Monday, April 25, 2005

I gots the Fever for the Flavor

I went to the see the Greatest Sports Movie of All Time this weekend. It was one of those perfect days. The movie was fantastic, I looked super-cool in my Rebook high tops (sans laces, of course), and when I got back in the car, my favorite new song, Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now came on the radio! Starship rocks!!!

Okay, this isn't 1986 and I didn't go see Hooisers. But I did get to see Fever Pitch this weekend, finally.

I took a rainy Sunday afternoon and dragged my roommate Maureen to the Lowes Boston Common, because I already know I'm a loser and don't feel the need to announce that to the world by going to the movies alone. I also thought that a Sunday matinee would be cheaper, so it surprised me a little when they took a $250 deposit and ran a credit check before issuing me a wristband that put me in line for the stripsearch that lets you move on to actually paying $21 for two movie passes. Is Steinbrenner secretly using movie theaters to subsidize the Yankees payroll?

After 26 commercials and 5 two-hour long previews, I already had to go to the bathroom because apparently the theater only offers "Reservoir" and "Pacific" sized soft drink cups, and I have no self-control when it comes to beverages. And the movie hadn't even started yet. (Even worse... apparently the "Pacific" is cheaper than the "Reservoir." Here is an actual conversation I had with the vendor:

Me: I'll have a medium coke and a medium popcorn.
Guy: The large is cheaper.
Me: What?
Guy: If you buy the large popcorn and the large drink, it's cheaper.
Me: Cheaper than what?
Guy: The two mediums.
Me: Wait. What?
Guy: The two larges are cheaper than the two mediums.
Me: I'm sorry, I'm just not getting it.

And that went on for about ten minutes, proving that movie theaters are run by idiots. Is there a worldwide popcorn surplus I don't know about?)

As for said motion picture, let me just say up front I wanted to hate this movie. I really did. I was perfectly willing to despise this feature, so much so that I even bought a note pad to take to the theater so I could chronicle all the ways that the Farrelly Brothers screwed a chance at a good movie. Of course, being me, I left the note pad at home, which forced me to actually watch the movie.

Why did I want to hate it? Oh, let me count the ways... Jimmy Fallon, who wouldn't know funny if he was forced to make out with Chevy Chase; Drew Barrymore, who, ironically, is told in the movie that the way she talks out of the side of her mouth is cute. To me, she's supposed to be an actor... how come all of her characters do this? It drives me nuts; and oh yeah, the movie was about the Red Sox winning a World (gasp) Championship.

But really, all of those things fell second to this: Nick Hornby is a sell out.

If you don't know that name, he's the very brilliant author behind some of my favorite books, including High Fidelity and About a Boy. And now you know the name. I thought he had committed the most egregious (it's okay I don't know what that means either) sin after letting them turn the London-based High Fidelity into a Chicago-based tale (saved only by John Cusak). But I never thought he'd sell out on Fever Pitch.

If you want to know what Fever Pitch, the novel, and Fever Pitch, the movie, had in common, here's a quick synopsis:

1.)Both detail the trials and tribulations of being obssessed with a sports team, namely, having women get pissed at you.
2.)Both the teams favored by the respective protaganists languish with epic collapses worthy of bungee jumping wihtout a cord.
3.) There is no three. That's it.

The novel is about SOCCER. And Hornby is BRITISH. Soccer is so far down the American sports food chain that ESPN carries more spelling bees than Soccer games. Of course, the rest of the world is just the opposite, meaning they can't spell but they're damn good at soccer. In fact, we hate it so much we call it by a completely different name than anyone else.

So why would a fan, so passionate about a game that he penned his own autobiography about his love affair with the football club Arsenal, let those bloody Americans bastardize it into a movie about a completely different sport, with a completely different plot and characters?

Mizad Cizash! Hornby got over $3 million for the rights to his, well, book title.

And suddenly I have even more respect for Nick Hornby.

Observations from Fever Pitch:

Six commercials and five previews. Are you kidding me? Shouldn't the fact that I'm watching commericals drive the ticket price down? What's a man got to do to get some complimentary Skittles? Seriously.

Okay, I'll say it: I really liked the movie. Fallon was actually funny, which I should have expected, because if the Sox can win the Series anything can happen. The plot was as predictable as me getting drunk on a Friday, and the character development was as predictable as me getting drunk on a Saturday, but there were some generally funny and unpredictable scenes. I won't go into specifics here, in an effort not to ruin the movie for any who haven't seen it. Just some random things, in no particular order, because I forgot to take notes:

-Did "Ben" (Fallon) drag that grill all the way out into the Fens (or was it the Common) from his apartment in the scene where he asks her to go to Opening Day? Or was it already there? These are the things that ruin movies for me.

-If your friend had season tickets, and he took some girl he was dating for about a month to Opening Day, are you in the right if you strangle him and steal the tickets? (Only after making him sign a will bequeathing them to you, of course.)

-There were some mistakes in the movie from an accuracy standpoint, notably when Ben is trying to--well, sell something, and his fellow season ticket holders tell him "That was the same price for Ruth" and "the money was used to fund No No Nannette." Both of which aren't true. Ruth was sold for $100,000, not $125K, and No No Nannette, the Broadway musical, didn't debut on Broadway until 1925, almost seven years after Ruth was sold. However, you could argue that the Farrleys left that in because that's what most Red Sox fans think. Which is true. But still wrong.

The "truest" scene came during the couple's signature altercation, when Lindsey invites Ben to Paris, and Ben informs her that he can't go because there's a homestand. She yells at him, saying, something to the effect of "You're ditching me because Pedro's pitching on Saturday!" To which Ben, knowing full well he's already in it deep, can't resist replying: "Pedro's pitching on Friday, Shilling's pitching on Saturday." It was absolutely perfect, and what any die-hard fan would do. We can't resist the temptation to correct women when we know something they don't, because it don't happen that often, and sports is one of the few places we take the prize. Damn the consequences!

When Ben opens the UPS package and his sheets of season tickets are inside... I've never wanted to be a season ticket holder so bad. One of the cooler "Fan perspective" scenes in the movie. (Also, aren't Sox tickets delivered by FedEx? Like I said, it's the little things that kill me.)

Unfortunately, I got voted down by Maureen to turn our living room wall into the Green Monster.

I am perfectly aware this movie was a chick flick. But it had Fenway, it had baseball, it had Boston, it was funny. If you want to complain about this being a chick flick? Make the choice between Fever Pitch and Steel Magnolias. The latter will make you go into a fetal position and beg for death faster than Nomar did last week when he tore his groin muscle completely away from the bone. In fact, here's a comparision, if you still don't get it: Fever Pitch, like your hands stinging when you foul off a fastball. Steel Magnolias, like when your groin muscles tears completely off the bone! Are we done here? Good.

Lets say you dodge security and run across the field at Fenway in the middle of a game. Amazingly, you make it across and reach your boyfriend, with a small army of police behind you. Then you ask for a minute to talk to him? How fast do you think you'd be knocked over the head with a billyclub? Yes yes, I'm suspending my disbelief, I know.

I will say they one thing they did royally screw up was the end of this movie. How does the Dave Roberts Steal (copyright 2004 Major League Baseball) not get at least a five minute segment with slow motion cutaways? Instead, it's a clip, and they fast forward through the last three games and the World Series? If you're a Sox fan, you should be asking for your money back.

NESN has been pumping this movie like crazy saying that "Several Red Sox players have roles in the movie." Yet, not a single Sox player that I remember spoke a word during the movie. Yes, Damon appears on camera about 10 times, and you see Wakefield, Varitek and Damon stuffing their faces at Bill's Bar, but can you consider that a role? ("Okay guys, in this scene, I want you to act like you're eating. No, I realize you don't have any acting experience, so we'll take it nice and slow... I want you to visualize the food going into your mouth, we're chewing, we're chewing, and... SWALLOW! Brilliant!")

I love living in a major city. The highlight of the movie had to be the cutaways of the various Boston neighborhoods and bars. There's nothing like knowing your hometown is going to be plastered all over the big screens in every city nationwide. And Fenway is her usual beautiful self, looking like the star of the movie. Between Fenway and the city, we look good, don't we? God, I love this town, even if it's home to the wrong team.

That's all for now. Later this week maybe I'll tell you a little something about Chien-Ming Wang, who the Yanks just called up to replace Wright in the starting rotation. If you think I'm not excited about the chance to wear a Yankees jersey with "WANG" on the back, you don't understand my sense of humor.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who is willing to do his part to end the popcorn surplus. He can be reached for ridicule or praise at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Undecided

I want to keep the momentum I’ve built up with Lines, but I’m faced with the little dilemma that we’ve got over almost a month until the next Sox/Yanks brawl series. So what’s a self-proclaimed columnist supposed to do with a column dedicated to Yanks/Sox when they don’t play for 28 days?

Let me think…I could:

Lecture you on the history of the series, things that my brain retains for some reason, even though I can’t tell you what color underwear I have on right now. Things like when Yankee stadium opened in April of 1922, Babe Ruth hit the stadium’s first home run—fittingly against the Red Sox, in a 4-1 Yankees victory.

Bore you with meaningless stats and player info, a did you know of sorts. Like did you know Jeter’s middle name is “Sanderson”? (On a side note: would he be as good if that was his first name? “Now batting… Sanderson Jeter.” This is an article in its own right. Dick Butkiss, Bronco Negurski, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, even Curt Schilling. Would any of these guys have been as good with names like Thad or Pierce?)

[Yes, I am aware that “Cy” was not his real name… It was actually “Denton True Young.” And why he didn’t go around calling himself “The Truth” I’ll never know.]

Or maybe I could wax poetic about the inherent beauty of the cut fastball, lament the lost art of the suicide squeeze, sing the praises of the infield shift, expose the drawbacks of artificial turf, explain the double-switch and the infield fly rule—but then I’d just be cheating you out of a good read, not to mention putting you to sleep faster than Matrix 3 knocked out my roommate.

Well, I haven’t figured it out yet. But I will. Until then, here are some quick observations for this week:

Observations from this week’s games:

First on the agenda, you’ll notice that I now have the ability to include pictures on this site, and I’ve also included a self-updating AL EAST standings on the sidebar. So this little columny is going right to the market, if you get me.

Second, the company hosting this site now offers “Audioblogging,” which lets me call in to my column from anywhere on my cell phone and post any message I want instantly via audio file. I tried it last night—it works!—and quickly erased it because I sound like Toby McGuire, and I mean that in the Peter Parker sense, not the Spiderman sense. This technology may go unused, but then again, I may get drunk and booty-call my own column. Alcohol, phones, and Bill don’t go well together. If someone out there can invent the Phonalyzer (combo phone and breathalyzer), I’d buy stock in that.

But as for baseball this week I have to say that this week’s biggest revelation has been how good the Sox pitching staff can be this year. Sox pitchers have put nutmegs on the board for the O’s for two straight games. Clement pitched a stunner last night, and Wells pitched 8-innings of shut out ball the night before. The Yankees, conversely, have been getting hit like Tina Turner lately. (Quick! Think of something to cover up your blatant un-PC comment!) But like Tina, I expect them to come out of this stronger and with longer legs. (Kick save, and a beaut!)

We’ve got three new starters in pinstripes (RJ, Pavano, Wright), all three guys adjusting to the highest-pressure atmosphere in sports, and it makes perfect sense that they’ll need time to adjust. When was the last time the Yanks debuted three new starters in the same year? I need a closet full of stat monkeys to figure this stuff out.

If Kevin Brown stays the Yankees fifth starter all year, I will be committing seppuku by mid-June.

How come Derek Jeter has his own website but A-Rod does not? What is doing with all that cash?

Jon Lieber better go down with a season-ending elbow injury in the next two weeks, because right now he leads the majors in wins, with 4. And the Yankees declined his option why? He’s becoming the poster child for Tommy John surgery, whereas the Yankees are stuck with the poster child for pulling a Kevin Brown, namely, Kevin Brown.

The reason I brought up Yankee Stadium earlier is because the Yankees and Georgie-Porgie are proposing a new stadium for the Bronx to open in 2009. More luxury boxes, fewer seats, etc. Rumor has it, the plan is to turn THE Stadium into a—get this—Parking Structure. Please keep all sharp objects out of my reach for the next 24 to 72 hours. Thank you.

If you think your taxes are bad: the Yankees will pay over $30 million in luxury taxes this year. If you understand the math behind this, you can do my taxes next year. That’s the GNP of Botswana. Essentially, that pushes the team salary to $236 million. Okay, that Botswana thing was a joke. But the Yankees salary plus the taxes is higher than the GNP of 15 actual countries! Maybe George should sell the Yankees and buy Turks and Caicos!


Construction begins on the new
Yankee Stadium... in Turks and Caicos.


Red Sox fans have to admit… when Nomar went down with that groin injury, you smirked just a little. That is, until every guy heard that the muscle pulled completely away from the bone, which makes us go into a natural fetal position for about a minute.

Okay, that’s all for now. More next week when I figure out what to do with this space.

Things I had to look up for this column: The score of the first game in Yankee Stadium, Cy Young's real first name, the GNP of Bostwana, A-Rod not having a website.

Next Series:
Yanks v. Rangers, Fri 7:05.
Sox @ Devil Rays, Fri 7:05.

Bill Beard is an independant writer who wasn't thinking about the month-long gaps between Sox and Yankees games when he started this column. You can contact him with article ideas at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

26.2*

Right now, in terms of sports, Boston is a baseball city that loves football, likes basketball, and used to watch some sport on ice whose name I can’t remember.

But once a year a fifth sport pushes all of those into the background. Indeed, it’s the only day between the first pitch at Fenway through the last pitch of the season—usually at Yankee Stadium, until last year—that the Red Sox ever play second fiddle to another sporting event in Boston.

It happens on the third Monday in April, and the event is the Boston Marathon.

This year welcomed the 109th running of the country’s oldest road race. With three SuperBowl championship rallys and a Red Sox World Championship Parade in the past four years, perhaps there is no city more trained in how to line the streets to cheer for their Champions.


So which World Championship team
are we here to cheer on?


For those events, they got the practice needed from the annual Marathon. And the cheers are no less audible for the Marathoners as they cruise past the police barricades. Maybe we don’t know their names—or just can’t pronounce them—but Boston loves its champions, and Bostonians know the brave souls who punish their bodies for during this grueling event—thousands of whom have no hope of a prize—deserve the same hero worship accorded to the Schillings and Bradys of this world.

Every year 20,000 people descend on the small town of Hopkinton, Mass., to begin the 26.2 mile sojourn through the Boston suburbs, struggling up Heartbreak Hill, feeling the fires (in their legs) of Hell’s Alley, basking in the glow of the coeds at Wellsey—who solicit kisses from the runners, which reminds me I need to start training—until finally crossing the blue stripe marking the Finish Line in front of another Boston institution, the Public Library, on Boylston Street.

And every year, some 500,000 spectators turn out to cheer for these super-humans, and we think to ourselves, “I can do that… I’m going to start training for next year.” And then we empty our red plastic cup of its beer, polish off the end of our fourth hot dog, and think to ourselves… “Yeah… Next year.”

It’s such a Boston institution, that it’s an official public holiday in the Commonwealth. Its real name is Patriot’s Day, not for the football team, but for the real heroes, the men and women who provide the blanket of security that make our freedom possible. But, with as much respect to them as one person can give, I have to say the better name for it is what the local sports anchors call it: Marathon Monday.

There’s a Red Sox game, sure, but with the exception of the 35,000 at Fenway, there aren’t a lot of people watching. You'll never be asked, "What's the score" so many times in your life. The Marathon takes center stage this day. (That, and the pre-marathon “warm up” parties.) But the city celebrates in grand style, even launching two F-16 fighters to signal the start of the race. They head from Hopkinton to Fenway, and you’ve never heard a crowd cheer so loud as when they go screaming overhead… because that’s the coolest way imaginable to tell 35,000 people that the day’s signature event has started.

Why the glory? Perhaps because the Marathon is also one of the few sporting events where average Joes and Janes can compete on the same course as the sports’ greats. The 26.2 mile course is no different if you’re an unprecedented 4-time champion like Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, longtime staple and two-time winner Johnny Kelly (who passed away last year), or a regular guy like Nicholas Giordano of Malden, Mass, who proposed to his girlfriend Debbie Arduino of Plainville, Mass, after they crossed the finish line.

As I watch these people run, I can’t help but be amazed at their stupidity bravery. I wonder if they know the history of the Marathon—and why we even call it that. And I think that if they did, they’d be a lot less likely to compete in it.

It started with a man named Pheidippides (and you thought Catherine Ndereba has it rough). A soldier in the Greek Army in 490 B.C., he was anointed with the task of bringing word to the capital of Athens that the Greeks had defeated their rivals, the Persians, in the town of—you guessed it—Marathon. Pheidippides took off at a sprint, likely wearing no shoes... because back then, Nike was a God and not something you stuck your smelly foot in.

A little over 26 miles later, he reached the gates of Athens. Pheidippides sucked in what little wind he could muster and pronounced a single word: Nikki.

Victory.

And then he died. Dropped dead. Like a sack of fatty potatoes.

So every time I watch these Catherines and Johnnys and Joes and Janes, I can’t help but wonder if they know that story. If they don’t, I think that maybe ignorance is bliss. But if they do, I think that they’re even more deserving of my praise, and that’s why I’m happy to line the barricades and cheer them on, doing my part to celebrate their personal niki, clapping as loud as I can.

As soon as I finish this hot dog.

Quick observations from the weekend’s games:
Sox 8-5, First in AL EAST
Yanks 5-8, Fourth in AL EAST

Chris House, also known as the fan in the Sheffield Fiasco has had his season tickets revoked due to his involvement in the incident. He’ll receive a full refund and may be able to renew his seats for next year. As much as it sucks to be Chris right now, I think it was the move that had to be made. The Yankees and MLB wanted drastic reaction from the Sox brass, and really that was the only way to please all parties. Plus, fans sitting along that run of fence have been getting away with more than any other fans in any other stadium in baseball. Off the top of my head, it’s the lowest section of fence along fair territory that I can think of, and fans shouldn’t be able to put their hands on as many balls (ha!) in play as those fans have done over the years. A message had to be sent, enough was enough, and I think this works out for all parties involved.

George gets on the mike, and the Yankees start playing ball. Script, anyone? You can hate George all you want, but the comedy this guy provides to baseball fans everywhere is just priceless. Then again, if I was spending $200 million, and my team was 4-8, I’d have been down in the dugout knocking A-Rod's pretty face with a Louisville Slugger. So I give credit to George for only using words.

The 13-run second inning was the biggest ever by the Yanks at the Stadium. 17 batters, 13 Runs, 11 hits (7 consecutive), including 1 HR and 1 GS.

The downside? Yankees still gave up 8 runs to the Devil Rays. So I’m reacting to this emotionally the same way as I’ve reacted to the Yankees slow start. Which is to say, not at all.

You saw it here first: Quoting from last week’s column… If Manny shows up at the same time as A-rod does, this is going to be one hell of a season. As of yet, no sign of either one finding his game.
Manny has four home runs in his last three games, and here’s A-Rod’s line from Sunday: 5-6, 5 R, 6 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B, 1K. Two words: about time.

If you time it just right while watching TV, you can watch the F-16s fly from the starting line on CBS, then change the channel to NESN in time to catch them soaring overhead of Fenway Park. Or, you can just wait for your whole apartment to start vibrating, like Beacon Hill abode did.

That’s it for now. I’m hoping to catch Fever Pitch later this week, so expect a review of that sometime soon. That is, if I don’t blind myself with popcorn salt when I see Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon make out on the field at Fenway.

Hot off the press: We've got a New Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany and Tim Wakefield just got a contract extension. And I should be shot for putting them in the same sentence.

This week’s completely unrelated article you need to read: Monday Night Football is moving to ESPN, and NBC is taking over Sunday Night Football. After 34 years of football on ABC, it’s sad to see MNF leaving one of the major networks. Maybe if they had started the games before everyone’s bedtime on the East Coast, this wouldn’t have been necessary.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who has survived many a beachball pummelling at Fenway Park. He can be reached at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Friday, April 15, 2005

We Know Drama

I have to tell you something. I’m willing to risk my life to bring the truth to light. The minute I post this, I expect burly men in dark suits and sunglasses to knock down my door and drag me away, never to be seen again.

Major League Baseball has a deep, dark secret.

As I write this, I know that somewhere within the offices of Major League Baseball, where the light of day does not shine, there are a group of talented men locked in a room. These men are the best and the brightest America has to offer. Like Area 51 is to the military, these men are at work on a top secret project, and are not allowed outside the complex at any time. Their mission?

Writing the script for the Yankees and Red Sox matchups.

I can’t prove these men exist. But I am nearly certain they do.

Why? It’s just too good.

Two years ago, we had the best playoff series in history, which ended in extra innings when an unlikely hero named Aaron Boone launched one into the upper deck of Yankee Stadium; That was surpassed by last year’s 0-3 Red Sox comeback, better known as the Greatest Choke of All Time, whose central figure was a bloody sock; in the meantime we’ve had the Battle for A-rod; the Battle of A-rod; the Zimmer toss; and the Rivera Incident, just to mention a few of the memorable interactions between these two juggernauts.

And now, from the writers of The Dave Roberts Steal, we bring you The Sheffield Fiasco.

Then again, if this were a movie, would you believe it? As if the Sox winning the World Championship wasn’t ludicrous an idea as Demi Moore boinking Ashton Kutcher, now they go and throw last night’s game at us.

If Hollywood could one-up themselves like this, we’d be eagerly waiting the release of Rocky XVIII right now. (That’s Rocky 18, for you non-Romans.)

Randy Johnson, also known as the “Man Brought in to be The Yankees’ Schilling,” gives up three home runs, including one to Jay Payton (Jay Payton???); There were two lead changes and a tie; Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson gets booted for arguing strikes; Francona, one week off hospitalization, gets booted for arguing strikes; Sheff gets hit in the face by a fan while trying to corral a ball in the corner, and was seconds away from going Ron Artest on him; and to top it all off, the Yankees had a bases-loaded, two-out chance to tie or win the game. And lost on a foul ball pop up to the catcher.

Too good.

Think about it. The playoffs, the Giambi apology, the bloody sock, the pre-season taunts of A-Rod, the teams splitting the first two series of the year, even the clever monikers like “Evil Empire.”

Scripted.

I can’t prove those men exist. But I believe that they do.

Hang on, I’ll be right back, someone’s at the door…



Observations from Yanks/Sox Season Game 6:
Yanks 5 (L, Gordon)
Sox 8 (W, Foulke)

If I ever become a Red Sox fan, you can blame Fenway Park. There is, with the possible exception of Wrigley Field, no other park like it. (Not that I’ve been to them all, but…) It’s a bastion of Green, a haunted place, exceptionally uncomfortable, and God help me I love it. (This will be a rant at some point, just not today.)

I was undercover last night, because it was 35 at gametime and I was doing my David Wells impression. My jacket covered up my A-Rod shirt (which, honestly, I'm starting to question wearing anyway, due to his stellar performance of late) so I was spared the beachball pummelling that I received last summer. For about 10 minutes, I was actually accepted into Red Sox Nation, until the Yankees got their first hit and I cheered. Now I know what it feels like to be "outed."

Who's idea is it to play baseball in Boston in April? Seriously.

Let me come right out and say I couldn’t see the Sheffield Fiasco. From our vantage in the right-centerfield bleachers, it was impossible to see over everyone deep into the right field corner. I thought it was taking him forever to get the ball out, and we soon found out why. All we saw was the entire Yankees team running into the outfield, followed by the cops running down the first-base line. Chris House of Dorchester was the "guilty" party, and today his fiance spoke out in his defense saying he was only going for the ball. There's a credible source.

Last year, we had two Yankees relievers get into a fight with a groundskeeper. Now, we have a fan hit a player during a play. How many more incidents before Major League Baseball steps in and demands tighter security from Henry and Sox brass? Or worse, the Yankees refuse to come to Fenway until something is done? Could it come to that? It’s certainly heading in that direction.

Sure, one guy doesn’t represent the general populace… but between the groundskeeper incident, the Most-obnoxious-celebration-ever, the Sheffield Fiasco, and for me personally, a group of male Red Sox fans beating up a girl I know outside of Yankee Stadium, Sox fans are really low on my personal PR totem pole lately. I know, I have plenty of friends who are Sox fans who are amazing people, but for years Yankees fans were rated the most obnoxious in baseball. Not anymore.

That’s one bad thing about Fenway: the close proximity to your neighbor is an incubator for a mob mentality.

During the Sheffield Fiasco, every Yankee was over in the right field corner, except one. Matsui. You have regained your honor, Daniel-san.

I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Ron Artest.

I couldn’t tell jack about the balls and strikes either. But when Terry Francona got fired up while giving the umpire an earful, I think he had 35,000 mothers in attendance. The entire park emitted an attitude of “Holy Crap, you just got out of the hospital, take it easy!”

Randy Johnson gave up three home runs. Three home runs. I don’t even want to think about the implications of that.

In what’s becoming a Yankee epidemic they left more men stranded than the airplane crash on “Lost.”

Red Sox fans, Edgar Renteria. Edgar, meet the Red Sox fans. I sense the beginning of a beauuuuutiful friendship.

My “mental preparation” was in full steam by the time of the Sheffield Fiasco, so I’m a little hazy on the details… but if it was fan interference, shouldn’t Varitek be sent back to second? And Ortiz to third? Did I miss something?

Looking at the Box Score, I see that Bubba Crosby played. And that happened when? Alcohol is bad, umkay?

My Hideki Matsui for MVP campaign continues: 3-4, 3 RBI, 1 BB. Season: .361 BA, 11 RBI, 3 HR.

I really thought the Yankees were going to come back at the end. I think everyone in Fenway did too, because the crowd went nuts when Varitek caught the ball. A pop-fly foul ball to the catcher for the last out? Worst. Ending. (to a game) Ever.

At least A-Rod got to play hero on Newbury Street, because he hasn’t been doing it on the field lately. 1-5 with 1 RBI isn’t going to cut it, Rod.

Next Yanks/Sox game:
Friday, May 27, 7:05 pm at Yankee Stadium
Next for Yanks: at Baltimore
Next for Sox: Tampa Bay

Completely unrelated article you need to read: Jason Stark talks about the return of baseball to Washington. Sniper on the roof! (Literally!)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

No Rant, Just Game.

Unlike the Bill Simmonses and Jim Caples of the world, I have an actual job, which means I have work to do today, so no rant. Plus, I’m trying to get out of here early, so I can go, um, “mentally prepare” for the Yanks/Sox game which I’ll be attending at Fenway tonight. So we’ll head right into

Observations of Yanks/Sox Season Game 5:
Yanks 5 (W, Wright; S, Rivera)
Sox 2 (L, Schilling)
(Yankees lead season series 3-2.)

·Every Wednesday night I play in a basketball league, perhaps as a weak attempt to recapture my youth. I’ve been amazed with the competition in this league... which makes me think they put us in the wrong league. My team is aptly-named the “Airballers,” but I think an even more apt name would be “30-year old white guys.” Which would be okay, except that the majority of the other teams could be named “20-year old Bloods and Crips.” So not only are we taking a beating on the court, but then we have to worry about walking out of the building and into a scene from “New Jack City.” I tell you this because our latest schellacking caused me to miss the first four innings.

·The first thing I noticed, when watching the game at home on NESN, is that their Instant Replay “wash” (the tech term for a transition screen) is a subliminal vision of the World Series trophy. I winced every time it came on the screen, and I think my face was sore by the end of the night. Brilliant use of technology to rub it in everyone’s faces.

·From the one inning I saw, Wright looked good. I have high hopes for him, as long as he doesn’t go Kevin Brown on a wall or something. (I’m working on making that popular terminology, as in “I was so pissed at my roommate for deleting my Tivoed copy of “Wild Things” I went Kevin Brown on the coffee table.” Actually, in the past tense like that, it sounds much, much worse!)

·In tribute to the SAT removing all analogies...
Curt Schilling is to the Red Sox as:
A.)Johnny Damon is to Hair
B.)Paris Hilton is to Homemade Sex Tapes
C.)John Daly is to Hope for Fat Men Everywhere
D.)Derek Jeter is to the Yankees

Well, they’re all good choices, but the answer is D. Maybe that’s premature, given the amount of rings Jeter has, but ever since Nomar got knocked up by Mia, Curt has stepped in as the undeniable leader of the Sox. Plus, I know he must be damn good because I can’t stand him. I hated him on the D-backs and I hate him on the Sox... but like Jeter, even though he kills you every time, you always walk away with... respect.

·I was listening to the Cubs game at work, for no apparent reason, when they said this amazing stat: Nolan Ryan once pitched 212 pitches in one game. And he did 200 pitches regularly. In an age where pitch count is the Sacred Standard, that’s a mind-blowing stat.

·That pitch count is even more appropriate, given that the Sox left Schilling in for about 20 too many pitches last night. This is an ongoing Red Sox disease, the inability of Sox managers to yank pitchers in time. Bill Simmons has called it "Pulling a Grady." It was Schilling’s first start of the year, and he was coming off off-season surgery. He had no business throwing 108 pitches, and proof of that is Jason “apology” Giambi and a past-his-prime Berndog both hit donkeys into the stands.

·Funniest moment in every Red Sox game: any sac fly hit to Johnny Damon. It’s like he really thinks he can throw, when everyone in the park knows he can’t. If he keeps it up, I'm going to award him the "William Hung Memorial Trophy" by the end of the year.

·Matsui swings and misses. Wait.. was that… an emotion!! Dishonor on your family!

Please note: I’d like to apologize to anyone I may have offended with that last remark. I love Matsui’s hitting, but you have to admit... the guy would lose a personality contest to a piece of shale.

·If Manny shows up at the same time as A-rod does, this is going to be one hell of a season. As of yet, no sign of either one finding his game.

·Kudos to Dukin Donuts, who have produced yet another advertising gem utilizing Red Sox players. If you haven’t seen the new spot featuring Damon and Theo Epstien, I won’t ruin it, but you need to Tivo the Sox game on NESN tonight. For a behind the scenes look at the spot, visit boston.com. It’s on there in a popup, so I can’t give you a direct link. (Interestingly, the Kim trade goes through while they were shooting.)

That’s all for Observations. In case I haven't mentioned it, (right!) Tonight, I’ll be at Friendly Fenway getting a not-so-friendly welcoming with my A-rod shirt on, as I take my place in the bleachers. Actually, no one will see anything, because it’s supposed to be 40 by gametime and dropping, so I’ll be bundled up so much I'll be as big as David Wells. I should have some good observations tomorrow, provided my “mental preparation” doesn’t get too carried away.

Tonight’s game: Johnson (1-0) v. Arroyo (1-0), 7:05p.m.
Fenway Park, with yours truly in attendance. (In case I didn't mention that.)

In response to my last column: Jim Caple says that there are lots of fans who have had it just as bad-and worse-than Sox fans.

Completely unrelated article you need to read: With the New 2005-2006 NFL Schedule being released, John Clayton preview the top games in his First And Ten. Yes, I'm reading about football during baseball season, and yes, it's because the NFL is the best league out there, hands down.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Amateur Night at Fenway Park

I have one major thought about the Red Sox brass and their orchestration of yesterday’s ring ceremony:

Amateurs.

I can’t be sure about this, because I don’t have a crack statistics team haunched over PCs while chainsmoking in some closet somewhere, but I’m relatively sure no team has ever celebrated a World Series championship for as long—or in such a gaudy manner—as the Red Sox have.

We’re all aware that the Red Sox won the World Series last year. It’s been talked about so much there are tribes of pygmies in Africa that are naming their children things like Manny Koalalimpur-Bjounte. I was going to write about how overexposed the sox were, but Patrick Hruby and David Schoenfield beat me to it. So instead I’ll just say this:

Congratulations. You’ve beaten the Yankees yet again. You’re now the most-overexposed (and disliked?) franchise in Baseball.

Yes, I appreciate the nods to teams past, understand the significance of the victory, and I know you’ve been “suffering” for 86 years.

But unlike the Patriots, who hadn’t won in 42(?) years, the Sox couldn’t shut up about it, went on every talk show possible, traded away or failed to sign half of a championship team, and have spent entirely too much time celebrating a championship instead of focusing on what it means to be a champion:

Defending your title.

In the 86 years since the last Sox victory, 18 of the 85 teams have successfully defended a title. Not easy to do, and that’s the difference between a champion and a dynasty.

I bet Teddy Bruschi could have told you that.

(By the way, 12 of those 18 were the Yankees. So you know.)


Observations from the ring ceremony/Yanks v. Sox season game 4:

Of course, I didn’t get to watch the ceremony or the game, because Major League Baseball apparently fails to realize that to afford the exorbitant ticket prices, we need to have jobs. Last Monday was a 1:05 start, yesterday was a 3:05 start, and next Monday, Patriots Day, is an 11:05 start. The average American gets two weeks of vacation per year. If you’re a die-hard sox fan, you’ve already burnt 30% of your yearly vacation time, and you’ve burnt it on Baseball, and it’s only mid-April.

The most overrated speculation about the event had to be how the Yankees would react to the ceremony. Would they watch? Would they hide in the locker room? Talk about "little brother" syndrome. (Sox being the little brother, of course.) Well, the Yankees not only watched, but clapped for the Champions when the banner was unfurled and the rings were handed out. Now, was that:

A.)The Yankees demonstrating what a classy organization they are, and congratulating the Sox for a season well-played.
B.)The Yankees way of telling the Sox to “kiss our asses... some of us have four of those rings.”

I’m guessing... somewhere in between.

Even though the Yankees looked awful yesterday in the 8-1 pummeling, the real losers were the children everywhere who look up to these athletes, especially the students at Acton elementary, who had asked the Yankees and Sox to display some sportsmanship and shake hands before the game—which they did not do. Put your egos away for five minutes and do the right thing. For the kids, man!! The kids!

Great touch on bringing back all the players from the past. Fisk, Pesky, etc. Watching the highlights of Yaz and Johnny P. raise the new banner was emotional for just about everyone who loves baseball. But literally rolling out the red carpet? I think Prince Charles got less of a reception at his wedding.

After yesterday’s festivities, Dan Shaughnessey will publish his new book next week, entitled: The Red Sox Championship Ring Ceremony: How the Sox Sealed the Casket on the Curse by Unfurling a Friggin Huge Banner and Hiring James Taylor to Sing America the Beautiful While the Yankees Watched from the Opposing Dugout. The book will immediately sell 200,000 copies in the Boston area.

I’m pretty sure Shaughnessey is praying the Sox tank this year, so he can go back to making everyone in Red Sox Nation panic, which is all he’s good at.

Best part: Mariano Rivera tipping his cap to the Boston fans, because even he couldn't help but laugh at their mocking him. Classic moment.

Worst part: Some ass yelling out "A-rod, you suck" during a moment of silence for Dick Radatz, the late Sox reliever. Let's hope Radatz's family wasn't in attendance.

Here’s to being in last place: has anyone noticed that Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore are all leading the Sox and Yanks in the AL East, who are sharing the gutter? It’s too early to say, but judging by the way the two teams have been playing, this could be a frightening trend.

I can’t help but wonder: what is the latest into the season the Sox and Yanks both posted losing records? (They’re both 3-4 as of today.)

Next game: Wright v. Schilling, 7:05pm Wednesday. Fenway Park.

In response to last week's rant: ESPN ran a poll on whether or not certain athletes are "unbooable." Take the poll Right now, 56% say that certain athletes are exempt. (In other words, 44% are going to be booing.)

This week's completely unrelated article you need to read: Len Pasquerelli got a phone call from Terrell Owens, who didn't hesitate to take a shot at my boy McNabb.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The 8-inning Baseball Game


Due to the popularity of last year’s playoff observations, and some other crap I’ve written that people seem to like, I’m going to start a running column this year for baseball season. Its tentative and very uncreative name will be Behind Enemy Lines, with the obvious theme of a Yankees fan living in Boston. Mostly it will be about Sox/Yankees matchups, and will usually take the form of a rant follow by some “observations.” I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible, by which I mean I’ll be ripping on everyone equally. But I’ll be posting things pretty much as they come to me, so really the rants could be about anything. If you stumble upon an article about, say, one of my friends getting drunk and streaking through Boston Common, well, don’t be surprised. Unlike this post, I will try to keep them relatively short, so you don't get fired.


Of course, audience participation is always appreciated, so if you agree or disagree with anything feel free to get in my face about it and send an email (wrbeard@hotmail.com) or add a comment below. Or send along random thoughts, I don’t care, but send something.
At this time, I’d like to request a volunteer to get drunk and streak through Boston Common. But until I get one, here’s the first installment of Behind Enemy Lines:

The 8-inning Baseball Game.

Mariano Rivera blew his first two save appearances of the year, both against the Red Sox. Of course, he also blew two in a row when it mattered most, last postseason, and the Red Sox ability to get to Rivera was an essential part of the Sox claiming the World Championship title for the first time in 86 years.

When Mariano was in the process of blowing his fourth consecutive save against the Sox yesterday, the fans in Yankee stadium committed the ultimate sin when they voiced their displeasure with the Yankee closer and booed him.

In the words of WEEI announcer and long-time Red Sox play-by-play man Joe Castiglione, “That is something I never thought I'd hear.”

I couldn't agree more.

There are times, as a fan, when you are ashamed of those who share you allegiance. Every “true” fan knows this displeasure, this discomfort. For Red Sox fans, it often happens when the bleachers burst out into their predictable “Yankees Suck” chant, which is annoying to any educated fan on a good day, but even worse because at this particular ballgame the Sox happen to be facing... the A's. Or maybe it's when those hot chicks wear their “pink” B hats to the Pink Sox games. (Okay, that last one is easier to forgive when she's also wearing the child-size Trot Nixon jersey.)

But yesterday was my day to feel that shame.

Last year, when El Capitan started the season hitting a measly .171 in April, the Yankee “faithful” started down the path of unrighteousness by booing the Lord of the Pinstripes, Derek Jeter. They booed the franchise. Unthinkable. I cringed.

But by booing Mariano Rivera, they've crossed the ultimate line.

For the better part of 8 years now, Yankee fans have enjoyed something that no other fan in baseball, and possibly no other fan in any sport have enjoyed. They had a player on their team who could change the game. You could argue that Rivera changed the game of baseball in a way no other player in any sport in recent history—not even Jordan—could. He physically shortened it. For the last 8 years, every Yankee game in which they led was 8 innings long.

For years, I've watched the Clemenses and Mussinas of the world hand tenuous one and two run leads over to the Mike Stantons and Gabe Whites of the world, and I'd stare nervously at the innings and outs as they ticked away. At the start of the 8th I'd look hopefully toward the bullpen, waiting for a skinny Panamanian emblazoned with a number 42 to rise off the bench and start throwing. And I'd breathe a sigh of relief when the last out in the 8th was recorded. Because then I knew one thing to be true:

Game. Over.

And it was that simple. No, he didn't save them all, but it was item one on Sportscenter when he missed the mark. That sort of luxury should never be accorded to any fan. It breeds complacency. And yet I hope every fan out there gets to know what it's like at some point. He shortened the game in a way no other player ever has.

If you want to talk about the guys who changed the game, the Ruths and the Williamses, the Youngs and the Ryans, you'd be cheating yourself—and the game—if you didn't mention Rivera. Guys like Gagne and Smoltz have shown their potential, and there may be one or two guys who are better than Rivera today, but for all the doubters out there, I want you to read the following words very closely:

Best. Closer. Ever.

The closer position hasn't been around for very long in the scheme of things, but baseball, like everything great about America, is constantly changing while adhering to a long-standing tradition. I'm not going to crunch the numbers, because there's no need, really. You can toss around stats like most postseason saves ever, lowest postseason ERA ever, most saves over X number of years, but I don't need numbers to know that I could go to bed at the end of the 8th, get up for school or work the next morning, and not even bother to check the boxscore. There was no need. Game. Over. (Not that I went to bed then, because I loved watching him embarrass opposing hitters. But I could have.)

I'll say this honestly and I truly believe it: If Rivera blows 25 saves this year, if the Yankees lose 50 games because of him, I hope to God Torre keeps trotting him out there every day, if for no other reason than I know I've been given another chance to watch one of the greatest players in the history of the game stand on that mound for another day.

Have I had my foundation shaken? Yes. I'm dealing with this the same way as when I was a child and I found out Santa Claus was my mother, and they same way as an adult, I dealing with knowing there's no way I'll ever have a threesome with Mary Kate and Ashley.

Just like parenthood, there are no laws limiting who can be a fan. There's no test to let you into the club. No guidebook, no rulebook. But if there was, this would be somewhere on the first page:
You don't boo the Great Ones.

For all you Yankees fans who booed Mariano yesterday, I ask you this: If Ruth or Gehrig showed up at the Stadium tomorrow and went 0-4, would you boo them?

If you're a true fan of the game, you know the answer to that. But if you give the other response?

Then you I brand unworthy, you I mark with the scarlet letter of fandom: I call you “fair-weather.”

Mariano, you're our guy. Our 8-inning maker. Our Closer.

And the Best. Closer. Ever.

You don't boo the Great Ones.


Observations from the First Yankees-Sox Series. (Yanks lead 2-1):

•Was it just me, or did Randy look apathetic in his Yankees debut? He pitched well, but his body language was very nonchalant, and he didn’t throw exceptionally hard. He looked like he didn’t want to be there. Of course, his attitude was dwarfed by that of Manny Ramirez, who I’m not entire sure was even there. If there weren’t 55K people watching, I imagine their encounter would have gone something like this:
Johnson: “Do I have to pitch this thing?”
Ramirez: “As long as I don’t have to swing at it.”
Johnson: “Can you just be out then?”
Ramirez: “Sure. I’ve got an ice cream sandwich waiting in the dugout anyway.”

•The new Red Sox Fan Mentality: Apathy. Red Sox fans all over the Nation have traded in their six foot rope for a bucket of crispy chicken and a Gillette Mach3 Power vibrating dildo razor. I don’t think a single fan has any expectations for this team whatsoever. If the Sox and make the playoffs, it’s gravy. Maybe not even that much. As long as they come out even against the Yankees in the regular season, I think Sox fans will be content. When you make a deal with the devil, and he comes through, best be happy with the results. I don’t know a single fan that expects the Sox to win the World Series, or even cares if it happens. Enjoy your KFC.

•Ortiz vs. Matsui. Two guys that weren’t even involved in this rivalry as little as three years ago, and they’re the clutch bats for their respective teams. Potential MVPs. Is anyone else positively giddy about the thought of these guys going head to head in the 4-spot for 16 more games? If not for the Rivera incident keeping me up all night pissed off, this would have kept me up with excitement.

•Speaking of not being able to sleep last night, (I wasn’t kidding about the Rivera Incident, as it will forthwith be known) I tossed and turned for the better part of three hours last night. It got so bad, I could feel a zit growing on my face. Not that you needed to know that.

•Listening to a baseball game on the radio has to be the most annoying form of broadcasting. With the way he calls the game, it’s almost like Castiglione can’t see the game either, and someone else is telling him what happened. “SWING! And a DEEP DRIVE… caught by Jeter at short.”

•Which begs the question, why were these two games at 1:05? With all the things that are wrong about baseball right now, is anyone else convinced Bud and his crew are trying to find new ways to piss off fans so we stop complaining about steroids?

•I know steroids are bad for you… but tell me at some point during this controversy you didn’t, at least for a second, toy with the idea of trying some “clean” or “clear” to see if you could hit the ball 400 feet. “Now batting fourth for the Yankees… Bill Beard.” Or to see if your head grew to the size of a pumpkin, maybe.

•Is Dan Shaughnessey more annoying to Yankees fans or Red Sox fans? The debate continues.

•On another note, Pedro made his debut for the Mets, striking out 12. And his bullpen blew the save. Red Sox fans, tell me you didn’t enjoy that just a little.

•I think it was the same way I felt watching Wells get shelled on Opening Night. No, I really enjoyed that.

•After Opening night, I think Red Sox fans were Googling “Schilling ankle status” almost as often as I used to Google “Kournikova nude.”

•I think both the Sox and Yankees have to be pleased with Pavano and Clement. Two young guys, workhorses, who are going to be around for some time. Great pickups.

•After next week, we’ll only have 13 games left in this series. I’ll be at the Thursday game at Fenway next week in full Yankees regalia/beach ball magnet clothing, so expect an expanded edition of Behind Enemy Lines.

This week’s completely unrelated article you need to read: Jason Sobel on Augusta National.