|My Dream Day as a Sports Fan|
Monday, October 22, 2007
Posted by jaygross
Yesterday was an absolutley huge day for my teams with my Patriots looking to go 7-0 against Miami and my Red Sox playing Game 7 of the ALCS.
I was fortunate enough to sleep in late, after staying up late on Saturday to watch Curt Schilling and the JD Drew's grand slam force Game 7. My wife had made me a nice breakfast before leaving for Manhattan to run a bunch of errands - I am the luckiest guy around and I make sure to tell her daily (and I know she is reading this).
I was thoroughly excited about the day after checking some email, some more eBay I was destined to lose with under 10 seconds left, and watching the ESPN pregame show. Even though all the analysts picked New England and the spread was 17, they were good enough to point out that Tom Brady is 2-4 in Miami. Also that the Dolphins shut out the Patriots last year.
1pm rolls around and I flip on CBS hoping to see the Pats as the early AFC game. Of course the Giants are on Fox at the same time so the AFC games get blacked out. After 5 minutes of non-stop cursing and a handful of bitter IMs to friends, I needed to take action and see this game.
There is a fairly big sports bar in my area , but it is ALWAYS packed - where the crowds are six people deep to get to the bar. Seeing the games isn't too enjoyable and it's just too loud.
Mike D. and I found this no-frills dive bar half a block from my place in week 1 when my cable went out just as the Jets-Pats game was about to start. So I called an audible, got my lazy butt off the couch, and walked down the street. This place has fairly cheap drinks (for NY), four flatpanel TVs to go with a projection TV, a pool table, surprisingly clean bathrooms, all you can eat BBQ and beer for $15, and free chicken wings and chips at the bar. What more could I possibly want.
I walk into the bar and there were 4 games on, including the Pats-Fins. I sit in front of the game and sit next to another Sox-Pats fan (remember I am in Brooklyn, NY and there aren't so many of us) who is taunting the girl rooting for the Dolphins 2 seats down. I actually felt bad for her, as she knew her team was doomed while still supportive of them. When I walk in, I missed the first 3 or 4 minutes - and Donte Stallworth took a 3 yard pass and turned it into a 30 yard TD (wow am I happy I played in fantasy).
"Pretty Boy" Brady catches fire and sits back in the pocket play after play. His line is giving him so much time, as spreads the field from the shotgun. He throws 5 TDs in the first half and only had 3 incompletions. He even hit Kyle Brady for cheapy, with Ben Watson on the shelf with the bumb ankle. I am still in complete denial I took Drew Brees ahead of Brady, I deserve to lose.
He throws 2 bombs up into tight double coverage and both times Randy Moss makes catches for TDs that no one else in the NFL (maybe ever) could have made. The second one he was assualted worse than a Randy Corture UFC opponent and I couldn't believe there was no pass inteference flag thrown. He fought off one of the muggers and ripped it awat from the other (and this was on 3rd and 18). I begin having flashbacks to 1998 (and surprisingly this was not alcohol induced), when Randy was a rookie and the Vikings went 15-1 with the highest scoring offense in NFL history. That year he was a one man human highlight reel (no disrespect Dominique Wilkins for repurposing the nickname) the way he made tough/impossible catches and blew by everyone for TDs. I just can't believe we got him for a 4th round pick and he tore up his contract for a cheap new one year deal.
It's 42-7 at halftime... are you kidding me? I can't remember ever seeing a team score 42 in a half. They were on cruise control in the second half, and take it 49-28 in a mercy killing - as both Matt Cassel and Guiteriez were ineffective when in for Brady. It reminded me of an early season college football game when a powerhouse crushes a small school (not named Appalachian State).
Brady finishes with 21-25, 353 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 sack. He now has 27 TDs and 2 INTs, 2100+ yards, and a 7-0 record. He is on pace to break Peyton Manning's TD record and Dan Marino's yardage record for a season.
Next week we get a tough Redskins team at home and then on the road with 5-0 Indy before the bye in week 10. By then, we should know just how strong this team is.
I hang out the bar for another hour and watch some more games before my wife calls. I meet a woman originally from Minnesota who is obsessed with Adrian Peterson. After a really strong start, Dallas was just too much for her Vikes in Dallas. Tavarias Jackson is just not ready to be an NFL QB, but he can escape some dicey situations. For the local NY teams, the Giants looked really good and the Jets looked really bad (can't wait to hear Mike Greenberg whine about his Jets blowing a big lead to Cincy).
After dinner and a shower, it's Red Sox Time!!! All week long I sat in meetings full of Yankee fans at work and I heard them talk so much smack. The a couple former coworkers that are Indian fans chimed in. I heard cracks on wide array of creative topics:
- That they would phone in a prescription to the local pharmacy for drugs to sedate to me when the Sox lost.
- They would consistently clear their throats - to remind me of the chokejob the Sox were executing so well.
- They said Eric Gagne's name in my presence - that alone enrages me beyond comprehension.
- They reminded me that Nancy Drew's books hit harder than JD Drew this season, and don't cost $70 million.
- That Dice-K had less heart than the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz
- What is worse, Coco Crisp's hair or his hitting?
- That Wakefiled and Schilling are so old that they could be pitching for the Yankees. I think this was the most disturbing and painful.
So after being down 3-1, they beat the snot out of Cleveland's 19 winners Sabathia and Carmona to even the series. After watching Carmona kill everyone in the second half and then the Yankees, I was terrified of him and I would have picked him for the AL Cy Yound Award (since Beckett's 3 dominating playoff wins can't be considered in Cy Young voting).
Going into the game, I figured the Indians would not be able to go to bullpen lefties Rafael Perez (gave up 5 runs in 1 inning - 45.00 ERA) and Laffery who pitched 4+ innings on Saturday. Otherwise, pretty much everyone else was available - including Beckett and Sabathia.
The starters for this one are Jake Westbrook and his turbosinker vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K seemed to hit the wall toward the end of the season, and hasn't looked good at all in his 2 postseason starts. He starts OK, but he gets shelled in the 4th or 5th inning.
I like that Francona decided on Saturday to put in Jacoby Ellsbury in center for the struggling Coco Crisp. Ellsbury brings so much energy to the team and he can absolutely wreak havoc when on the bases. I've heard Johnny Damon comparisons, but I think his ceiling is higher - especially since Ellsbury doesn't throw like a grade school girl.
Ex-Sox and current Orioles 1B Kevin Millar throws out the first pitch. He also introduces the Sox starting lineup (I liked having him do it better than when James Taylor did it). I heard they asked the Mets permission for Pedro to throw out the first pitch, and were denied. How lame is it that the Mets didn't want Buck and McCarver to remind America of their collaspe and to see Pedro rooting on his friends - Papi, Manny, Varitek, etc.
You know it must be a really big game if my wife ignores her normal Sunday TV shows and activites to watch the game with me. She keeps telling her sister (who is visiting for the night) how big of a game this is. Of course this only makes me more nervous. Fenway is packed and rocking, so of course she commented on how we should have went to the Buchholtz no-hitter when we were in Boston.
It's 8:21 or so and the game is finally starting. Dice-K starts off strong, plowing through the first 3 innings scoreless. Meanwhile, the Sox get multiple baserunners in each of the first 4 innings and have each rallly killed with Westbrook getting key doubleplays to minimize the damage. The Sox are up 3-0 after 3 innings.
Inning 4 comes and Dice-K gives up doubles to Hafner and Garko to make it 3-1. Then he makes some big pitches and gets out of the 5th at 3-2, should have been much worse if not for a bad call on Manny throwing out Lofton. That was enough for Francona, Dice-K fought hard and his night was done. I have been critical of Francona for leaving pitchers in too long, but this was a really smart move as momentum was changing and the pen was stocked with well rested guys.
Westbrook settles in and looks really strong through the 6th inning - he changed speeds really well and struck out 4 of 6 hitters in the meat of the order. Okajima comes in and throws 2 good innings. He got a key doubleplay in the 7th with men on 1st and 3rd to kill the rally.
During this key part of the game I was working out on my eliptical machine. After I was done, I couldn't believe just how fast I was moving during the nerve racking parts. Who would have thought that being an obsessive sports fan actually helped you get in shape?
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge brings in Rafael Betancourt for the 7th. Betancourt gave up 3 runs in the last 2 months. He has owned the Sox in this series, especially in Game 2 with 3+ scoreless innings.
Ellsbury leads off with a grounder to third, that Casey Blake rushed and made an error, and ended up on second base. Without question, Ellsbury speed forced the issue and it may have been an infield single had it not got by Blake. Lugo comes up and executes a perfect sacrifice bunt, putting Ellsbury on third. It's about time Lugo did something for that 4 years, $36 million. Dustin Pedroia comes up, and he has no RBIs in this series. All he needs to do is drive a ball to the outfield for the insurance run. Instead he crushes a homer into the Monster Seats, 5-2 Sox. I have never seen David Ortiz look so happy as he runs down the line to hug Pedroia.
They bring Okajima out for the 8th, and he gives up two hits. I really had to question why keep him in for more than 2 innings (even though he was fresh and he hadn't pitched in almost a week). Now there is speedy Grady Siezmore on 2nd and Asrubal Cabrera on 1st, and with the sluggers up (Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Garko) and no outs. Francona does what is needed, he goes with Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon blows Travis Hafner away on 3 pitches - including a fastball at 98mph. He gets the next 2 outs, and the score stays 5-2.
After the whole place is pumped up, the Sox pour it on as they do best. They score 6 more in the bottom of the 8th to make it 11-2. Pedroia had a bases loaded double to the gap off Betancourt, followed by Youkilis crushing a homer off Jensen.
So these guys scored 11 runs this game, and Manny and Ortiz are 1 for 9 with a single and a walk. Imagine what could happen if they hit at the same time as the other guys.
Papelbon comes on and gets three flyouts to seal the deal and earn his first postseason save. It's also his first career 6 out save. For the final out, Coco Crisp made a running catch into the "Dead Man's Triangle" and crashed into the wall.
The guys all go nuts. The fans go nuts. I go nuts. My wife comes running out of the bedroom and she gives me a hug like Manny and Ortiz celebrating after a home run.
I spend the next hour watching the post game celebration and the craziness that ensues. This was totally different than the 2004 ALCS. Those guys were all so shell shocked to have won and it was at Yankee Stadium, and they didn't go completely crazy. No such problem this year, as the celebration was in front of the home Sox fans. I love how they are all in goggles these days (Papi is such a kid - he had his googles on and jersey off with 1 out in 9th) knowing just insane it's going to be.
Even though the 2004 team was the "Idiots" led by Johnny "Benedict Arnold" Damon and Kevin Millar, I am not sure this team is not equally as nuts. And there's no doubt the most excitable guy on the team is Jonathan Papelbon, who happens to my favorite player. I love how he had a bet last year to get a mohawk, won the bet, and then got one anyway. There is no one more excitable on this team, and his craziness is infectious on young guys and veterans alike.
You may not realize this, but Papelbon has been the best pitcher in baseball the past 2 years (not Beckett, Peavy, Rivera, Santana, Webb, Oswalt) - he has the lowest ERA, lowest batting average against, lowest on base percentage against, and lowest slugging percentage against of all pitchers in the majors.
Now I am too embarassed to show you all the little victory dance I did when they won (as I am the whitest, no rhythym having white boy alive), so I decided to include Papelbon's river dance. . He is from Mississippi and they do it a little different in the dirty south. I love how his eyes look like they are about to pop out of his head, he is in such deep concentration - just like when he is pitching.
The Rockies are on (winning 21 or their last 22) and will be a very tough matchup in the World Series. They won 2 of 3 in Fenway (beating Beckett and Schilling) this year and have an enormous homefield advantage. As much as I am rooting for the Sox to win because they have been my team ever since I can remember, I have even 2 bigger motivations:
- During his acceptance speech as the ALCS MVP, Josh Beckett promised to do the River Dance with Papelbon if the Sox win the World Series. That alone would be worth the price of admission and make for a great YouTube clip.
- The taunting I can provide for my good friends rooting for the Yankees will be most enjoyable. I have so many avenues to choose from including (but not limited to) email, phone call, IM, e-card, snail-mail, blog entry, billboard, candygram. Please be aware that I am a versatile, yet creative guy who suffered watching the Yanks win in the late 90's - a very dangerous combination.
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