Thursday, September 29, 2011


Every weekday morning, after I get up and take a shower and get dressed, I head downstairs and start a pot of coffee. If I haven't prepped the machine the night before so that all I have to do is flip the On switch, then the pets mill about my feet expectantly as I take care of the priority that ranks above feeding them. (I sometimes wonder if they are curious as to where the fifth pet is, the one whose food is tiny brown granules and whose bowl I always fill first.) Then while the coffee brews I feed the animals and tie my tie and eat my breakfast bar and, if I have a little wiggle room on time, I fire up the computer and hop online to check my e-mail or the previous night's scores.

That's basically the way it went down this morning. Last night I was lying in bed at 11-something and flipping back and forth between ESPN and MASN trying to see the outcome of either the Yankees/Rays game or the O's/Red Sox game. In Tampa, they were into extra innings; in Baltimore, they were trying to finish the game after a 90-minute rain delay. I kept dozing off and jerking awake and finally I gave up and turned off the tv and passed out almost immediately. But I was curious, when I woke up, if the AL Wild Card issue had been settled or if there was a second-place tie in the East or what.

I figured the possible scenarios broke down in order from most-likely to least- as follows:

1 - The Sox held on to their slim lead over the O's and won the game. This seemed probable because I kept seeing the O's fail to capitalize on scoring opportunities late int he game. The Rays rallied to beat the Yankees, who from the middle of the game on had been resting starters and making offensive and defensive substitutions like there was a special bonus for getting all 40 players in the game for at least one out.

2 - The Sox held on to their lead, as above, but the Yankees were the ones who broke the extra innings tie and hung on to win.

3 - The Sox somehow blew the game, but so did the Rays.

4 - The Sox somehow blew the game and the Rays won.

The reason why I thought scenario 3 was more likely than scenario 4 was pure pessimism. If both the Sox and Rays lost, they would have identical records and would need to play a one-game tie-breaker to determine who got the wild card spot. Whereas if the Sox lost and the Rays won, the Sox's season would be over, full stop. The Rays would be the Wild Card, which didn't matter to me so much as seeing the Sox conclude their historic collapse in third place completely shut out of the playoffs. But because I revel in curses upon Boston, I figured the universe wasn't likely to reward such meanness.

So I checked the Yankees website and saw that the Rays had indeed walked off with a win, as I expected. Again, I could be pretty sanguine about that because the Yankees already had the AL East pennant, home field playoffs advantage, blah blah blah. On the one hand a Red Sox/Rays one game playoff could make the playoff road that much harder for the eventual wild card winner because they wouldn't get a day off, but sometimes that actually ends up energizing momentum for the team that advances, and the Yankees have to worry about the Tigers before facing the wild card anyway ... And then I saw the other headlines on the site indicating that ... Boston had lost?

People are going to bandy about the numbers 7 and 20 (the Red Sox record in September, during which they totally choked up a 9 game lead in the wild card race - and don't forget they were actually on top of the AL East outright not much earlier in August) but you also gotta love the numbers 77 and 0, which was how the Red Sox fared all season in games which they led going into the ninth inning. 77 and 1 after last night. Another fun stat to recall is that the Sox, despite being heavily favored in advance to win it all, stumbled out of the gate and opened the season 1 and 7, and if they had even managed a mediocre 3 and 4 back then we wouldn't even be having this conversation (but sports hindsight is full of "if"s, and we don't play this game on paper, do we, Jim). 7 and 20, 77 and 1, 1 and 7 - that is a lot of 7's, I should be playing the lottery or roulette or craps or something. Although of course if I did and won any money the universe would surely balance that out with the Yankees getting first-round swept, so maybe I'll keep it to myself.

It's not terribly noble but taking satisfaction from the struggles (and abject failures) of a rival is part of the insane sports fandom package sometimes. And today I'm just gonna roll with it.

Oh, also, I will try to get to a second post later today for my usual catching-up-with-the-kids, but I would be remiss if I didn't express some sincere gratitude to my wife, who dropped off our daughter at daycare yesterday in a bright orange Orioles onesie so that I would know, when I picked the kids up, that my wife was rooting for the O's to beat the Sox. I'm a lucky, lucky guy.

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