Screencap from Surviving Grady
I now know two things about Josh Beckett that I didn't know before today's game. Thing one is that he appears to have shaved his chin pubes into the shape of an arrow pointing up at his bottom lip. I noticed this during his postgame press conference, so it may just have been the camera angle, being wet from the shower / his tobacco juice, etc., but that's sure what it looked like.
Thing two is that we can add another word into the Beckett anti-vocabulary, as it were, alongside "emphatic": "alterations." Also during said postgame press conference, Josh was attempting to describe the work he'd been doing on the side to continue to perfect his mechanics when he first substituted the word "altercations". Then he stopped, blinked a few times, stammered, and finally substituted "alternate things" (Pronounced "thaaangs"). Throughout, his expression never wavered from its default vapid, somehow rhythmic look--90% of the time, his jaw is working in a steady rhythm, on a piece of gum or dip, but in this case it was, I noticed, his eyes, which every so often would blink for a steady measure or two of perfect four-four time while the rest of him stood completely still. This usually was accompanied by his patented "I'm not listening" face. I honestly don't know how any of those reporters can stand to try to interview him, which perhaps is the point.
I don't know what he's like with his teammates, but from my vantage point, looking through NESN's lens, the more I watch him, the more questions I seem to have. Like, for the love of God, where were the sunglasses now that the postgame interview was taking place during the daytime? What's up with that arrowhead necklace he wears? Who the hell is this "buddy" of his "from back home" who calls him up to give him shit about his pitching mechanics at random times? Why are his eyes blinking like that?!?!
My dad couldn't resist commenting today, either, on Joshie's deeply bizarre facial mannerisms.
"I'll tell ya," my dad said, as Josh took a few zombielike steps toward home plate after blowing away Adrian Gonzalez to end the fifth. "That puss on him, he just looks like such a little punk."
It's true. In the dugout following the strikeout to Gonzalez, Beckett was shown screaming in the direction of the field, and I couldn't quite make out what he was saying beyond the fact that it was liberally sprinkled with f-bombs.
One wild curveball in the sixth inning just barely missed Khalil Greene, but with the Sox clinging to a one-run lead and one out, no way could Beckett have been trying to hit him, my dad said. Then the camera zoomed in on Beckett's face as he gloved a return throw from Varitek and stopped to inspect the ball, staring it down and sort of...baring his teeth. I'm not even really sure what it was, but my dad interpreted it as a kind of half-crazy smile, and then mused aloud, "Although with that puss on him, you never can tell. Look at how he looked right there! Like, 'how'd you like that one, buddy?'"
Without the benefit of instant replay on account of a facial expression (and lacking a TiVo, which would have allowed us to review the evidence, but that's probably for the best, as the combination of me, my dad, a Red Sox game in which both Josh Beckett and Manny Ramirez were starters, and a TiVo would undoubtedly have stretched nine innings into a six-hour Supreme Court deliberation), we'll never really know for sure. But shortly after the Greene near-beaning, with a 13-pitch perfect sixth inning capped off by a flyout on the first pitch to Russell Branyan, Josh walked off the field with an unmistakable smirk curling itself around his perpetually-chewing jaws, staked to a one-run lead but back in control.
"If he was playing for the Yankees, you would hate him," quoth my dad. These have in the past been fightin' words, but in this instance, I could only nod agreement.
"Sometimes I'm not even sure how I feel about him as a Red Sox."
At this point, though, whether it's for positive or negative reasons, I am so morbidly fascinated by the many inscrutable faces of Josh Beckett--alternately attracted and repulsed, it's that elemental a phenomenon--that my obsession has begun to suck in those around me. During my weeks on the road not one but two people made sure to tell me of the latest Beckett news via email as updates became available. One was my dad, who sent game updates during his starts, and the other was Sam, who sent me an all-time-classic email last week with the subject line "josh quote" and the message:
Hazel Mae: So Todd, you said that Beckett, that he's an even bigger redneck than you.
Todd Helton: *super emphatic* Yes.... YES.
That may be saying something, because Todd Helton in this interview appears to be borderline, er... differently enabled.
I kind of can't stop wondering what mental image or memory might have occurred to Helton between the first "Yes" and the second "...YES." Also, receiving both Sam's message and one from my dad that began with "Josh is into the fifth..." within a few minutes of each other did make me a bit worried that maybe my sanity has finally, officially slipped this season.
But still I found myself in the living room with my dad today, meticulously comparing Beckett's on-mound antics with Papelbon's when he came in to close the game, as I remain convinced they are quietly trying to out-diva one another when it comes to Game Face. Again, my dad and I were in agreement: Papelbon has definitely been stepping up the glove pounding and fist pumping and yelling when he's on the mound. Probably his coldest move right now, though, is the way he's taken to shaking out his right arm as he turns away from a hitter he's just struck out, shrugging his right shoulder as if to say, "Phew, felt that one a little bit...but not too much," while the gun's still blinking 96. Also we agreed that you still gotta give most of the style points to Jonathan right now. Joshie's mostly just weird and awkward.
Speaking of which, I noticed that during post-game handshakes Josh gave Jonathan a weird, awkward little hug. One of those "I'm huggin' ya, but I'm hittin' ya" hugs. Which must be the pitching-diva equivalent of a snotty air-kiss. Sweetie. Dahling.
It's only a matter of time before this thing reaches dance-off proportions. In my IBW, anyway.