The last 24 hours has unleashed a torrent of Sox coverage and discussion, a fire hose it would be impossible to harness in one place. But I am so not done talking about the Red Sox and how awesome they are and how awesome that was. So here are a few more observations on last night, interspersed with a little scrapbook of some of the better things I've seen around the horn documenting the win.
First things first: I finally found a picture of Buelly from when he threw out the first pitch, on Boston.com:
I love Mike Lowell as much as the next person, but to say I still miss Buelly would be a gross understatement. And how many times must we tell him that the goatee must stay?
And Millar? Millar has officially gotten out of control. "He wants to be back here SO. BAD." My dad said, shaking his head as we watched the former No. 15 walk out onto the field in a gray shirt and jeans to throw out the first pitch of Game 7. And that was BEFORE Millar read the Sox lineup for the Fox broadcast.
Tito already said it perfectly:
“I don’t get it,” Francona said. “This is another one of those things where he can pull it off. He’s a member of the Baltimore Orioles, and he’s going to be spurring on the Red Sox and nobody is going to say a word.
“I love it, but I don’t get it."
Maybe nobody in Baltimore or Boston will say anything, but I think probably Trot Nixon is feeling the need to give him some information.
You know who I love? I love Jonathan Papelbon. I know. Shocka. But at this point, my love for Jonathan Papelbon has ballooned from approximately the size of the planet to the size of the solar system; by this point next week it could be equal to the dimensions of the Milky Way Galaxy. At the rate I'm going, by this time next year my adoration for Jonathan Papelbon will be equivalent to all the matter that has ever existed in the entire universe.
In other words, by this time a year from now, my love for Jonathan may have even begun to approach my sentiments toward Tom Brady. But that's another post for another time.
Right now, it's all about the Jonathan. And the awesomeness. The life-affirming awesomeness that is the man I call The Precious.
Each of the images above is its own little capsule of joy, but the one moment I still cannot get over for the life of me is this one:
Kristen has joked for years that Jason Varitek's victorious leaps onto Alan Embree and Keith Foulke at the close of the ALCS and World Series respectively was the chief contributing factor to their poor health and general inability to pitch thereafter. So when the onrushing freight train that is the celebratory Jason Varitek was headed directly for Jonathan Papelbon, I had a moment of panic. Not The Precious!!
And then, before Tek could even get there, Papelbon squatted down in his attempt to convey just how psyched he was, as Embree put it, "to hold that big boy in my arms." That gesture he made, the squatting, arms-wide-open "bring it on"...I just can. not. get. over it. It's at once so funny, and so touching, and so endearing, and so nostalgic because of the way it reminds me of Embree and Foulke and what they did that year...I just don't have adequate words to describe how it makes me feel to look at that picture. It has already become the iconic moment of the ALCS for me.
Best of all? In addition to the other ways in which Papelbon is an upgrade over his crushed predecessors on the mound, he also was the first to demonstrate an innate ability to handle the Varitek Pain Train. Once Tek leapt toward him, he met him with textbook lifting technique, using his legs and back to properly support 230 pounds of extremely happy catcher. In fact, Papelbon not only saw Tek's mighty tackle, he raised him a few seconds of being held aloft, which cannot be something Jason Varitek has experienced during adulthood.
You know who else I love? Dustin. fucking. Pedroia.
I still haven't quite found a way to describe exactly what it is about Pedroia that just gets me, but he's one of the few position players that ever distracts me from my stable of pitching binkies. It's not the stature thing or the feel-good redemption story about how he's made it with sheer determination and happy scrappiness, though of course, that's all good too. In part, it's the sheer ferocity, the way he has to reach up with his bat to hit a meatball over the plate the way he did with that two-run homer last night, but that's not totally it, either.
The only way I can really describe it is that Dustin Pedroia is witty. Take, for example, the stories of palling around with Brady Quinn, bonking ping-pong balls off his forehead. Or famously telling his college coach, "check out these guns." Dustin Pedroia seems like the kind of person who knows all the assumptions you're going to make about him, and gives it right back to you in such an over-the-top way it becomes a joke.
The more I watch him in the field, the more I see that wit come across in other ways, ways that don't involve words. He's a comedic baseball player, but not in the Manny way--it's in a wry, audacious, winking kind of way. A gleeful, maniacal, crazy-like-a-fox kind of way. The best example of that quality I can think of right now is the time this season he came screaming around first in Tampa Bay, literally, hollering to Luis Alicea, "I'm going!" He slid into second just safe, grinding awkwardly along the ground, but popped up again to talk shit immediately. Shortly thereafter, he was off again to third, this time sliding even more awkwardly and painfully, and when he popped up once again, he said with incredulous amusement to Demarlo Hale, "That fuckin' hurt."
That's what gets me about Dustin. He has a blast and a half while kicking your ass.
Or, as Julio Lugo put it on some SportsDesk footage I caught this morning, "That little midget is the man."
And Big Papi. Last night he was out there on the field having gone o-fer on the night yukking it up like he'd hit a grand slam every time at the plate. He took the mic to tell the fans, "you guys are the best." Nobody knows what we want to hear like Papi does. Nobody gets it so right, and every single time.
And Josh Beckett. There's an argument that's emerged for Kevin Youkilis as the MVP of the series, and it's strong one.
But we all saw what Josh Beckett did Thursday night. That was the watershed moment of this entire postseason thus far, and on a night when the rest of the team was awash in doubt, Josh Beckett stepped forward to announce to the world that this is his team, this is his year, and by God, he is going to get his way.
That's pretty much the definition of MVP.
And Coco. Yes. I love Coco. Hear me out.
Last night, as far as I'm concerned, Coco redeemed himself to some extent with that final catch, and not just because it was the final out and an incredible effort. Even more worthy of our admiration than the athletic feat was the mental strength it must have taken to do it. How many of us, having been replaced at our jobs by some random kid, would be able to come on for a single five-minute period of intense pressure at the very end of a particular project or endeavor and keep our heads enough to make something tremendous and crucial happen?
My heart cracks a little when I think about Coco sitting there with such composure rooting on Ellsbury from the dugout railing the whole game, and then still giving up his body for the team like that. I hope he knows that none of it went unnoticed.
Kristen had a really nice post up today that went into some of the 2004 / 2007 comparisons that are, of course, completely inevitable.
Whereas 2004 felt like vindication, like the brilliant end of an era that might've evaporated if not commemorated, 2007 feels like a coronation. It's different, but it's no less sweet.
It certainly is different. Amazingly so.
I have realized only in retrospect that for all the bluster I let loose during the tension of Game 7 about how the Red Sox were imminently going to fuck it all up and we were all gonna die, in my deepest heart of hearts and brain of brains I was still absolutely not comprehending the concept of no Red Sox baseball any more after last night. Many times I had to catch myself in arguments about whether or not Josh should come in to pitch in order to avoid making statements that overtly took for granted he would be pitching again this year. Even as my vestigial PTSD continues to work itself to the surface, already another part of my subconscious mind has completely bought in to the 2007 Red Sox.
This could not be further from how it felt in 2004. By its very definition, it could not be more of a night-and-day feeling, from the depths of Calvinistic self-doubt to bone-deep confidence in just four years.
And yet it's also still a weird, transitional time. As Evan Brunell put it during an intense discussion of Sox fans and fandom in general over on MVN after the Sox clinched the division:
Forget the media. The payroll. The team.
THE FANS … have been rooting for underdogs for 86 years. Three years of “acting” like the Yankees are NOT going to change that.
People hate the fact that Red Sox fans still act like the Red Sox are underdogs...not so easy to change 86 years of thinking [in] 3.
It's true. You can't. Hence my abhorrence when friends of mine started talking about Game 7 in the third inning of Game 6. Hence the way I cringed when the Indians narrowed the lead to a run against Daisuke. Hence the specters of Grady Little that flashed in my head as the Fox broadcast booth went spastic over Daisuke staying in, and then Oki staying in, and Josh not coming in to pitch...
It was a schizophrenic experience, vascillating back and forth between fantasizing about whether they'd play baseball in the snow in Colorado next week and gripping the arms of my chair, coming to the crashing realization that the Sox were about to kick us in the teeth and make 2004 look like just a fluke.
And so anything else I could say right now feels too much like a jinx. Best to just sum up with the one thing you can say for sure: it's a weird time to be a Sox fan. A weird, uncharted, wonderful time.