Wednesday, June 18, 2008

2004 ALCS Finale: Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt

From the Archive:

October 22, 2004: Accounts and Experiences of the ALCS; Sox win Series 4-3, advance to World Series for first time since 1986 (“Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt”)

It was an absolute joy to read the New York papers this morning. Saturated with phrases such as 'most humiliating loss ever,' 'colossal collapse,' 'choke artists,' permanent stain on the Yankee record', 'curse reversed with reverse sweep,' boy, was that ever satisfying.

There’s so much to talk about I don't even know where to begin. So I think I’ll just talk about the whole thing.

I stayed up all night last night. I had to teach at 8 this morning, and there was no way I was sleeping. I took the subway home from Brooklyn, and talked smack about the Yankees with the various sox fans I met on the train. Loud.

I got home and devoured every article online I could, I watched the highlights over and over. I want this shit burned into my memory, I want every sight and stat and fact and feeling indelibly marked in my mind.

So on no sleep, I wander on down to jimbo's hamburger palace at 6 this morning, and spent a wonderfully pleasant hour, casually eating french fries and bacon, drinking coffee, with my hands on a fresh new copy of the day's New York post. As usual, I’m the only white guy in the place, and along with my bacon, french fries and sadistic pleasure in the humiliation of the Yankees, I get to listen in to some great stories about Negro league baseball and owing money to bookies, the hot topics with the senior citizen crowd at jimbos.

I caught the subway to queens, giddy with grease and greatness. New York is beautifully quiet in the morning, all the more so when you like where you're going and everyone else is miserable, and the Yankees just lost and you can even see a frown on the buildings, collapsing on the weight of their shackled, impotent pride.

I got to class early, because I hadn't done the reading that I was supposed to lecture on. Thursdays class goes for 2 hours and 15 minutes, and I spent that whole time talking about James and Sartre on freedom. I think I did a good job, considering I don't really know about them and I hadn't really done the reading.

At one point, I asked something of the class, and got a response 'because the Yankees lost.' a couple of students with whom I’ve talked about baseball (in the context, initially, of metaphysical continuity- what makes something the same over time is interestingly illustrated by turnover on baseball teams), and they didn't know I was a sox fan. I couldn't contain my grin, laughing at these teenage Hispanic kids from the Bronx and queens. So I stop talking about Sartre and existential despair, because, frankly, I think that's one thing I don't have to worry about on this morning, and I told them they don't want to know where I grew up, because that might sidetrack the lecture. 'You’re not from Boston, are you professor?' they asked aghast, the first glimmer that perhaps I was indoctrinating and not teaching, planting evil seeds in their malleable little heads. 'Oh yes,' I responded, grinning like a Cheshire cat on nitrous. 'You’re not just a bandwagon fan?' a student named Carlos Gonzalez asked, still hoping that it just couldn't be, and that a weak moral character in regards to allegiance would be better than a strong devotion to evil, to which I responded, while a Ms. Lopez waited patiently to ask a question about Sartre, 'you name the year, I’ll give you the starting lineup... so when Sartre says 'existence precedes essence, the view that he is attacking is...'

What fun. What fun.

But let's go back a bit in our journey, for as we know, it wasn't all kibbles n bits.

I attended game 1. About the 6th inning, I remarked, 'y'know, I think the highlight of this game was when Damon struck out leading off.' this was my first day back to the stadium since Grady’s choice, and I couldn't make a peep. Mussina’s throwing a fucking perfect game, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, schilling's fucking toasting Christopher reeve out on the mound.
But as the sox got their first hit, and then their first run, and then varitek hit the dong to make it 8-5, I started to stand, then yell, then represent. That’s when the peanuts came a'flyin. To indicate my disregard to such an onslaught, I turned around and made sarcastic boo hoo motions, rubbing my eyes and acting as if they hurt. Then I’d turn back towards the field and give everyone behind me the finger. Well, two of them.

So, of course, more peanuts.

A peanut got caught in my collar, so I picked up it up and did my best Damon-throwing impression back at them, effeminately throwing the peanut about 2 feet, and then giving them the finger.

Ire was raised.

And so about this time, Ortiz hits a triple to make it 8-7. I scream as loud as I can, 'MVP, MVP!!', to which the carefully worded and logically impeccable response, 'shut the fuck up you Boston faggot' was delivered. More peanuts. etc. I, of course, turned around, (and remember, this is in the tier of Yankee stadium, where people are towering above you) and screamed up at everyone "MVP, MVP!", even louder than before.

So, of course, Rivera comes in, and Millar pops out. And that's when smack, right in the back of the head, a full beer. I’m drenched. Some of the falloff gets a Yankee fan in front of me, who had requested earlier that they stop throwing peanuts. He, unbeknownst to me at the moment, leaves his seat to go get the cops. Knownst to me was that I turned around, and in a rage, yelled 'who the fuck threw that?' and when no one answered, I screamed, at maximal ire, 'you fucking pussies! You throw beer at me when my back is turned, and now you're not man enough to admit who threw it?! You’re a bunch of fucking pussies, all of you, a bunch of pussies!' Not knowing the culprit, I made eye contact with as many suspects as I could, all of whom were bigger than me, and I called them pussies, and gestured for them to come down and fight.

You know why they didn't? Because they're pussies. And that's a good thing. You know why I smelled worse than usual? I was covered in beer.

And I had so many zingers lined up. Earlier, before operation peanut turned into a genuine beer conflict, someone had yelled at me, when I turned around, 'nice hair.' so I retorted 'nice job'. I had so many directions I wanted to go if they took the bait. 'I can tell by looking at you that you hate your job.' or, if they had asked me what I did I was going to say 'it doesn’t matter, we're not hiring janitors.' And after launching the 7 dollar beer, I wanted to say, 'I hope your food stamps pay for that,' or, 'you've wasted all that money, now I’ll have to pay your mom extra to clean my toilets.'

Going to Yankee stadium is no fun. I’ve now been there 3 times, 3 alcs games vs. the sox. Games 2 and 7 last year, game 1 this year. You know, it's no fun.

God, I wish I was there last night.

Game 2 simply sucked. I don't know if I can ever forgive Pedro for that daddy comment. Whatever infinitesimal leverage we have when arguing with Yankees fans was completely ripped away when he said that. And to hear them ridicule our hall of famer like that was a stab in the heart. The fact that I paraded around the streets of Brooklyn chanting 'who's your daddy' last night, at the top of my voice, did do something to assuage that. At the time, however, that was a mere daydream.

Game 3 sure seemed like a must win at the time. All day long, I was doing great work. In my spare time, I’ve been working on this paper that's not for class, but I’m hoping is my first published paper. Its up to about 50 pages, and I think its good. I was having great insights, making great progress, feeling really good about myself, and then 8 o’clock rolls around. Time to get my heart stepped on and kicked in the balls. Fantastic. I’m supposed to stop my brain in the middle of its actualization and revert to primitive tribal emotions, only to be destroyed and humiliated? 19-8? Are you fucking kidding me?

As a result, I guess I kind of bailed. I admit it. It just didn't seem fair that I should stop all this great progress I was making, work that was uniquely my own, and emotionally submit to a situation over which I had no control. I had to block it out, I just had to.

So I watched game 4 under my blanket with the sound off. Not hearing the silence of fenway, not hearing Joe Buck call another Yankee hit, somehow made it less real. I don't know if this is because of the auditory associations I have with Yankee stadium, or because with the sound off it just looks like another game, without the postseason roar of communal lust. I wasn't going to let them steal another night of brain from me, so I tried to comfort myself by reading a treatise on the unreality of matter during the game, naturally, in order to convince myself that this wasn't real, and it didn't matter. Although I picked up a few more expository moves, the self-delusion proved stronger yet again. It was real, and it mattered. Oh, it mattered.

The contingencies were felt. In game 1, I believe, we had the tying runs on base, with Bill Mueller up. He hit a ball sharply up the middle, and Rivera made the stab and started the 1-6-3 DP, game over. This time, game 4, Roberts steals, and Mueller again hits it up the middle, this time just by the frantic grab of Rivera. Tie game. And we won that one.

Game 5 I actually had to miss some of. I had a class presentation to do. So I watched the beginning of the game at a bar by school, ducked out with the score 2-1 us, gave my presentation, spontaneously snapped off a remarkably witty and biting zinger at the expense of the most influential philosopher of this generation, who is a prof at my school, and bolted out of class, and back to the bar.

We’re down 4-2, now in the 7th. A bunch of asshole corporos are being idiots and talking shit, not knowing who's pitching or what positions various players play, yet feeling superior and deserving nonetheless. After a sox strikeout, they yell 'sit down', and pump their fists. So finally, when senor October comes through yet again, in the 14th, we start screaming and I yell 'sit down' in the direction of those stupid motherfuckers. One of them, dressed in his corporo gear, starts towards me, screaming drunkenly that they were going to kick our asses, that we're a bunch of losers, that the red sox suck, that Boston sucks. So I cut in and say 'yeah, I know, and I suck too, I really suck. Your job is better than mine, you have a nicer shirt than I do.' he's taken off guard, and noticing that I’m wearing a turtleneck and a (not-baseball) cap, says 'well, you have a cap, and. you're a beatnik!' I laugh, and yell, 'you're a suit!' so he yells that the Yankees are better, and so I say, 'c'mon, suit, market it at me. Hey, it's human resources calling... you suck!' I wanted to say 'don't fight, you'll lose your 401K', but he's busy being restrained by his friends, and I’m trying to figure out whether I should dodge or punch first. I remained content to chant "MVP" for senor October.

What is there to say about game 6? Words cannot express how amazing schilling was. Although I will note that before they reversed the a-rod cheated call, I thought I was going to vomit. It would have been tying run on second, 1 out, with Sheffield and Matsui coming up. Not that those fuckers actually could hit when it counted.

A-rod is a cheater and a choker, a 25 million dollar player whose teams get better when he leaves, and worse when he arrives. Fuck that motherfucker.

Which of course brings us to last night.

The Sox had runners on 1st and second, and the hitter chopped one foul up the third base line. A-rod made the play, and in case it was fair, went to tag third- but rather than stepping on the bag, he hit it with his glove. I yelled "why don't you knock the bag away, you fucking cheater!"

The sox actually did it. I’m still looking for the Yankees, because they didn't even show up to game 7. They didn't even make a game of it. It was over in the second inning.

We spilled out onto the streets, chanting 'Yankees suck', because now it’s true, and 'who's your daddy'. Dismayed and lost Yankee fans looked at us pathetically, although a couple thought to yell. 'Go back to Boston', which was met with the gleeful rejoinder 'oh, we'll go back to Boston... for the world series!'

As we're parading down the street, chanting 'who's your daddy?', and 'go play golf!', and getting cheers from apartment windows and honks from motorists, a girl comes running up to us, flailing violently, kicked drew in the balls and punched me in the face. She’s a spoiled bitch like the rest of them. I laughed at her. It was funny, after all.

Will someone make a t-shirt: 'I went to Yankee stadium and all I got was this a.l. pennant'?

And to cap it off, as I was stepping out the door of the bar to go home, I turned back in and screamed 'Yankees suck, Yankees suck!' everyone joined in, naturally, and I walked out of the bar, with that brand new truth ringing in my ears.

I’m not going to try and describe the feelings. I think we all experienced joy and vindication and pride and, well, everything good. We suffered, we earned, we accomplished, we didn't choke, and we humiliated the Yankees. We showed them what its like. The rivalry is forever changed. We’ve wiped away all those 26 rings, because something happened that's never happened in baseball history, a choke that even the red sox never managed, and it was the Yankees, collapsing in unprecedented and remarkable fashion, at the hands of the red sox. They can 1918 us all they want, but they can never, never undo what happened this year.

Who’s your fucking daddy now, you stupid motherfuckers! We went into your house and pissed on your rug, and their ain't nothin you can do about it. Who’s the red sox now? How do you like it?

Ahh, sweet, sweet victory. Unexpected, impossible, miraculous, gritty, amazing victory.

All the insults, the yelling, the abuse, the fights, the having to risk my neck with all these drunk idiots to stick up for my team, the constant looking out of the corner of my eye for projectiles and fists, I don't like this stuff. I try to glam it up in my storytelling, but I wish they would all fuck off. And now they will. We win. They lose.

I want to buy t-shirts. T-shirts commemorate. And now Yankee fans can go commiserate.

Oh yeah, and fuck themselves.

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