Friday, August 27, 2004

In the Stealthy, Brindled Odours

I nearly choked on a corn flake when I read this: "And so they march forward, now with just 36 games to play."

36 games?!?! I knew we were nearing the acrid scents of autumn (reminiscent of slinking beasts), but that there are only 36 to go stuns me more than a bit.

For suddenly, flush-fallen,
All my life, in a rush
Of shedding away, has left me
Naked, exposed on the bush.

Fitting lines from D.H. Lawrence above, for while there is so much good:

The wild-card-leading Red Sox two games ahead of last year's playoff-caliber pace and hovering within striking range of the division-leading Yankees? … No AL team has won more games this month than the rejuvenated Sox, who are 17-7 (Hohler, Globe).

I can't really enjoy it. Or rather I enjoy it, but I'm scared of it. Things are going so swell, but autumn is at hand, with 36 games to go, there is little, rather, there is no room for error.

Everything, tear-trembling stars of autumn
And the snore of the night in my ear.

Right now I am like Lawrence's last berry on the autumn bush, waiting through wet damp spring, waiting through the 4 game losing streaks, waiting through the the injury upon injury, waiting to ripen, and, now, finally, I am ripe with expectation and promise and it is wonderful, everything I could have hoped for, yet…

At the same time I stand exposed
Here on the bush of the globe,
A newly-naked berry of flesh
For the stars to probe.

My Red Sox heart is out there now. No turning back. No ducking for cover. All emotions on the line. Prepare yourself.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Gesundheit. Schadenfreude. Oktoberfest?

I awoke this morning to a 15 minute, hellish, top 5 all time sneezing attacks, so you know what that means: Autumn is just around the corner. And if things continue to go like they're going, this is going to be one fantastic fall. Despite how last year ended, I look back on late September and October with complete romanticism. It was the best fall in many, many years.

And all I want is another taste. So far, so good …

The Sox hammered the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-5, last night at SkyDome to complete a 5-1 road trip that extended their dominance in the most crucial stretch of the season so far …

Most important, however, the Sox continued to beat the teams they're supposed to defeat.… The win, which pushed the Sox within 5 games of the Yankees, also brought them back to .500 on the road (32-32) and clinched a fourth straight road series for the first time this season (Horrigan, Herald).

Pennant race? Oh, yeah, baby. It is so on. Right now I'm feeding off this energy. I'm like a newborn suckling on the Red Sox teat. Hungry, hungry keep it flowing.

Meanwhile, isn't weird how you'll go years and years without coming across a particular word, then, all of a sudden, you see the word everywhere? In the past couple of days, I've seen the word schadenfreude used over forty times (and by forty times I mean precisely four times, but still). It's a great word. And speaking of, with news (or are they rumors?) of Nomar G's impending season ending wrist surgery, do you think young Theo Epstein might be feeling a tinge of schadenfreude right now, especially considering how many of the SABR geeks questioned his intellect by nearly unanimously saying it was a bad trade?

To be sure, Boston Dirt Dogs is practically drunk on the schadenfreude at this moment. And I'll confess I'm feeling a certain guilty pleasure in experiencing the realization that the Cubs may indeed have worse luck than the Red Sox in the big scheme of things.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Does Mojo Smell Like Napalm? (Maybe Bear Scat?)

So I'm watching Kid's Week Jeopardy last night before the Sox game (How young do they go anyway? Is Pre-K Week Jeopardy next? "I'll take Bsgetti and Meatballs for 100, Awex"), and it's Michelle vs. Wil vs. Holly. And right away you can tell Michelle and Wil have the classic smart kid attitude, top of the class, "teacher you forgot to give us homework" demeanors, yet, Holly, well, Holly is different, sort of Mannyesque if you will, a bit in la la land it seems. I like her imediately, of course, and decide I'll root for Holly over the smartalecs in a heart beat.

The game begins and Holly immediately digs herself into a deficit. She's got the scarlett letter red on her board with the big negative. No, sweat, Holly kid. You can do it. Meanwhile, Wil is is acting like a younger version of the million dollar winner freakazoid Ken Jennings (Is he ever coming back BTW?) This kid is just running the categories all cool hand Luke like.

Going into the Double Jeopardy round it looks like Game Over. Wil's into 5 digit territory, Michelle's got a coupla grand, and Holly, well, Holly is not doing so well. But. But, I tell you, I want Holly to win. I know she can win. The girl's favorite food is cheesesteak for cripesake. Why shouldn't she win? All she needs, I'm saying out loud to my wife, is to claw her way back out of the deficit. Start there. Just start there, kid.

And then it happens. Holly starts to get a couple here and there while Wil goes oddly silent. Boom. Holly's back to the positive figures. "Yes!," I yell, now into this Kid's Jeopardy match like it's nobody's business, like it's everything in the world to me. And Holly, despite showing some mettle and smarts, still exhibits the traits that I admired from the get go. She's a little bit off, somehow. For instance, after each correct answer she just sort of stares dumfounded for a few seconds like she's never played or seen the game played before. Then you can see her little lighbult go on she's all, "oh, yeah, right" and picks the the next answer. I mean she does that every time. I love it. At one point she even says, "twenty hundred" rather than two thousand. Stuff like that.

Meanwhile, Wil comes roaring back and runs off a few doubles and again it looks like he's the 27 Yankees and cannot be stopped.

We go into to Final Jeopardy and I'm focusing, postitively visualizing a mircle of sorts. Wil's got 13 thousand and change, Holly's at 6 and change and Michele a few grand behind her. "Here's the deal," I say to my wife, "Holly needs to gun. Bet the whole effin' pot and pray that the boy chokes somehow."

The odds are against it, of course. Rarely does a leader blow the final question. Still one can hope …

So here comes Final Jeopardy in the category of geographic terms: "Florida, Alaska and Michigan are all one of these."

Michele, gets it, "peninsula," and bless her heart, bets her whole pot to temporarily take the lead. Holly's next and she also gets it and, yes, she shows she has the guts by going for broke and risking all but two dollars of her winnings. She's in the lead.

But the camera turns to Wil and he's got the smug look on his face and you know he knows he got it and I'm thinking "Not too late for a choke," and then he reveals his answer: penisula.

He spelled it wrong!!!! "Oh, that's gonna cost you," Alex says, and Holly (Holly!?!) is our winner! Unbelievable. I'm walking around the house arms raised doing a stiff legged walk like a black bear going for a bee hive chanting, "HOL-LY! HOL-LY!" while my wife is looking at me with that puzzled bordering on frightened look as if she's trying will herself into believing I'm an "interesting eccentric" and not a "big effin' weirdo."1

"Look," I say. "This is huge. I think I may have my fan 'will 'em to win' mojo back! I haven't felt this good in the pit of my stomach since the ALDS come from behind against Oakland last year! This is HUGE!" And I'm totally serious. (But you knew that.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (and by ranch I mean that eyesore called SkyDome) …

The Red Sox took a calculated risk on Monday, when they advised their hottest hitter, Jason Varitek [stats, news], to drop the appeal of his four-game suspension handed down for scuffling with Alex Rodriguez on July 24.

The team reasoned that backup catcher Doug Mirabelli [stats, news] had experienced success at SkyDome in the past and hoped that it continued this week. Last night, the line of thinking proved to be pure genius.

Mirabelli clobbered a three-run home run in the sixth inning that erased a 3-2 deficit and put the Sox ahead for the duration en route to a 5-4 victory (Horrigan, Herald).

So for the second time in the evening I'm doing my bear walk (maybe I should get one of these suits?) but this time chanting, "BEL-LI! BEL-LI!"

Believe it. My mojo is back. What about yours?

1This whole idea of IE (interesting eccentric) vs. BFW (big effin' weirdo) comes from an email exchange I had with E of The Red Seat fame, where she revealed the concept. Hey, in keeping with the Picasso theme yesterday, ol' Pablo is quoted as saying, "If there is something to steal, I steal it!." So I stole the idea.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A Family of Saltimbanques

By now you've already read this quote I'm sure:

"He was great tonight," said an admiring Pedro Martinez. "He was Lilly Picasso."

It's no doubt Pedro being Pedro, as they say, and randomly choosing Picasso, a painter everyone has heard of regardless of one's grounding in art history, to liven up the standard baseball rhetorical trope of a pitcher as artist "painting the corners" of the plate. Yet, coincidence or not, as soon as I saw the name Picasso my brain clicked and I thought, "Ohmigaw, La Famille du Saltimbanque!"

Are you familiar with the painting? Do check it out and then ask yourself, with the "mood of introspection and sad contemplation prevails" on the canvas, doesn't that circus family look exactly like us, you and me, Red Sox fans, after Game 7 last year, after Game 6 in '86, after Dent in '78, so on and so forth?

I'm here to tell you it does. We are the Saltimbanques.

… such figures [as saltimbanques] commonly occur in romantic and symbolist art and verse (from Daumier and Seurat to Baudelaire and Rimbaud), where the saltimbanque exists in a perpetual state of melancholy and social alienation.…

… Set within a desolate landscape, the vagabond troupe embodies a condition of collective alienation …

Sound familiar, dear readers, dear fellow vagabonds suffused with a pervasive ennui? Heh heh. (Everything is about the Red Sox, right?)

Now if you wish to connect and interact with other Red Sox fans of impoverished circumstances, check out the recently launched message board at Surviving Grady.

Monday, August 23, 2004

We've Been Waiting For This

What a bizarro, upside down world we find ourselves in this morning, eh?

A week in the course of a baseball season is just a blink of an eye. In the last blink, something changed.

All of a sudden, the New York Yankees are back in the Red Sox' sights. The Yankees' lead in the AL East slipped to 5 1/2 games after the Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox last night, 6-5 (Silverman, Herald)

And it wasn't just any old sweep, was it? No, it was un sweep extraordinaire, with last night's hard fought game giving us much to go ga ga over: Excellent defense (Mientkiewicz!!!) supporting a pitcher who needs it more than anyone, back to back (!) homers to take back the lead, and Mike Timlin refusing to buckle under the pressure in relief.

You know the best part of this burgeoning turnaround, this hot streak? It makes all of our erstwhile collective crankiness back in May, back in days of win one, lose one, win two, lose two, justifiable. We weren't bitching for the sake of bitching (as Red Sox fans are often sullied with accusations thereof), we just knew what this team was capable of.

And now we are seeing it. The whole world is seeing it.

While I will not tempt fate by putting into words any of the secret September scenarios running through my pea brain, let's listen in to a devout pinstripe pilgrim as he rattles his worry beads:

As you can tell, I’m not even a little bit happy. Sure, it’s unlikely that the Yankees will play as poorly as they have for the past week for too long, but one never knows…And just because the Bombers have never squandered a big lead late in the season doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen. While some will say, “It’s the Yanks, it’ll never happen to them?” I say, “Why wouldn’t it happen to them sooner or later?”

Why indeed? I've been asking myself the same question for what seems like forever.

Meanwhile, I'm I the only one totally creeped out every time Carl Everett steps into the batter's box? Everett is like the significant other from your past, the one you had to get the restraining order against, and seeing him, even miles away in another uniform, just brings back all the nastiness and bad memory you've had safely tucked away back to the surface.

When ol' Jurassic Carl started to argue that call on Saturday, I felt the bile rise in my throat. I daresay, he's my least favorite Red Sox of all time. It's embarrassing, too, that teams keep taking a chance with him. I was going to say Everett is like the Alan Keyes of baseball, but that wouldn't be fair to Alan Keyes. While they're both completely nuts, only Everett makes me fear for the safety of others.