Like a heroin addict denied her fix, this entire weekend I languished without access to my computer or the Internet while the friend of mine who built this beast attempted to wrangle its corrupt hard drive.
By mid-Saturday I was experiencing all the symptoms of physical withdrawal, including craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes and goose bumps.
By this morning, I had taken to sitting down occasionally in my computer chair and pounding aimlessly on the disembodied keyboard, as if it would magically conjure up the CPU.
I tell you, it was ugly.
Among the worst issues I faced during my weekend of enforced computational abstinence was the inability to blog here about the absolute gem of a Sox game Friday night.
The last two games, I've been aware of, but the first game of the interleague series against the Pirates I finally, for once, got to sit down and watch--really watch, no distractions, just me and my eyeballs and the TV.
It was a good game to pick for undivided attention.
This was the kind of game that I wrote about hoping to see in person someday:
A game like July 24th. A game marked with a walkoff home run or a clutch double-play or a bases-loaded strikeout to end an inning. A squeaker, in other words. A barn-burner. A tight one. A game where flagging down the peanut guy is the absolute last thing to cross your mind. A game where all 35,000-odd stay planted unless they’re jumping up to scream in triumph when a ball falls into the seats or the outfield for a base hit.
If you'll indulge me in a small aside...
My father and I were watching the final round of the US Open today. Well, he was watching it, and since it was his house and his TV and Father's Day, I sort of didn't have much choice. Golf is a game that so bores me that I become openly hostile. I see little difference between watching golf and watching the grass on the greens grow. But, I started talking to my dad about what was going on, asking him what words like "bogey" and "birdie" meant, and it was interesting in that useless-Jeopardy-knowledge kind of way.
Tiger Woods muffed two putts in a row on the 17th hole (I cannot for the life of me believe I am actually typing this). My dad vocalized accordingly.
"Geez, Tiger, you suck," I moaned sarcastically.
The conversation turned philosophical quickly at that point as Tiger stalked around the green, squatting and peering and all but whipping out a slide rule.
"Christ almighty, it's not a space shuttle launch," I cried. "It's just putting a little white ball in a little hole."
"Hey," my father said indignantly. "Try letting someone tell you that baseball's just a bunch of guys hitting a little ball with a--"
"BASEBALL IS AN ALLEGORY FOR THE HUMAN CONDITION," I hollered. "GOLF IS STUPID."
So, irrationality aside...
Friday's game was one of the instances where I feel like my description above actually contains a kernel of truth beneath its hyperbole.
What I especially loved about the game was its sense of redemption, in the play and persons of Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and Jason Varitek.
It was Johnny Damon who let Daryle Ward's double to left center drop behind him to continue Wade Miller's agony in the first inning.
It was Jason Varitek who threw the ball into center field on Ryan Doumit and Rob Mackowiak's improbable double steal to round out said agony.
And Kevin Millar was groan-inducing at the plate, posting a nice goose-egg for himself with nary a walk to show until the very end of the game.
Oh, and there was also Mark Bellhorn. The Bell stormed out onto the field that night, it seems, with every intention of showing me up for my comment on Surviving Grady naming him as "the biggest obstacle to the Sox repeating as World Champs in 2005." And most of the time--I said most of the time--it worked.
The Bellhorn gaveth and the Bellhorn tooketh away. On the one hand, his home run to erase the disastrous first for the Sox made choirs of angels sing. He made several lovely plays at second.
On the other hand, he killed a fledgling rally in the bottom of the fourth, and made a few wince-inducing errors as well.
But it all came together, didn't it? Like a piece by Mozart--reminding me, actually, of the way Salieri describes his manuscript in Peter Schaeffer's Amadeus:
...music finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase, and the structure would fall.
Jason Varitek returned to the fold with his spectacular play at the plate, assisted by a throw from Manny Ramirez in semi-deep left field that was enough to make a grown man weep.
Varitek, lunging onto his right leg, dragged his left behind him so that it formed a red-guarded barricade across the plate, and Jack Wilson, trying to score from second on a Freddy Sanchez single, tripped over it and went sprawling, his flailing limbs scuffling the dirt and never even brushing the plate. Varitek turned, looming over him before he could recover, and finished him off with a tag to the thunderous ovation of Fenway and to my frenzied screams from the living room of my apartment.
They replayed that putout at least a dozen times between the game and post-game, but really, I could still be watching it and not be bored.
Jack Wilson represented what would have been the winning run. Displace one throw, and there would be diminishment. Displace one leg, and the structure would fall.
And that ninth inning--I have seen few better. I continue to feel personally vindicated whenever Keith Foulke performs up to expectations (as at times I felt personally beseiged during his struggles). And then--credit where credit is due--I have seen few better at-bats than the one put in my Kevin Millar to lead off the bottom of that exquisite ninth. It was as close to heroic as a single at-bat in, of course, a silly game can be. Millar, eyes bugging, appeared through sheer frustration and force of will to continue the battle against Pirates' reliever Rick White*, finally fisting a ground-rule double into the right-field corner.
Sometimes I hardly know what to make of Millar. 5 times out of every 10 he makes you want to rip your own face off watching him. Four of the other times, he does ok. The tenth, though...the tenth, he gets a clutch walk off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of an elimination game, or puts in an absolutely incomprehensible at-bat to begin a walkoff rally, and he feels not just ok but the key, the essential puzzle piece, the cornerstone of something huge.
In a game where "great" hitters still miss at least six times out of every ten, I suppose Millar can be considered valuable, if intensely aggravating at times.
Then, delicate, tiptoeing, tightrope walking, like that Mozart rondo hanging together and rounding back into its final cadence, Jason Varitek laid down a bunt that was supposed to be a sacrifice, but he was spared on an error by White; Bill Mueller was intentionally walked; Mark Bellhorn grounded into a fielder's choice that cut down Kevin Youkilis (running for Millar) at the plate, but it was ok, because here came Johnny Damon, bouncing a ridiculous single into center field, to score who but our great Captain, sprinting homeward on his Thighs of Steel. The kind of ending that pleases, regardless of repetition.
In musical terms, I 6/4, V, I. Sol-Do. The end. Finis. Ta-da! Amen. ___________________________________
* Who, I decided, I would nickname "Snake Eyes" if he were on my team, for his double-zeroes and Alan-Embree-like demeanor.