I Went Down, Down, Down, and the Flames Went Higher
I had a dream the other night that I've been waiting for the Yankees series to share with you. It was set in an Ivy League-looking classroom--Oriental rugs, dark-finished furniture, wobbly natural-glass windows, creaking floors, a gigantic desk presiding over the front of the room.
The dream began inside the room. It wasn't till later that I saw what was outside of it. Fidgeting at my desk, I opened and closed a looseleaf binder full of notes I didn't remember taking. There was a shiny textbook, binding unbroken, sitting on top, cover side down. I turned it over, but there was no name on the front of the book. It was black, with bright streaks of color running across it haphazardly. It was the actual cover of the book, not a book cover like they made you put on your borrowed textbooks in high school, but there was no title on the book. I opened the book, and the pages were full of engineering data and highly complex mathematics. There was barely any English text in the book at all. This was steadily turning into a nightmare.
Then the door open, and what walked through confirmed that it was, indeed, a nightmare.
George Steinbrenner was going to be my professor.
Picture the biggest son of a bitch of a professor you've ever had in your life. Picture the guy who marked you down on a major exam for a typo. The guy who greeted your every earnest attempt at an answer with a sarcastic, cutting put-down. The guy who commented condescendingly on every paper. Everyone has had this professor. George Steinbrenner, in this dream, was the grandaddy of them all.
Striding around the room like a Nazi commandante, he barked out his expectations for the class. Nothing less than perfection, every time. A precise 100% on every test; any other grade was an automatic F. I began to sweat. That was one thing with any kind of liberal arts / humanities for me. But this was math. The best I've ever been able to do in math or science is B-plus. Bust my ass, slack off, didn't matter--I was assigned a math / science grade of B-plus in the womb.
I started to hyperventilate, then trying to cover up the fact that I was hyperventilating, which only made me hyperventilate more, which made me afraid that Steinbrenner would notice, which made me hyperventilate more.
Which got the attention of the student in front of me. He was wearing a white t-shirt and a gold chain glinted along the back of his neck. He was wearing a dark blue baseball cap. His hair was black and his skin coffee-colored. He turned around, hearing my gasps for air and smiled a cocky smile.
"Get away from me!" I hissed. His face was terrifying, especially his dead blue eyes.
He chuckled to himself as Steinbrenner roared on in the background. "Don't worry," he drawled, snapping his gum. "I've taken this class six times. No sweat."
"Okay," I did my best to sound brave. "Now you extra-special have to get away from me."
He snorted and turned around without another word. With him gone, I did my best to keep a straight face for the rest of Steinbrenner's tirade.
Finally the class let out, and I was standing in an office directly outside the classroom--was this Steinbrenner's private torture chamber classroom?--arguing with the secretary of wanting out of this class, and...end of dream.
The Sox are failing Steinbrenner's class. Oh, man. They are the kids you're glad you're not as you watch them, dull panic unmistakable on their faces, stride into class each day empty-handed and sweating.
Last night, with the score tied 1 to 1 in the second inning, Steve interrupted my incoherent swearing at Kevin Millar's pop-up by shutting off the TV and saying, calmly, "We are going to go to dinner. And we are not going to think about Them"--there's a "Them" that only refers to the Red Sox--"anymore tonight."
In the car, he clicked the radio off. "We're not going to listen here, either."
So we went to Boston Market, and ate some chicken, and went to K's and watched The Blues Brothers on AMC, and drove back, and when I sat down to look at the Sox site, I found the headline, "Millar hits three, but Sox edged in 9th."
Ouuuch, just like E.T. would say. Ouuuuch, Ouuuch, Elliooot.
Somewhere else I saw the headline, "A-Rod hits game-winning single in 9th" and two thoughts occupied my head at the same time, elbowing one another for space. The first was, Why didn't I watch?!?! as if watching would have prevented it from happening. And the other was, Damn, I'm glad I didn't watch that.
What was the reaction of the Fenway crowd when that happened? A gasp? A howl? A shriek? Silence? Booing? What do you do when you stand within 100 feet of such a thing? When the players can hear what you will scream, what's the one thing you choose to say to them? How do you react when you leave the ballpark? Drinking? Riots? A dejected, silent march to the subway?
I wasn't there with my fellow members of Red Sox Nation, even in spirit, last night; for that, I am sorry. And I am sorry for all my fellow fans today. Maybe our "Fortune .500" team deserves this, but we absolutely don't.