Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Thought You Were A Red Sox Fan?

I stopped caring about sports for a good long while, a good while ago.

You'd think I was full of it, if you've been to my office (adorned with sports memorabilia now), talked to my family, friends and our fantasy football league, or my old friends and teammates during my years playing Texas high school football.

I vividly remember the day Jimmy Johnson "quit." I remember it so well, it's ridiculous. I was a bartender at a local sports bar, trying to get through college, and manager rushed out to raise the volume on the television. Coach Johnson said, "After our discussions, we mutually decided I would no longer be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys."

For the few in the place at that hour, the news was devastating, akin to learning a head of state or religious leader had just been murdered. The air left the room, and all of the sudden we found ourselves reaching for the top shelved spirits en masse.

After all, the Dallas Cowboys had just won their second straight Super Bowl -- fourth overall -- nine weeks earlier. They were poised to win a third without a doubt.

Opening Day for the Texas Rangers was looming, but nobody seemed to care. For that particular sports bar, the Rangers season brought in much welcomed business, as it sat a few blocks from the old Arlington Ballpark. We wondered, however, if anyone was going to come out after what was sure to be a long, long period of mourning after this shocking news.

After that, the Cowboys did win a fifth Super Bowl, under the direction of what Jerry Jones referred to as, "Any one of 500 coaches," the incomparable, Barry Switzer. Switzer got a ring, but really, those Cowboys didn't need a coach. Barry left soon after, and the mess that followed are years most fans don't like to remember.

I sorta stopped caring about the Cowboys and sports for a while. I had enough of the drama and directed my attention to other matters in my life. I went from being able to handicap games and rattle of stats, to not knowing who was in the NFC title game.

I didn't, however, stop caring about baseball altogether. My wife and I would catch a summer game here and there. After all, we could sit in the outfield bleachers for $2, drink a cold beer and a hot dog.
Another memorable occasion my brother happened to be in town when Fernando Valenzuela pitched for the Orioles. He and I got to meet Valenzuela as a young man in Mexico, courtesy of my grandpa. Now, we got to see him pitch just before he retired for good.

In 1994 the Rangers built a gorgeous new park, and I was able to take my grandfather, brother and dad to very first exhibition game ever at the Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers. They hosted the Metropolitans of New York. My grandpa didn't like Arlington much, or the seats I was able to afford with my bar-tending tips. He really didn't understand what in God's name kept me living is this strange, strange city. The Rangers, he said, were no good. If there was any justice in my living here was simply this: I would get to see the Red Sox.

It's hard for me to be a passionate fan. I usually expect too much from players and teams. I have this fantasy that all professional athletes actually love what they do, but biographies like Agassi's confirm that a lot of players don't even like what they do, they just happen to be that gifted.

OK, for goodness sake, where is this going?

In 2001, at my brother's wedding, would mark the last time my grandfather recognized me. He has been suffering from Alzheimer's since then, being in the last if its stages now.

In the 2004 ALCS Game 4 between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Dave Roberts was called in to pinch-run for Kevin Millar, who was just walked by Mariano "Mo" Rivera in the 9th. The Red Sox were down 0-3 in the series, and losing this ball game 4-3. The Red Sox were clinically dead. Roberts stole second, and with a single from Mueller, Roberts turned third and tied the game.

That single stolen base can be seen as the turning point in one of the most historic events in baseball history. The Red Sox swept the rest of the ALCS and the World Series, on the way to wining their first title in 86 years.

My grandpa didn't understand it anymore. His brain was long gone. But, something happened...changed.

That night, the night Dave Roberts stole second base, things changed for me. All of the sudden caring about sports --again -- seemed OK. All of the sudden it was fun handicapping games again and remembering those blessed stats.

That night I celebrated by myself, as the women in my life were long asleep. Texting was not what it is today, so there was no one but the tube to celebrate with. Since then, I indoctrinated all the women in my life in the ways of sports. And, in honor of my grandfather and my inheritance of the Red Sox, they became our team.

We have, however, always had love for the Rangers, our hometown team.

I cannot deny it was hard for me to totally love them during the Tom Hicks era. I know it's not fair to drag the team along with Hicks, but I so despised his business ways! Then, like Roberts stealing second, here come the saviors: Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and Chuck Greenberg, along with a magnificent group of players, mostly considered "kids" by A-Roid.

A World Series comes to Arlington, to the Yard so close to my house, it's uncanny.

Here we go again.

The Cowboys have broken my heart the last few seasons, especially this one.

But, I'm not the guy I used to be. I don't see it as I once did. I won't be retiring from sports, again.

Game One of the World Series will begin in about 17 hours in the San Francisco. The Texas Rangers will feature one of the greatest pitchers of this era, possible of all time, alongside a like-hurler they call, "The Freak".

My grandfather will no more know about this Fall Classic than the man in the moon.

It's OK, though. Grown men will cry this time, too. And, that includes me.

Oh, and those chants at Cowboys Stadium last night were, "Let's Go Rangers!"

Let's Go!, indeed.

"Here comes the 1-2! Swing and a miss!"

Can you believe it?

If there is justice in the Jock Kingdom, I suspect my grandfather is closer to the realm of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, than he is to ours.

Sleep well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A.L.C.S. -- Can You Believe It!

This picture was taken on the day of Cliff Lee's first start as a Texas Ranger. The Orioles killed him and the Rangers that day. The picture even made this publication.



I knew something was right when I could not find any Rangers merchandise on sale or clearance the other day. Usually, in October, one can find pretty sweet deals on stuff, in preparation for next year.

And, I further knew something was right in October when the Red Sox Nation brotherhood sent mail raving the Rangers, especially since the foes blocking the way to the Fall Classic are the New York Yankees. Talks about a Rangers/Red Sox Opening Day in 2011 have subsided, substituted with cheers and praise from Beantown.

It is October, folks. And, not a word one about the Dallas Cowboys on the airwaves, save a mention about a roster move.

No more exhaustion from analyzing the Cowboys, and why they are 1-3.

No more predictions about the Mavericks and Stars.

This is the A.L.C.S. In Arlington. Less than 4 miles from my front door.


At the beginning of the football season, I had to make a flag decision. I fly two flags at my home, and usually upon the Rangers ending their season, I continue to fly my Red Sox flag, and add my Cowboys flag.

I re-read this, and the decision was easy. To storage went my Red Sox flag, and I kept the Rangers flag flying high and mighty. I also had the opportunity to meet Chuck Greenberg at an event hosted by Jamey Newberg, and he posed with my girls.

Chuck -- wow -- what a cool guy. We continually call him the hero, who saved Rangers baseball, but fans know he's not the only one. Mr. Ryan, thank you, too.

We are preparing to enjoy the A.L.C.S. against that hated Yankees. And, how much s-w-e-e-t-e-r [sic] can it be: WE HAVE HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE!

For baseball lovers, these Rangers are a phenomenal story. How can you not love it.

And, to the only faithful Rangers fan in El Paso, this is for you, brother.