Having stayed late at work, I drove home with this game on the radio, hearing every overtone of frustration in Joe Castiglione's voice as he called Daisuke's disastrous third inning. Castiglione had been heard to remark on how "subdued" Fenway was - how it had been half full until midway through that third inning as torrential rains snarled traffic in the city.
I can feel a change in the atmosphere around me since Brady went down. Maybe it's because I've resumed the WEEI habit I thought I had successfully kicked several years ago. Maybe it's because there are lots of sports-obsessed people in my office, well inside the 495 belt, and every time I've forgotten about the situation over these last couple of days someone has walked past my desk having a conversation about Chris Simms or Daunte Culpepper, or someone will send me the link to the latest Reiss's Pieces post. Elsewhere, the NEET has started up again, thread title: My Condolences. Kristen and I seem to be taking things hardest, natch.
The day after the Red Sox lost Game 7 in 2003, the loss was visible around me. On my commute to work, people drove more slowly than usual. In the convenience store grabbing a morning coffee, usually accompanied by murmured pleasantries and the occasional overheard conversation, nobody talked. Some people I saw had a faraway look in their eyes.
This isn't nearly like that. That was crushing finality. This week has been tense apprehension. There are so many things only time will tell - how Brady will recover, what lies ahead for him and his career after this injury, about which we know little except that it requires surgery, and that cannot be good. Let the debates begin about Matt Cassel, who pulled out a win on Sunday, somehow, miraculously clawing his way out of his own end zone to lead the team 98 yards for his second-ever NFL touchdown and first this season. But he did it against the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the worst teams in the league. Let the debates begin: Belichick's system or Brady's gifts? On and on it goes.
It's not the same as Oct. 17, 2003, but these past couple days, for at least a minute or two, some people have had a faraway look in their eyes.
Let's face it: I wasn't in much of a mood for the Red Sox tonight. September is my busiest month at work, and what mental energy I have left over for sports has been burned, and then some, on the Patriots. Even though the Red Sox had the chance to go for first place tonight, in front of another sold-out Fenway crowd, I felt like I had nothing for them at the moment. I had the game on, the Rays ahead, but surfed the Web instead of really watching. Eventually I was completely distracted waxing righteously indignant about the election and then getting sucked in by an episode of This American Life.
By the time it dawned on me to check the game again, Jonathan Papelbon was pitching. The score said four to three. Boston. When last I'd glanced over, the seventh was just beginning. By now, it was the top of the ninth. I went back to see how the runs scored.
Dan Wheeler seemed to be dealing against the first two batters of the eighth, tying up Jed Lowrie and Dustin Pedroia with precise, modestly paced offerings on the corners. By the time Kevin Youkilis came up, two outs -- two strikes -- I began to think, maybe I'd imagined that score somehow.
Then, Wheeler suddenly couldn't get his curveball out of the dirt. Youkilis snarled and spat and wiggled in the batters' box. 2-2. 3-2. Wheeler just couldn't find the plate. Youkilis walked, bringing up Bay, who lifted another one of those low curveballs toward the Monster, and then, everything went completely apeshit all at once.
GET UP!! Bay screamed at the ball as he sprinted toward first base, which was surprising to me since otherwise Bay has looked nice enough, but like he's made of wax.
"Bay to left! Has it got enough--and it's EIUOUT A HERE," Orsillo said, tripping over his words while the ball bounced off the top of the wall and into the stands.
The guy in the first row of the Monster Seats right next to the Fisk Pole who caught the ball fell onto the ground behind the rest of his row, and whether he was being tackled with aggression or affection by some other person just before the camera cut away was impossible to tell.
Now here was Bay, on replay rounding first and hollering savagely in triumph. I couldn't help but notice how much like a little kid he looked slapping high fives with his teammates in the dugout.
Needless to say, by now I was engrossed.
The Fenway crowd was on its feet screaming for more than 30 seconds straight after Bay's homer, through the first pitch of Mike Lowell's at bat. Finally Bay popped up for a curtain call after the second and the roar, which had only just begun to settle, resurged.
It was then I realized that I was grinning so hard my face hurt. I was grinning like an idiot. I remembered Papi's comment that the crowd at Fenway "changes your mind."
I never thought I'd be drowning my Patriots sorrows in what looks to be another playoff-bound season for the Red Sox. But here we are.
And yes, I'm saying that even though they lost. Even though the ninth inning was another nightmare out of nowhere, albeit on a much smaller scale - another constant, Jonathan Papelbon, buckling without warning, giving up two runs of his own to put the Rays on top.
The Sox couldn't come back, and it was done, a surreal coda to what had been a neat narrative. I never thought I'd watch Manny Delcarmen slam the door while Papelbon took the loss.
But there was also, still lingering, even, that smile they gave me.