Then, after a few minutes of wallowing in bed, dozing, a thought broke through my fog: "Aren't you EXCITED?!?!?"
Then I remembered. And I was out of bed like a shot.
An hour, give or take, later, and I was parking the car in Brookline, on the T, then on the T with Kristen and Amy, who happened to get onto my train.
We stood on the corner by the Cask and Flagon and marvelled at the sheer number of Yankees fans present.
"We are infested," I declared. "We are overrun."
What looked to be a majority of the Yankees fans in attendance were wearing the following T-shirt:
"There's no better feeling than a ring on your finger.
The Yankees have more rings than you can shake a Sock at.
26 to be exact.
Oh...one more thing.
It won't be 86 years until our next one."
I have one thing to say to this monosyllabic display.
In case we are like the Yankees fans and can't read, there's also an illustration showing 26 rings with the Yankees logo on them next to six rings with the Red Sox logo on them.
I mean, at least 50 percent of Yankees fans I saw at the park yesterday were wearing this T-shirt.
I sat with Catriona in the grandstand, behind one such t-shirt wearer. "Look at that douche-bag T-shirt," she said.
It was the perfect description for it. It was, indeed, a douchebag T-shirt if I ever saw one.
Given that this is not their park, jerseys, I'm fine with. Number T's are great. Even if there are a preponderance of Sheffield T-shirts. But this piece of crap was just that. Crap. And if HWL want to ban the "Yankees suck" paraphernalia at Fenway, that shit shouldn't be allowed either.
Then again, I did get to witness a silent encounter between Douche Bag T-shirt Wearer (DBTW) and a guy in the "JETER DRINKS WINE COOLERS" T-shirt, which was classic indeed.
I also had the misfortune to sit next to a Yankees fan. A female Yankees fan. A female Yankees fan whose Red Sox boyfriend (Sir, have you no decency?) had to explain stuff to her like what "a game and a half out of first place" means. A female Yankees fan whose Red Sox boyfriend had to explain stuff to her like what "a game and a half out of first place" means, who CLAPPED HER HANDS IN MY FACE whenever something bad happened to the Red Sox. A female Yankees fan whose Red Sox boyfriend had to explain stuff to her like what "a game and a half out of first place" means, who CLAPPED HER HANDS IN MY FACE whenever something bad happened to the Red Sox, and weakly and timidly clapped said hands in my face in rhythm with the several "Let's Go Yankees" chants a few DBTWs started on occasion, but apparently didn't have the sack to participate in the chant itself.
I would rather have sat next to a girl in full regalia, A-Rod jersey, battered Yankees hat, hell, even a DBT, hollering her fool head off throughout the Yankees' six-run fourth, taunting and baiting me with stats, arguing OBP and OPS and acting like I'd blasphemed the Holy Ghost if I suggested that Jeter is overrated as a fielding shortstop--in other words, a Yankees fan the way I'm a Red Sox fan--than some milquetoast know-nothing who appeared to be cheering for the Yankees only because it made her MORE obnoxious in general.
I seriously wanted to start shit with her a couple of times, but managed to contain myself to dirty looks--remembering what my mother had told me on the phone earlier: "Don't show up on TV or the radio. Or at least not for anything negative."
Really, though, to bring the "Yankees fans blow" segment of this post to a close, the absolute winner DBT I saw (although perhaps we could classify this as a FTT, a Fuck Tard T) was actually after the game, and since I can't find a picture of it online (its originators are obviously cowering with shame somewhere out in the world), I will have to bring myself to verbally describe it to you. It shows a dog, in a cage, on a crudely drawn pedestal type structure, that says "SECOND", and on a slightly higher crudely drawn pedestal there is a slightly misshapen muscular man peeing on the dog in the cage. The stream of pee is also blue. His pedestal says "FIRST".
Above this jaw-droppingly retarded illustration are the words "WE PISSED ON THE BIG DOGS."
I have no idea who said Big Dogs are. There is no indication whatsoever of Red Sox or any other team.
Below the illustration, however, was the phrase that earned it my blue-ribbon "You are a Fucktard" Award.
"NEW YORK YANKEES. CHAMPIONS WITH CLASS."
Just let that sink in.
I guess when some Yankees fans bray about "class", they really mean "no class at all, whatsoever."
To be fair, before the game started I stood out behind the bullpen for quite a while waiting to see the SPs warm up. And whoever else happened to be around. Ever since I watched Barry Zito warm up last year, I've tried like hell to stick around behind the bullpen long enough to watch that ball whine through the air. Unfortunately every time I've gone this year I've been opposed by Fenway Security staff, who tend to come to shoo people along just as the pitchers start throwing hard. I mean, just at the moment the ball starts to go "ZZZZ!" through the air, and I fumble with my camera and aim a perfect shot, there's some monkey man in my face hollering, "GO BACK TO YOUR SEATS PEOPLE, GOTTA GO BACK TO YOUR SEATS!"
I have asked, "Why?" but never gotten an answer.
While I was standing out in the driving sun for forty-five minutes waiting to watch Randy Johnson warm up, I stood next to two Yankees fans. Part of the time I stood with Kristen, who kindly babysat me after the rest of her party had gone up to their standing room seats on the Monster (her explanation? "Foulkie's on crutches, and he can't outrun you but so far.")
First Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams and someone we thought was Matsui but it turned out not to be, walked by the bleachers on their way to the batting cages.
I snapped pictures enthusiastically. The man next to me in the "JETER" jersey barely noticed. Who looked like a Yankees fan there?
Mariano Rivera came out a little later to do long-toss. Kristen and I made observations, including the fact that major-league warmups appear to be the same as Little League warmup drills.
"Makes sense," I said. "Fundamentally the game's the same. It's just the scale that's different."
Rivera backed up, closer and closer. His number 42 blazed white against the deep blue of his warmup jersey.
"I wonder if Yankees fans can recognize our guys just by their numbers like we can with theirs," Kristen said.
"I dunno," I said, tipping my head toward the JETER jersey wearer. "Why don't you ask."
Kristen was quiet. The JJW looked over at us for a moment. Silence.
Later, I made a foray. "Do you know who Rivera is throwing to?"
"No," the JJW said, squinting.
"Sturze, I think," his friend said.
"Ah," I nodded.
"Who is it?" Kristen asked.
"WOTS," I answered.
"Ah," she nodded.
It was strained...awkward...but civil. I noticed that the pinstripes on the Yankees jerseys look more blue up close. From far away they look black.
Rivera drew closer.
A man, who looked to be a photographer, wearing a green VARITEK jersey (complete with "C"), approached Rivera. They bantered. Rivera waved goodbye eventually with a grin. The man waved back. I remembered the sarcastic cheer on Opening Day for Rivera and his huge horsey grin in response.
"You know, if there's any Yankee I like, it's Rivera," I told Kristen. She agreed.
JJW looked at me.
Later, A-Rod came out, heading toward the batting cages.
"God, Kristen," I moaned, resting my sweaty head on the bullpen fence, "I haaate him. Haaate."
Then it was back to hostility. A-Rod was showered with jeers as he strolled through the green door in the wall.
Kristen eventually left, and I was by myself with JJW and friend. We stood together in silence for a long time, squinting out into the outfield. Now and again JJW and his friend would point and murmur something quietly.
"Did you guys come up from New York, or are you from around here?" I finally asked.
"I'm from New York," JJW said without looking. Then, nodding once toward his friend, he said, "He lives in Boston."
He said "Boston" like "Bwawwwstin."
"You been to Fenway before?" I said.
"Yeah, couple times," he said.
"I've actually never been to a Sox-Yankees game before," I said.
"Really?" he said mildly.
That was the end of that.
Catriona showed up, and when the monkey man came to shoo us away from the bullpen, we were obstinate cattle. We kept moving a few feet over, or stepping away from the fence only to go back again. Thanks to our obnoxiousness, we got to see Varitek stretch for a few minutes, and the grand entrance of Randy Johnson.
At first, hearing boos that could only mean his presence cascade out of the bleachers, I saw two men in shiny blue jackets heading for the bullpen, and knowing that the stars of each team are accompanied by a lackey as a general rule, like racehorses with "buddy horses", at first I presumed that one of them was Johnson.
"Hmm. That guy seems pretty short for--" I mused, snapping picture. It was then that I noticed, for the first time, the utterly impossible figure behind them. He was walking alone.
Saying Randy Johnson is "tall" is like saying the Grand Canyon is "fairly wide." It's like saying that relations between the Sox and Yankees are "not always pleasant." It is an understatement of truly epic proportions.
A more appropriate description would be "freak of Nature." I'm sorry, but it's true. Judging the proportions from where I was standing, I'd come up about to his hipbone. His legs just keep going up and up and up like the Twin Towers. His torso is an afterthought to the arms, which complement the legs in their simply incomprehensible length.
Reaching the bullpen and shrugging off his jacket, he began swinging said appendages as part of his warmup exercises. He had an armspan that reminded me of a pterodactyl. It looked as if he could, if he swung them the right way, accidentally wind up with an arm in a knot.
Very rarely does a celebrity, be they athlete, musician, actor, or politician, live up to their reputation, let alone exceed it. I have to say Randy Johnson is among the rare exceptions.
But then the monkey man was back. And he made himself completely clear this time--we were to get the fuck out of there without delay. This time, we really obeyed. Although I stopped for one last picture of Mel Stottlemyre before I left. He moved as I took the shot, but just before it, he looked up at me and we made eye contact for a long second.
You have to wonder what it's like for these guys, on either side, having to do their job every day surrounded by gawkers and naysayers and douche-bag t-shirt wearers all doing their thing, which is basically to get in their faces any way they can. It's not like those of us on the fan side act the way we do just to be obnoxious. I think the guys on the field side know it. But it probably doesn't make going about their daily business any easier.
In general, the energy in the ballpark was humming at an appreciably higher level than any other game I've been to (which is not to say that the energy at a "regular" home game is in any way low), but its overall demeanor was not negative. And it seemed concentrated more among the home crowd itself, as the game went along, than between the home and away factions.
In other words, I was irritated by some T-shirts and my Yankee seatmate, but mildly. Soon overwhelming both these things was the roaring, raging hysteria between the Sox fans and the field.
Have you ever ridden the waves at the beach? It's something I used to do quite a bit when I was a kid. My dad taught me to wait until a swell crested behind me, and then just before it broke, to turn my back to it and swim for all I was worth. Once I got the hang of it, I learned the peculiar euphoria of being picked up by the tide and flown for a few blind and blissful seconds till my knees scraped the sand in the shallows.
Several times as I stood with the rest of the ballpark, every single person there (at least, every person wearing red) booming "LET'S GO RED SOX" and clapping as hard as it's possible to clap, cupping our palms for maximum sound, I was reminded of riding the waves at the shore of the Atlantic, the oblivion of the salt water gurgling in my ears, eyes squeezed shut, carried along by a force so huge and alien I couldn't even comprehend the remote edge of it flinging me along like a rag doll now. That's how it was when, as if by some hidden signal, the crowd would stand and by some unspoken agreement either simply clap in rhythm, faster and faster until we broke into a crashing wave of applause, or begin another round of "LET'S GO..."
Of course, just as encounters with Yankees fans were not all douche-baggy, not all moments between myself, my fellow fans, and the Red Sox were euphoric.
The third inning, in particular.
It was interminable. The faraway windup and delivery at the plate was lost on us in our remote location, and the digital scoreboards were also invisible, so we were left, in the recesses of Section 4, to gauge what was happening by the lights on the Monster scoreboard, the three green for balls, the two red for strikes, the other two red for outs. It felt like we sat there for an hour and a half, watching those damned green lights come up one by one, over and over.
There'd be caught breath as another pitch sailed in. Silence. Booing from those closest to the action. And that fucking green light would blink on. And another. And another.
"Throw. A. Strike." moaned a fan behind me. My Yankee neighbor clapped her thin little brown hands in my face. It was dead-dog hot. It felt curiously like hell.
I mean, it went on and on. A-Rod's homer barely registered in the misery of those green lights. It felt for several moments like we wouldn't ever be leaving, like we'd reached some purgatory where green lights lit up over and over, each of them more excruciating than the last.
Finally the floundering Clement was pulled for Jermi Gonzalez, who put in a surprising performance over the next three innings, holding them down while we slowly ground out four runs to their six.
Unfortunately, you could tell from the very first inning after the Yankees fired up the merry-go-round that the offense was not going to be able to mount a comeback.
Bill Mueller swung at the second pitch and grounded out to third.
"That's what I like to see," I snapped. "Come out swinging. That's the way."
Just like Mark Bellhorn to hit a home run with no one on base. Really. Mark "Even a Stopped Clock" Bellhorn managed a home run, and I was there to see it (which, what are the odds?), and my only reaction was, he didn't even bat anyone else in. Figures.
Johnny Damon walked.
Nope. Renteria and Ortiz struck out. One measly run.
Manny Ramirez was the one who got our hopes up in the bottom of the fourth, smacking the second pitch into the Monster seats. Millar walked, and there we were on our feet again, hoping...hoping...
Jason Varitek struck out swinging. Okay...just one out...
Mirabelli singled to left field and as the ball dropped there was pandemonium. Here we go...here we go...
Then Bill Mueller, the ball dropped into center field and NOW WE'RE COOKING WITH GAS...
But Dale Sveum...Dale Sveum...
Millar was waved around third, then Sveum thought better of it and stopped him. Mirabelli and his piano, meanwhile, were charging, head down like a rhino, just charging, toward third and then hopefully beyond when Millar pulled up. Mirabelli runs slowly, but he corners like an oil tanker. By the time he brought his big body around and began building steam again toward second, Robinson Cano was waiting with the ball.
With two outs, Mark Goddam Bellhorn comes up again, and you just knew then that it was a lost cause. He struck out, predictably. Something was grinding us beneath its heel.
It was miserably hot, even under the grandstand roof. Sweat pouring, frustration building, I tore into my ballpark peanuts with renewed vigor, cracking their shells, my hands parching in the salt and dust, stuffing the meat of them in my mouth, chewing, repeat. This is why they serve peanuts at ballparks. They are excellent for nerves jangled ruthlessly by Dale Sveum.
The hijinks continued. I buried my face in my hands when Alan Embree was summoned from the bullpen, and then, with a fake throw to first that was ruled a balk, managed to allow a runner to advance without throwing a single pitch.
He gave up a run on an error by Ortiz (playing first with Millar in right, to keep Trot out of the lineup against a lefty, and, of course, damned if you do and damned if you don't), but other than that had a good inning. Especially for Alan Embree.
Timlin stood 'em up and sat 'em down.
But the offense was just awful. Where before their rallies had amounted to one measly run, from the bottom of the fifth on, they produced exactly none.
We kept hanging on, in the humid heat, watching the bullpen, for once, deliver decent results, and watching the bats go silent.
Then, of course, there was Curt Schilling.
I don't care what anyone thinks, when he walked out of the bullpen in the ninth I was on my feet. I'll always be on my feet for him.
I've never seen him play before in person. It was everything I hoped it'd be. I watched (snapping photos frantically) him pray behind the mound, fumbling with his cross necklace, then put it back under his jersey gently, turning, ready to go to war. I was far away, but I could see his expression, set, determined, nostrils flared, eyes huge.
Hideki Matsui never had a prayer. He was out on four pitches, two of them strikes he just looked at. The last he swung at, sealing his humiliation.
Curt finished him off and took his stroll around the mound. I was in stinky, sweaty grandstand heaven.
He started off Giambi with a strike (looking), and the Giambi flied out into the shift in center.
Bernie Williams swung and missed. The cheers were beyond even what had marked the game before. The energy was frenzied. I love that Curt does that to us. I love the way he whips up the crowd, and who cares if he loves it too?
Two of the dreaded green lights, but Williams swung again and missed, and then finally popped out. As the ball hit Bill Mueller's glove, Fenway Park exploded.
I still had the sinking feeling that Mo Rivera wasn't blowing any saves today, and I was right, but I'd finally gotten to see mo ghile mear pitch, and it, like Randy Johson's ridiculous gangliness, was beyond my wildest imaginings.
It was incredible, though, how hard I took the loss. How personally. In a way, of course, it makes sense for the Sox to have lost that game, because as I have always maintained, these two teams will always, but always, play to a draw unless a conclusion is forced. But, I don't know...I guess I felt like they should have won, just because I was there, and it was my first Yankees game.
It was all I could do not to shove a Yankees fan on my way out of Gate B. I wanted to hit somebody. Really.
Eventually, with some Gatorade, and later, approximately my weight in Kristen's ridiculously good taco dip, and a viewing of the Faith Rewarded DVD, I recovered my equilibrium, which is approximately when the fatigue and letdown hit me, and I said my goodbyes in Brookline.
I drove home, through Kenmore Square this time, past the darkened Citgo sign (did you know they shut it off at night?), and "tired" isn't the right word for it.