We're right in the thick of it with football--normally I don't have time for baseball homesickness to hit me like a punch in the gut until after the Super Bowl. But what can I say. New Year's Day for me was not, as I had for some reason expected, a day of bright-eyed hope and resolution-making optimism but a bleary-eyed stumble through ennui, angst, and the MBTA. My single accomplishment yesterday was getting home from the place I'd partied the night before--and this I did not accomplish until it was dark out again. As I sat slackjawed in front of the tube last night, it was utterly incomprehensible to me that I would be back at work today.
Meanwhile, NESN happened to be showing a classic game, part of its "Walk Off Sox" series. This one was July 11, 2004, before all the big stuff that season got going, the game where Manny Ramirez completely effed up in the outfield and Papi had to save the day with a walkoff single. The game was against the Dodgers, and Dave Roberts is still in the visitor's dugout.
I tuned in just as the top of the ninth got going. Keith Foulke came jogging out of the bullpen, cocky and strong and fresh as a daisy, ready to kick ass and take names...which he might have done to the tune of a save had Manny not been playing the outfield, as Bill Simmons once described it, like a drunk man trying to run away from the police.
I watched through the egregious error and the redemptive hit from Papi, but really, the part that got me was when I first started watching in the top of the ninth, watching the way Foulke leaned back, all swagger and narrowed eyes, to stare in at the batter, listening to the warm applause wash over the park at each swing and miss at a nasty changeup.
I still don't feel like I've gotten quite off the runway of 2007 yet. I'm not really one who struggles with winter and cold--for me it's not a matter of yearning for summer weather but of having a tough time yesterday for whatever reason: fatigue, hangover, impending end of vacation, whatever you want to call it. But that game made me feel just for a few minutes like it was already the second half of baseball season. Like I could smell the popcorn and beer and cigarettes and hot-asphalt smells of Fenway. And I could at least picture a day, right then, when bright-eyed hope and resolution-making optimism would seem appropriate.
Like I said, I don't normally start pining for baseball this early. But, man...how long until pitchers and catchers report?