Friday, January 20, 2006

In Excelsis Theo

The title is from the subject line of an email from my mother this morning. And it is, as per usual with my mother, eerily appropriate.

He's back. Not quite sweeping into town on a white horse. It's too late for that, and too much has been screwed up.

I heard the news hanging out at my friend Katie's last night. I call her into the room, I tell her; she's looks at me with a mixture of sadness and anger, and storms into the other room. She refuses to be happy, but not because she doesn't like Theo. She loves Theo; she is pissed that it took this long. And really, I can't find the words to tell her she's wrong. Because she has a point. Stuff has passed under the bridge; we still don't have a shortstop or centerfielder, and the options are dwindling.

But he's back, and that's gonna be worth something. Even if it's not right now, even if it's hard to see. As much as part of me is pissed, part of me is jumping up and down with joy. I'm not thinking of 2006, because, apart from the pitching, that makes me want to hit things. But I'm thinking of 2007, and Jonathan Papelbon, and Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, and the many young and contending years after that. And that's what's making me smile.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

And There Was Much Joyous Dancing and Clapping of Hands

Sox, String Bean near to multi-year deal.

*cue happy music*
Wooooo. Yaaaay! Woooo! Huzzah! Hurrah! Huzzah!
To quote Blackadder, "Permission to shout BRAVO at an annoyingly loud volume!"

Not that it's done yet.
Or that he's not still vulnerable to getting traded.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wind and Rain

I could even feel it in the weather.

It had been so nice this past week; mid-50s, only partly cloudy. For those few days, it felt like spring.
But waiting out on Cambridge Street, across from the Allston Sports Depot for the 66 bus near midnight last night, it turned bone-chillingly cold. Not the kind of cold that can be managed with simply adding a scarf; cold down to the bone. The rain started slow, and then picked up, stinging my cheeks.

However it was only a coda, only a complementary sadness to the other end of the evening.
And I have to confess; I walked out before the end. With 4:30 left in the 4th quarter, and the Pats down 24-13, the longing for home and warmth became too strong.
It certainly wasn't the company; in fact, they probably made it more bearable than it might have been. Spending the evening with Beth, her fiance Steve, Marianne, and Kristen's roommate Colleen, had it not been for the circumstances, was pretty damn cool.

But for circumstance.
We certainly lost to the better team. But with some losses to a superior team, it's quick and painless. This game? Like repeatedly stabbing oneself in the stomach with a rusty fork.

I also can't help feeling a little like Cassandra, standing among the ruins of burning Troy right now. I wrote in this space last week, even if the defense performs to the same level, the offense must amp up their game significantly.
And the defense did their damnedest. ( Apart from a distressing lack of Jake Plummer being legally whacked upside the head.)
It was the offense who gradually, and painfully , gave the game away.
For the 1st quarter, and most of the second, it was simply the futility of last week. No one could get open, and when they did, Thomas always seemed to overthrow them.
Something clicked, with about 8 minutes left in the second, and not in a good way. The two late second half fumbles started the boulder down the hill.
And then, the pick. The INT. The ugliest play I have ever seen Tom Brady make.
At first, the crowd didn't know what was going on. But then, as Champ Bailey danced his way through the line of scrimmage, a wail went up, which only increased in volume and emotion as he made his way 100 yards towards the other end zone.
God bless Ben Watson, God bless his heart for following Bailey step for step, and using a last burst of energy to knock Bailey out of bounds at the one yard line.
Not that it did any good. But that, right there, is a football player.

Something died right there, though. Some fork in the road was taken from which there was no return. Most tellingly, the Pats lost their cool. The Pats never lose their cool, but here they were. Jawing at the refs and getting distressingly physical. Willie McGinest (!) shoving Larry Izzo. Adam Vinatieri missing a field goal.These were not the Pats who could come back from 17-6. These were unfamilar people.
The game officially ended an hour or so later. But something got lost in that interception return, which could not be regained.

And it feels like it outside today. It's windy, and it's gray, and it's cold. Patriots football is done for the season. And we enter the most depressing days of the year, the 20 days between football and spring training. If there are the dog days of summer, these are the bear days of winter, the days where you just curl up in your blanket and wait for spring.

Because it is cyclical. It'll start again. And so, we wait.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What Pats These Are I Think I Know

At least during the second half of last night's eventual 28-3 shellacking of Jacksonville. The first half, not so much.

The first half was, how you say, interesting. Unlike nearly any half of football I've seen the Pats this year. Usually, it was the offense running on all cylinders, and the defense struggling to find the line of scrimmage with both hands.

But for 30 minutes last night, Gillette Stadium moved several inches to the right into Bizarro World.

Defense came out growling, raring to go, ready to play. The front 7 was all up in the grille of Byron Leftwich all night long. The secondary, well, they're still in a different universe from , say, the Buccaneer or Redskins secondary ( which by the way were pretty damn amazing). There was the occasional big play given up, but when it came to 3rd down or the red zone, they came through when it mattered.

For once, it was the offense, and particularly one THOMAS BRADY who could not seem to get it in gear. 3 straight penalties to start the game. And then, the weirdest pass play I have seen since Brady completing one from the seat of his pants against the Bengals last year. Brady throws the ball- and it BOUNCES OFF THE REF. Right off his nose. Something was off from the start.

*Imaginary Brady pokes Emma with a stick*
Yeah, yeah, I know, it wasn't totally your fault. Those Jacksonville DBs are no slouches, and were playing quality man-to-man for much of the first half. And Lil' Deion and Benji dropped a couple of balls. But you had several chances with open receivers where you just could not get your schwerve on.
*Brady sulks*
Okay, so you did get a TD pass in the first half. But that is because Troy Brown is awesome.
(Funny story: Watching the Monday Night game with the Jets, my mother watched a similarly awesome TD catch by the aforesaid Brown. I tell her the story of Troy Brown V.2004-wideout, d-back, punt returner.
Mom: "Can he play shortstop?")

*Imaginary Brady sits down and threatens to hold his breath till he turns blue*
Waitaminnit, I'm getting to the second half. Here's a cookie.

So, though the halftime lead is 7-3 ( and the Jags have those points by the grace of God and a lack of wind-Josh Scobee's wide eyed look of relief was comedy gold) I'm not sitting down with any composure or calm. With what I had seen out of the D this year, I was not anywhere sure that the D could continue to hold them of. If the offense continued to sputter, the Jags would continue to hang around, and bad things would happen.

Fortunately, the Pats V. 2004 ( or someone similar) made a return engagement. Starting on the unlikeliest play imaginable. And maybe a little divine intervention. Pass complete to Benji Watson-big hit by the Jags Mike Peterson...FUMBLE. OMG, FUMBLE. And then, who to my wandering eyes should appear, but Andre Frakkin' Davis, managing to recover said fumble.
I have to say, I'm not at all sure what would have happened had Jacksonville recovered. I don't ever want to know. But it all changed from there. It put a charge in the offense, starting with the ensuing TD pass to David "Wins at Life And Other Worthy Endeavors"(TM Amy) Givens.

While the Jags were still in shock, the D forces another punt, and though it looks at first like the offense has receded into futility, here comes the otherwordly intervention again. Pass complete (again ) to Ben Watson, and he redeems himself for the fumble, tenfold. After being tackled, and almost pulled to the ground, he breaks free, rips off 63 yards to the house, 21-3 Pats.

However, it ain't' over yet, oh no. The defense wants to get in on the fun. Ensuing Jags possession, into the red zone. Asante Samuel weaves the most beautiful pick I have seen in a long while on a deke coverage, and runs it all the way back home, putting the final nail in the coffin of the Jags. And the lasting image I'll take from that? Defensive stud Willie McGinest, haunter of the dreams of quarterbacks around the nation, with 4.5 SACKS(!), raising both arms to the heavens in praise of his teammate. Don't get any sweeter than that.

Sure, Michael Smith may be right when he points out that the Pats needed a whole, whole lot of luck to win that game. But luck is a part of the make-up of every championship team. Luck provides the oppurtunities; great teams capitalize on them.

That doesn't mean they won't need a whole lot more then they showed this week to beats the Broncos or the Colts.They can't afford the first half offensive futility. Hear that? *Whacks Imaginary Brady upside the head with a rolled magazine*. Because while the D has improved remarkably, and will further improve if Tedy comes back for next week's game, both of those offenses are better than the Jags; they will score their points. Both units need to bring their best game if they even want to hang around.

However, I have faith that they can. I saw flashes of the Champion Patriots last night. Welcome back, guys. Time to go to work.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

That Within Which Passeth Show

Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not 'seems'.
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly; these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

-Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

That's pretty much a summation of my current mental state regarding Johnny Damon.
He left. It sucked. I move on.
*The Muse pokes Emma with a sharp stick to remind her that more than that is required*
Not that it didn't severely piss me off when it happened. Especially 3 days before Christmas. I mean, last year Theo gave me and Red Sox Nation a lovely Christmas present called "The Resigning of Jason Varitek". So , this sort of paled in comparison.
Yet, my anger was about as fervent as my prose is right now. That is to say,not very. Indifferent, impersonal. Cold fury, rather than betrayal.
Johnny Damon the center fielder? I'll miss. ( Except the arm with the tensile strength of string cheese.)
Johnny Damon the productive leadoff hitter? Yup, miss that too.
Johnny Damon, the persona, the "personality"? Not a rutting bit.

It's exactly the opposite of the way it was with me with Kevin Millar. As numbers, as a body in the field, Millar left much to be desired. But as a person, beyond the laundry, I rooted for, and genuinely felt affection for the big lug.
With Johnny, it never really went beyond the laundry, past the surface. Which is seemingly all Red Sox Johnny was, given how easy it was for him to change into Yankee Johnny.
I mean, take David Wells. He admitted outright, that he had deep roots as a Yankee. It took effort to move the other way, and given his desire to be traded, he never totally got there. But whatever happened, Boomer was Boomer, and I respected that.
Johnny may have set himself as the "spirit" of the team. He may have gotten some national journalists to believe it.
I don't know if I ever really did. Billy Mueller was closer to that for me.. Hell, for being here all of a year, John Olerud was closer. They had something which Johnny never did.
Johnny was the trappings, the suits. He seemed, and he did it very well. But that's all it was. And as such, he will now seem for someone else, for more more money. More power to him. He and the Yankees deserve each other.


Playoffs. Gillette. 2 days. Aw yeah.

I have decided that this blog, of late, has sorely been lacking in the pretty. I now take steps to remedy that.

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That is all.