Sunday, September 11, 2005

City of Champions

Why did I watch the Thursday night NFL kickoff pregame? Because I was at Fenway Park on opening day this year when the Red Sox received their World Series rings, and raise their Championship Banner in front of the New York Yankees. Let me explain...

Opening Day @ Fenway
The pandemonium in Fenway was indescribable: Big Mo, Ryan (seen above wearing my prized "Posada is a Little Bitch" t-shirt), Biff and I were sitting right near Pesky Pole, courtesy of seats Ryan's buddy Troup hooked us up with (thanks again Troup!). The Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra was in centerfield, playing the Theme from 2001. At each mini-crescendo, one of the Sox's previous World Series banners (yeah - the Sox won 5 at the beginning of the century) would unfurl over the Green Monster. When they got to the peak crescendo of the song, the 2005 World Series banner came down, COMPLETELY covering the monster, and the Boston fans reacted with 86 years of euphoria. It's hard to describe the moment - I felt...Invincible...Awed...Sated... It was clearly the greatest sporting moment of my life. Later, as the Yankee's lineup was introduced, each player was soundly bood - but when they came to Mariano Rivera, Fenway ERUPTED with a massive ovation - as Sox fans credit the normally invincible Rivera with blowing two key saves in the ALCS, and allowing the Sox the opportunity to come back from the dead. Rivera took it with class - doubled over laughing, and tipping his cap to the Fenway Faithful with a broad smile. Later, when Rivera walked across the field to the Yankee dugout in the 6th inning, our entire corner of the park again gave him a rousing standing ovation - and again, he obliged with a smile and tip of the cap.

Patriots Unveil their 3rd Banner
I was eager to see the Patriots fanatics unveil their 3rd championship banner on Thursday night, and ABC actually did a fairly decent job with the coverage - capturing the intensity of the moment. Team owner Bob Kraft came out and gave a little speech, thanking "The greatest fans in professional sports" - and then announced the unveiling of the banner. The intense soundtrack, which Dirty Dave somehow correctly pegged the next day as the theme from Carmina Burana simply by reading a short description of it I sent him on IM, was perfect for the moment. You have to listen to it - "O Fortuna." The Gillette crowd went absolutely bonkers. BEZERK! Satisfied by two previous championships? No way - the Patriots faithful were out of control as the fireworks exploded during the peak of O Fortuna. How do you top that? They introduced OZZY OSBORNE to sing the Patriots' Anthem: Crazy Train! Ozzy pops out of this giant football helmet stage, and he was so psyched he almost bounced himself right off the side. The Patriots stormed the field, soaking up the pure adrenaline of the stadium. ABC later showed some shots of Tom Brady near the endzone fans, PUMPED in a major way - pumping his fist and absorbing the scene. Tom Brady is a stud. 'Nuff Said. Pats 30 - Oakland 20...

Red Sox vs. Yankees: Showdown in the Bronx
This weekend I made the trip into the jungle - aka - Yankee Stadium wearing a Red Sox shirt - THREE TIMES. Friday night, I opted for the "Believe in Boston" t-shirt, which normally generates minor ire... The Sox lost a game that wasn't really close - and the Yankees fans began to anticipate a turnaround in their fortunes.

Such hopes were put to rest on Saturday, as Schilling shut down the Yankees. I wore my "Jose Canseco #33" jersey t-shirt - which I believe may be the only one of its kind left in existence. The Canseco shirt generates minor heat from the Yanks fans, as it says "Red Sox" on the front, but anger quickly turns to respect from any real fan when they see the "Canseco #33" on the back.

On Sunday, I wore my newest and most heat generating shirt: Red Sox on the front, bright red shirt, and large baseball logo on the back with the Red Sox logo inside. No way to hide in this shirt... I knew ahead of time that "Big Papi" David Ortiz was on the bench resting his tight back, and Trot Nixon was also sitting (as a lefty, he hits poorly against the Big Unit). Varitek was sidelined too, as Mirabelli always catches the Knuckler Tim Wakefield, so the sox were missing 3 big bats from their lineup. Giambi hit a fluke bloop homer off of Wakefield in the first off the outside of the foul pole, and the game was a rather boring pitcher's duel into the 8th - as both Randy Johnson and Tim Wakefield were masterful. It was 1-0 NY with 2 outs in the 8th, with Tom Gordon in as the set-up man for Rivera. The Sox had the tying run on first with 2 outs, and suddenly Big Papi appeared in the on-deck circle. There are a lot of Sox fans at these weekend games in Yankee Stadium, and the place quickly ERUPTED - cheering Sox fans, and booing Yankee fans - but everyone appreciated the enormity of the moment. Now - one of the moments I always dread at Yankee Stadium is the appearance of Mariano Rivera: they play Enter Sandman - the place goes nuts, and he comes in to shut down the opposition. Today, however, as soon as I saw Big Papi, I turned to Mrs. Dynamite and said "Holy cow - I hope they bring in Mariano - this will be insane."

The Yankees, using their stalling tactics, as Big Papi's pinch hit appearance clearly caught them off guard, had a little conference on the mound (to give Mariano time to get loose), and then returned to their positions in the infield. As Big Papi came to the plate, Torre came out of the dugout. Suddenly - everyone seemed to realize what was happening - this is what it is all about - September baseball, Sox-Yanks - 1-0 in the 8th and a showdown brewing: Big Papi vs. Mariano Rivera. For the first time in my life I was psyched to hear the chords of Metallica's Enter Sandman, as Rivera charged out of the bullpen and the Stadium was E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C. Wow. Even Sox fans crave situations like this - we wouldn't want it any other way - if you're gonna win - you have to beat the best: as Ric Flair used to say: "To be The Man, you have to beat The Man." It's this same philosophy which explains why Sox fans wanted the Yankees to beat Minnesota last year so we could play them: If we're gonna win the World Series, we HAVE to go through the Yankees - or it won't mean shit.

Mariano eventually walked Big Papi, and Johnny Damon ended the inning with a groundout. The Sox threatened again in the 9th, but with runners on first and third with 2 outs, John Olerud finally struck out to end the game - in the perfect dramatic fashion for Yankee fans.

Tim Wakefield was stuck with a complete game, 3 hitter, one run, TWELVE STRIKEOUT loss.

and the Sox are still the reigning World Champions, 3 games up on the NY Yankees.


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