I don’t usually watch the playoffs when my favorite teams aren’t involved because I have a busy life of internet surfing and tv watching to pursue, but I’m riveted to the Red Sox-Yankees series. The last three days of baseball have been a complete emotional roller coaster for me as I root for the Red Sox. In the 14th inning on Monday, I was so nervous I felt as though I would puke. Last night, I was bouncing my legs, pacing in between innings, and rarely flipping channels during commercials for fear of missing a pitch. I was as jittery as I would be after drinking a pot of Turkish coffee. I might even have been confused for a die-hard Red Sox fan.
Part of the excitement for me is in rooting for Curt Schilling. I’ve respected Schilling’s talent since his days as the Phillies’ ace. He didn’t have the experience then, but he had the bravado and desire to be The Guy. After his ALCS Game 1 performance, I wanted him to pitch again. Anyone who watched Schilling in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series knows what kind of pitcher he is when the spotlight is on him. Even with the ankle injury, I knew he’d pitch big.
Boston acquired Schilling to pitch in one game this year and this was it. Coming through in the game would be clutch, even without a torn ankle tendon. With it, his performance will be legendary. Consider the words of ESPN’s Bill Simmons, a life-long Red Sox fan:
This was about heart. This was about coming through when it mattered most. This was about choosing to pitch for a tortured franchise, promising that things would be different, and then persevering only because you gave your word.
To avoid needless puffery of my own, it will not be legendary for his pitching. That was great, but a win to pull the Red Sox even isn’t the same as winning Game 7. That he put his career and his reputation at stake for the team and delivered is what will make it legendary. The most amazing aspect of Schilling’s performance, consider the preparation needed for his start last night:
“This training staff was just phenomenal – the things they did for me over the last four, five, six days,” he said. “To avoid having it popping in and out, they sutured the skin down to something in between the two tendons to keep the tendon out. It worked.”
As good as Schilling pitched, The Curse of the Bambino crept into Yankee Stadium. For the few minutes when Alex Rodriguez was called safe, allowing Derek Jeter to score and reduce the Red Sox lead to 4-3 with 1 out in the 8th, I felt a little piece of the “Here we go again” horror that Red Sox Nation surely felt. When the umpires reversed the initial call to the correct call, I began to believe what my baseball instincts were screaming, that this might be The Year™.
After the game, when asked about his karate chop of Bronson Arroyo’s glove, Rodriguez said this:
“I know that line belongs to me and he was coming at me,” he said. “Once I reached out and tried to knock the ball, the call went against me. I should have just run over him.”
Yes, you should’ve, but you didn’t. Not quite good enough teams make mistakes, while championship teams run the guy over. Tonight, we’ll find out if that lapse is inherent in this Yankees team or if the Red Sox finally have that little extra to win the ALCS. I can’t wait.