For those of you who follow such foolishness, you know the Red Sox defeated the Rays last night in Tampa to move on to the American League Championship Series and a possible chance to play in the 2013 World Series.
While last night’s event, and the earlier ones against the Rays, is not important to 99.99+% of America, it was important to a few of us, and to those who have to live with us.
But this post is not about the victory itself but about another example where I once again learned I don’t know myself so well and despite my advancing age, I haven’t learned how to handle certain things so well.
Back in 2004, when the Sox won the third game of the World Series against the Cards, I thought I had to go to St. Louis to watch the fourth (and maybe the fifth) game of the WS. After all, my wonderful grandfather had never lived to see the Sox win a WS, and he had been responsible for my love of the game and of the Sox (I don’t blame him for my turning this into an obsession. I did that myself.)
I had to do it for Pappy. But then, and if you’re a Sox fan, you’ll understand this clearly, what if they Sox lost the fourth and the fifth games? Wouldn’t I be sorry I had gone?
“No,” I convinced myself. I could always come home and watch the final game(s) in the privacy of my library. After all, they would have three more chances to win the final game. So off I went, and, wonderfully, Johny Damon hit the first pitch in St. Louis into the bullpen, and the Sox went on to win their first WS in almost a century.
And I was there.
I also had the experience of going to Denver for games three and four of the 2007 WS and watching the Sox win their second championship. Plus, my daughter Beth, whom I had somewhat influenced to like the Sox also, came out to join me for the fourth game there and witness that WS victory. (I didn’t hold it against her that in her short lifetime she had ‘witnessed’ two Sox WS wins when I had had to wait more than 50 years for such pleasure. Plus, she was of the Millennial generation whose patience is quite short.)
The Sox won it in four, and we were there.
Anyway, another long introduction to my most recent mis-steps.
Knowing I would be away with my wife in England if the Sox made it to the WS this year, and valuing my marriage, I thought it unwise to cancel that trip, even if it was for something as ‘momentous’ as a possible third WS win in my lifetime.
So when my daughter, the above named Beth, or Elizabeth to some of you, asked if I was thinking of going to Tampa for any of the early playoff games, I jumped at the idea. After all, the Sox were ahead two games to zero in the best of five, thus only needing one more win to move on.
I knew if the worst events happened and if the Rays won those two games, I could come home and watch the fifth game in my library. Hadn’t I done that earlier, and hadn’t it worked out well?
Plus, Beth would come to Tampa to watch the fourth game with me if the Sox lost the third one, and we could once again celebrate together.
I quickly got tickets for the two games in Tampa, made flight reservations, contacted my Tampa friend and Rays’ fan Randy about joining me for the third game, leaving the fourth one free for Beth. Randy wrote he’d love to see me but couldn’t bear to watch his Rays possibly lose. I understood completely.
So I flew to Tampa, spent a lovely afternoon with Randy and his wife Denise, talking baseball and politics (both absurdities), and then headed to Tropicana Field by myself for a hopeful sweep or at least a possible fourth game win with Beth by my side.
I should have known something was amiss as I got near the stadium and the brightest, largest, and most complete rainbow I had ever seen was over Tropicana Field, from one horizon to the other. I tried to convince myself that maybe it was a good sign for the Sox, but I was just whistling.
Then when my ticket did not scan upon entrance I had a second bad feeling. I talked my way in (another mistake) and found my seat. Then a Rays’ fan showed up with a ticket for the same seat I was occupying. After much discussion and a trip to the ticket office, it was determined that my ticket was for the next series and not this game. I knew it was a bad night.
But folks were kind, the usher found me a seat nearby, and the Sox quickly scored the first run. I was not fooled. Even when the Sox went ahead 3-0. Buchholz, the lights out pitcher from earlier in the season, was not sharp. Then I got thrown out of the seat I was in because its ticket holder showed up.
That was it for me. I had not been enjoying the game. I was simply too on edge, too tense, and I had the foreboding of disaster. I’m a long suffering Sox fan (redundancy upon redundancy) after all.
I wandered around for a bit. Then, silently admitting that I was simply torturing myself, I left Tropicana Field (despite my ‘ironclad’ rule to never leave a game until it is over). I headed back to my hotel, fearing the ‘inevitable’ even tho the Sox were ahead and the game was only half over.
By the time I got to the hotel and walked by a TV, the Rays had tied the game, 3-3. I was glad I had removed myself from being among 33,675 screaming Rays’ fans. But of course I turned on the TV to watch the end of the game. It was close, tied in the 9th, until the Rays’ Lobaton hit a home run off the wonderful Sox closer Koji Uehara to end the game.
I texted Beth to say I was going home in the morning, that it was just too painful, and I wasn’t having fun. She was most kind, understanding, and accepting. I got on a plane the next morning and flew home.
So much for my much touted “It doesn’t matter what happens in the playoffs since the Sox have had such a wonderful season.” (They went from being the worst team in the AL East in 2012 to the best in 2013.)
I decided not to watch last night’s game live but checked in on line and on Twitter during the first few innings. The Sox loaded the bases in the second inning with no outs and then didn’t score. Trouble, I was sure.
So I distracted myself by reading a page turner and got in bed.
That fear was increased when my so called friend Nelson texted, “God Damn Tampa Bay.” I checked. The Rays were ahead 1-0.
I turned out the light, sure that there was going to be fifth game back in Fenway on Thursday.
Some time a bit after midnight, I heard my phone buzz, and Nelson had texted, “Are you breathing?”
I checked the score. The Sox were ahead 2-1 in the top of the 9th.
Could it be?
I followed along on line and ‘saw’ them go ahead 3-1. Then Uehara came in and got the first two Rays out in the bottom of the 9th.
I got up, turned on the TV, and saw him strike out Longoria, the Rays’ leader, for the final out.
The Sox had won and were going on to the next round.
Thank you Nelson for waking me up for the win.
I stayed up, watching the celebration, and wondering why my wonderful plan of being there had gone astray.