sox are done, it's only a matter of time. I even felt bad for the Sox fans, I thought it would have been easier for them to get swept and get on with their lives rather than win one measly game just before elimination, their ultimate pain delayed only a few more hours. But then, they beat Rivera in game four, and again in game five.

All week Andrew Siciliano of Fox Sports Radio has been saying that the Sox would find new and interesting ways to lose this series. It happened in game one when Mussina had a perfect game going into the 7th, only to see the Sox come back to within one when Papi's triple missed being a homer by 3 inches of blue wall. They still lost. It happened in game 3 when they gave up 19 runs. It was the curse. It was Schilling's big mouth and torn tendon. It was a disaster.

And when it looked like the curse might rear its ugly head again, the umpires made the right calls. When Bellhorn's homer was almost just a double (“It's Jeffer Maier!" I yelled), the umpires, who had been for shit all series, stepped up and got it right. When A-Rod put the stiff arm on Arroyo it looked like the game would end based on momentum. Watching that play, I didn’t see A-Rod's move; all I saw was the ball rolling into right field as I thought "How very Red Sock of them, a new and interesting way to lose." It seemed as though the Yanks would get all the breaks again. But for a second improbable time, the umps huddled up and got it right. The stars were aligned!

Perhaps there was divine intervention. Perhaps God is sick of hearing the Sox fans complain to high heaven. There's no doubt that ultimately the Sox benefited most from Friday's rain out. It allowed Pedro to come back on full rest in game five. It gave Schilling one more day. It gave everyone on that staff one more day.

And Schilling. My God, Schilling! The Yankee killer. He started three games of that 2001 WS. He looked terrible in game one. But once he knew what was wrong he pulled out one of the gutsiest sports performances of all time, again rivaling Koufax for the ability to pitch through what should have been a debilitating injury. If the Sox go on to win this series, Schilling's performance will go down as one of the greatest sports achievements ever. This dwarfs Willis Reed by a long shot.

No matter how this ends, it is the best story in sports, maybe ever. I'm calling it: no matter who wins, this is the greatest playoff series ever. The story lines, the passion, the comebacks, everything. I have never been so excited about a game seven before in my life, and I'm not even a Sox fan. This game is all I've thought about since Foulke got the last out last night.

You may remember last October, I wrote a column stating that I was done with being a fan as I had been. I would no longer live and die with my team. I would no longer get so geeked up for a game, or a series. Well, at least for tonight, that's out the window. I can't wait for the game. If you are even a casual sports fan YOU MUST WATCH THIS GAME!!!! This is David and Goliath, and there's one pebble left. Sure the Sox have some high profile free-agent stars, but look at some of their other regulars:

-David Ortiz: released by Minnesota
-Kevin Millar: released by Florida
-Bill Mueller: released by SF
-Mark Bellhorn: released by Colorado
-Pokey Reese: released by Pittsburgh
-Ellis Burkes: released by Cleveland

OK, I'm done. I can't overemphasize the greatness of tonight's event. This is everything a sports fan has ever wanted. This is what baseball, what all sports is all about. You may never see anything like this again in your life! (Until next year.)



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