Please, Anything but a Four Game Sweep

Filed in Sports by on August 9, 2009 0 Comments

Fenway Park Boston

So, is that it? Three games into a four game series with the Yankees and the Red Sox have done just about nothing. In game one, John Smoltz, one of the most prolific pitchers of his era whose incredible resume should translate into an easy first ballot Hall of Fame induction, pitched nothing like his former self. Coming off major off-season surgery, and with his longevity in doubt, Smoltz looked like a third grader who, through some terribly unjust twist of fate, found himself mistakenly taking the SATs instead of making symmetrical snowflake cutouts. In just over three innings (he got one guy out in the fourth!) Smoltz took a beating. His line? Nine hits, eight runs, all of them earned. With the loss, Smoltz’s ERA somehow managed to get even higher, climbing to 8.32. Even more embarrassing, immediately after the loss, Smoltz was designated for assignment, potentially signaling that his illustrious career may be over. His final pitches in a Sox uniform, a four ball intentional walk to Alex Rodriguez, will cement his ignominious place in Sox lore.

Then, as if suffering its own existential crisis of ballpark proportions, the Boston offense simply gave up. Over the last 24 innings, the Yankees tag team of A.J. and C.C., in addition to a handful of relievers, has held the Red Sox scoreless. Though one of the games was a 15 inning showdown in which both teams failed to score until a spirit-crushing walk off blast, the Sox have been shut out for the equivalent of nearly three straight games.

Keep in mind all of this is happening in the Bronx. There is nothing worse as a baseball fan than seeing your home team get wiped out, pummeled, kicked around and embarrassed in a rival’s stadium. Forget the other rivalries (Angels-Dodgers? Who cares!) In the most intense professional sports rivalry in the country, the home town team, the good guys, are coming up short in a very big way.

I know, I know. Baseball is just a game. It’s a pastime for little kids. You throw, run, hit, catch, and afterward you go out for pizza. There are plenty of things more important, or, at the least, consequential in life than a little game. Still, I can’t shake the dejection that a monumental meltdown by my favorite team instills in me. And I don’t think I’m alone.

In tough times, people need some form of escape—books, movies, alcohol, insanity. Anything that can supplant reality with a more pleasurable, interesting fantasy is welcome. In baseball, every pitch, every play can form a new storyline. Smoltz strikes out the side in the fourth? Maybe the Sox go on to win in epic fashion, and ol’ Johnny is a martyr no more.  It’s the possibility of these wonderful things happening that forces me into the bar on game nights.

Along Harvard Ave. in Allston, a piece of street art depicts Jonathan Papelbon, his fist clenched waist-high after delivering the game-sealing pitch. In red and white, the simple image perfectly captures the intensity and energy of a win. Sure, it’s wildly vicarious, but seeing that stark image of victory makes me, too, feel like I’m somehow winning. It doesn’t matter that I personally have done nothing. The feeling that something I am somehow attached to has found success, something that I care about through a bond as flimsy as the geography of my residency, is exhilarating. When the Sox win, I think even the stagnant run-off in potholes bear smiles in the morning.

It’s been a tough weekend so far, but the series ain’t over yet. One game to go. Five and a half back in the standings. Let’s see if the Sox can sneak out of New York with a win and avoid the embarrassment of a four game spanking.

My spirits could use a lift after a grueling week of monotony. Tonight I’ll be toasting to the Sox, but I’ll be cheering for myself.

photo credit: werkunz1’s

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