Friday, October 17, 2008

The Curse of Number 3

For a instant...I thought about Manny Being Manny last night, when the Rays went for the Red Sox's jugular, up 7-0. The fate of Game 5 seemed to be exposed. As the bottom of the seventh got under way, the jugular seemed drained of any any life, until Dustin Pedroia came up to the plate with two outs.

ESPN posted Manny's stats with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers during Game 5 of the NLCS in efforts to sell his presence in each of those teams and how that affected their October magic. Needless to say, given the numbers, it's hard to deny having Manny Being Manny on your team in October is nothing short of essential.

The Dodgers went back to October baseball after 20 years, largely because of Manny. They could not close in on the Phillies, but it sure brought Mannywood in L.A. to life! If you saw Game 5 in L.A., the Dodgers' cathedral was overflowing with big entertainment names like Alyssa Milano, one of the Desperate Housewives and the host of Wheel of Fortune (sorry to lazy to Google their names).

So, starring at the box score of 7-0 in Game 5 of the ALCS -- I wondered. A painful thought came to my mind, as showing Manny the exit door at Fenway Park was -- until that moment -- a good thing in my Red Sox mind. Then, something happened to take me far away from MDS (Manny Detachment Syndrome).

Dustin Pedroia is listed as 5'9", 180 lbs. officially. That's my size, although I'm closer to 200. What that normally means is: no shot in HELL of playing any sport beyond high school, unless you have something, something special. If you are any kind of baseball fan, it's worth "Googling" this player. Hailing from Arizona in the 2004 draft, Pedroia has chiseled his place in Red Sox lore forever.

His swing alone is worth watching a Red Sox game. It's a combination of the Tasmanian Devil and Charlie Brown, with little of the Roadrunner. I don't know if anyone's swing looks anymore violent than his.

So, just as I was getting MDS in the 7th, the TBS cameras focused on the Red Sox, specifically the steps into the dugout. I wish I had a still of this. There, in all his 5'9" might, stood Pedroia in full batting armor starring angrily at the field, hoping for a shot at the bottom of the 7th. A shot he -- and we -- got.

You ever get in a rumble? You know, in the old days when it was just fists and bad words? Remember that small kid who was whooping butt on kids twice his size in a storm of grass and dirt? That's Pedroia.

With two outs, Pedroia hit a single that scored the first run of the game for the Sox. Big deal. It's 7-1 with two outs. But, guess who got a chance to come to bat with Pedroia's RBI? Big Papi. Mr. Clutch in 2004. The man who walked us off in Game 4 against the Yankees in the 12th. Walk off again? Not yet, but he put one in the right field bleachers to make it 7-4. You know the rest, or you should. The greatest comeback since 1929 took place, as the Red Sox found life.

Michael Irvin and Nate Newton, two former Dallas Cowboys during the Super Bowl years, were on the radio yesterday, trying to define the "privilege" it is to play in the NFL. Nate was advocating for Pacman Jones, saying the only reason the NFL is what it is, has to do with players like Pacman. He was defending Pacman, saying the NFL wants "kids" like him to keep the hype going. I can't argue with that. Mike was trying to be more neutral, acknowledging "God's gifts" to athletes like himself and others, but also saying the privilege is not the NFL having these players to exploit, but rather having the NFL. Period. Only in America do you have stages like the NFL, where a player's life changes completely.

To me the whole conversation was preposterous. Professional sports, after all, are only entertainment. The NFL stage being a privilege in America? I'll vote for that. Athletes given preferential treatment by God to one day make millions, while the rest of us are left aside to toil and waste ourselves in -- seemingly -- ordinary jobs? Not buying it. But, I'm biased. I'm always on the "little guy's" side. Teachers and nurses mean more to me than jock-strapped wide receivers any day.

Where is this going for Christ's sake?

Last night's game in Boston is the very essence of why sports is special. In the worst of any possible professional sporting scenarios, there is always hope. If you saw Dustin Pedroia on the street at your local shopping mall, you could NEVER define his possibilities in any reasonable way, as far as baseball is concerned. If you saw Kevin Youkilis, the man once called the "Greek God of Walks," you would be inclined to think the same. Kevin looks more like a burly contractor than a truly magnificent ballplayer.

But together on a team that will be notorious -- especially if they take this to Game 7 -- for comebacks, they are legends. They are Spartans. They are those two guys you wanna have on your team in a rumble. They are inspirational.

When a player makes the biggest skeptic forget that we are a marginal, ungifted participants in a multi-billion dollar business, they have done something special. They have lifted all that is wrong with professional sports and given you that hope you were looking for when you spent your valuable time and dollars to participate -- if only as an observer -- in the magic of sports. It brings all that is untangible to you and mixes a concoction of emotions in your soul that makes you come alive.

Today I chose to wear my #3 away Boston jersey to work. If the Red Sox come back from 1-3, again, they will have done it three times. All those three times, they were down by three games.

The curse of the Bambino was erased the first time the Red Sox came back from 0-3 deficit against the Yankees. The came back from 1-3 last year against the Indians.

The Babe wore the #3.

Will that be the magical number for this generation of Red Sox?

We'll find out soon enough.

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