The enduring memory I have of Game 7 at Yankee Stadium is of Jorge Posada.
Jorge Posada hits a bloop double to center field. The ball arcs lazily down toward the grass. Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny Damon converge on it. The ball arcs lazily down toward the grass. Right in that same spot, Johnny Damon had made the final out of the bizarre Game 6 the night before. The ball arcs lazily down toward the grass. Jorge rounds first base. Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny damon converge on it. The ball arcs lazily down toward the grass.
The air was thick that night. From the seventh inning on, though it sounds trite, everything actually happened in slow motion. That ball arced through the air like a knife through apple pie, drawing the strange, goopy air down with it. That ball arced through the air toward the grass for about thirty minutes (Pedro Martinez had been on the mound for days, and, well, Grady Little is still walking back toward the dugout down there).
And my friends and I screamed, "No! No! No! No! No!"
Unfortunately, it took Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny Damon about thirty minutes and three seconds to get there. The ball fell into the space between them, bounced once, rolled. Bernie Williams and then Hideki Matsui crossed the plate, tying Game 7.
And my friends and I screamed, "NO!!!!!!!!!"
Jorge Posada stomped on second base, which coincidentally had my heart inside it.
And then--and this is what I remember the most--he clenched his fists at his sides and hollered, roared in primal victory so loud that veins stood out on his neck. He leaned down to untie his ankle guard, trying to regain his professionalism, and couldn't contain himself. Straightening up again, he yelled again--"Yahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!" and clapped his hands, palms so wide open his fingers were convex, slapping his hands together so hard it would have been comical had my very being not been utterly crushed.
Perhaps this is why Jorge is my least favorite Yankee of all time.
Somewhere in Texas, Alex Rodriguez, the Best Player in Baseball, was watching the game on television. I can see him sitting in silence, the light of the television reflected in his strange green eyes. I can see him whisper, "Wow." I can see him deciding then and there to change history.
That game was awful. This is the first time I've been able to bring myself to talk about it in detail. This does not mean I'm over it.
I wonder if there's anyone who can really appreciate what it was like to be a Red Sox fan that night besides other Red Sox fans. I think that there might not be. All I can really say about it is that it is the most pain I have ever felt in relation to something in which I was not directly involved.
In some ways, not being involved made it worse. The helplessness of it. The grief boiling up with no outlet. The anger with nowhere to escape. The torture of just having to sit and watch.
Yes, Game 7 was awful in that way. But as time goes by--and this does not mean I'm over it--I have come to appreciate the ways in which it was awful in the traditional sense of the word: awe-ful.
It was what Curt Schilling described to Sports Illustrated as "East Coast Baseball", what a tongue-in-cheek advertisement in the 70's called "The Wednesday Night Fight," what elsewhere in sports has simply been termed "a rivalry." But none of those phrases is enough to describe what happened on October 16, 2003. Or, for that matter, October 21, 1975, or October 25, 1986. I've come to think of what happened on those dates--and many others like them that my Sox myopia keeps me ignorant of--as Apocalyptic Baseball.
Apocalyptic Baseball is what happens when baseball becomes more than a game, more than a sport, more than a pastime. Apocalyptic Baseball is when things happen on a field that are simply inexplicable, and yet resonate profoundly with all the inexplicable things about life itself. Apocalyptic Baseball is somewhere between Shakespearean tragedy and stone-age warfare, refinement and brutality, pattern and chaos, all coming together to make your pupils dilate and your palms sweat and your mouth go dry and you know that even though it's only a game, if the Yankees win, you will literally die right where you sit.
It'll happen twelve more times this season, starting with tomorrow night.