Last night my fiancee Steve and I went out to dinner at the Outback with my parents; while we waited for a table at the restaurant, Chien-Ming Wang lost his perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout with one swing of the bat from Ben Broussard.
Once again I was of two minds; part of me always delights in the vanquishing of our enemies to the south, even if it's only mental (and let's remember Wang did retain the win; as long as the Yankees recieve even these minimal infusions of good pitching they will continue to warrant our vigilance, no matter how far down in the cellar they may be).
Another part of me felt badly for Wang just on a human level. I had even been moved by the way FOX had handled the broadcast of the tense moments in the top of the seventh, when Wang had a 3-2 count on Raul Ibanez and then somehow got him to strike out swinging at ball four. For once, the FOX announcers shut up entirely, and the camera zoomed in on one face after another: Jeter, chewing gum pensively and trying not to look at Wang; A-Rod, watching intently at third; Matsui, stone-faced in the outfield; then back to Wang again.
"Come on, kid," my dad said softly. Yes, somehow we were rooting for him. The game was long out of reach for the Mariners anyway, and as my dad put it, "You gotta root for the perfect game."
But then Broussard ruined it all as we waited for a table and watched on the bar TV, and before the eighth inning was over Wang was walking off with his head hung low. There wasn't even much of a noticeable ovation from the Bronx crowd. FOX, meanwhile, had disgraced itself showing highlights of David Wells' and David Cone's perfect games before the eighth had even started, in the most appalling instance of broadcasting jinx I've ever witnessed. At least part of me still felt a little sad. For Wang, anyway.
After that, we watched Street Sense come from what looked like dead last to win the crown decisively in the final lengths of the Kentucky Derby. That horse was actually cantering early in the race--the gait below a gallop, the equivalent of a car that can match a certain speed in a lower gear than all the others. The jockey was clearly holding his head for the first three-quarters of the race, and then just let him go in the home stretch, like stomping on the gas pedal, and Street Sense blew all those other nags away "like they all had anchors thrown out," as my dad put it. It was a thrilling race, with a plot that reminded me of the Black Stallion novels I devoured as a child.
"That is the Jonathan Papelbon of horses," I said as Street Sense's jockey grinned a mud-splattered grin and hoisted his riding crop as his mount slowed to a trot for the victory lap.
Which led to a discussion of Papelbon, which led to a discussion of Joshua and Jeremy Papelbon, and the idea Julia and I came up with last season of a Papel-farm, where Buddhist monks teach Papelbon clones baseball, kung fu, and Zen meditation.
"Not all of 'em would be characters," my dad pointed out, citing the dystopic possibilities of such mad science, like the kind of flawed and deformed results of factory farming on an industrial scale we've seen because of my sister's occupation as a veterinary student.
"You know, like the two-headed calves," is how my father put it*.
"A two-headed Papelbon," I said, half in awe and half in horror.
All of which led us to speculate on even further Frankensteinian possibilities should this type of futuristic science ever be applied to baseball players. "What if you could splice together a clone of Beckett and a clone of Papelbon?" I said. "What pitches would it have? A curve or a split? Maybe both?"
"That thing would definitely have two heads," my dad said.
"A two-headed Becklebon," offered my mother.
"Man," Steve said after a short silence. "You could never steal a base on that thing."
All of which was more fun to think about than the eventual outcome of the game, a 2-1 loss to the Twins in their stupid Dome. Tavarez held up nicely against his third Cy Young opponent on the season (which makes you wonder, is God punishing him?), and in fact the Sox pitching staff combined to let across just two earned runs. Unfortunately, the Twins staff let up only one.
But it's Sunday now, and as the song goes, you can bet that I'm all right. We got Big Papi's book Friday night and I've had a hard time putting it down ever since. Co-writer Tony Mazz had a brilliant idea, I think, when he decided simply to transcribe the book in Ortiz's voice, leaving in all the "bros" and "let me tell yous", and keeping the right pacing and cadence--paragraphs of explanation followed by short, one-line summary statements for dramatic effect. I only wish there was an audio version read by Big Papi himself.
Meanwhile, the big daddy Curt Schilling is on the bump for the Sox today (**). Ken Macha still somehow keeps showing up on my television, but otherwise, I'd say things are looking good. You know, as good as things can look without a two-headed Becklebon on the team.
* Here I could link to a photo as well as any one of a number of utterly disturbing YouTube videos, but if you're really that interested in seeing a two-headed calf, you can just as easily Google it yourself.