Ain't Love the Sweetest Thing
Turning on the television this morning as I was getting ready for work, I was greeted with the sports highlights on Channel 4, but they weren't coverage of the Red Sox game from last night in Tampa Bay, or the Yankees' 13-4 loss to Oakland, or even of the Texas Rangers' win over the Tigers to stay 0.5 games ahead of the Sox in the AL Wild Card, but of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies.
It's obvious why, of course. But disappointing to see nonetheless. Especially when I saw the Cubs fans with red, white and blue hand-lettered signs, one of which had a crossed out "NOMAH" and a bold-face "NOMAR" underneath it. Another Cubs fan waved a No. 5 jersey, since I'm assuming No. 8 hasn't yet hit the market.
Sox fans love Cubs fans, our doppelgangers and brothers in suffering over in the other league. The last time the Sox won the Series, it was over the Cubs. The rate of exchange between the clubs is also quite high--this year our "backup" second baseman, Mark Bellhorn, and our "starting" third baseman, Bill Mueller, are former Cubs; their backup second baseman is Todd Walka Walker, and their shortstop is now You Know Who. They even boast Grady Little on their bench now (and you have to wonder what the Walker-Little-Garciaparra reunion was like this past weekend).
So seeing him lace a base hit to shallow left, and then--to my initial shock--storm around the base paths at full speed, in a way it took me seeing now to realize how long it's been since he's done it that way in Boston, made me feel precisely the same as I have in the past seeing an ex-boyfriend with a new girl: torn between the urge to run up to them, knee him in the groin and shout, "you fucker!" and the compulsion to take her aside and tell her every dirty detail about him so she's forewarned (or, at least, that's the altruistic spin you'll put on things in your own mind).
This article in the Chicago Sports Review appears to take the second tack:
Nomar plays hard. He's a good major league ballplayer. No one can dispute that.
He'll also be on his best behavior. He'll smile for the camera. He'll tell you how much he loves the town and how much he loves the fans, and anything else he thinks you want to hear. And he'll go about the business of earning his next contract. He'll probably do that very well, too.
After all, his Achilles is fine, and Boston is in his rearview mirror.
You'll love him.
Just don't bug him with things like press attention, and team chemistry, and talk of curses, rivalries, and the weight of a long Championship dry spell or impending feelings of doom.
He hates that stuff.
It's a good thing there's none of that in Chicago.
Can we stop this, now? Can we roll credits? Can we break character and laugh, can everyone say, "Aw, I was just fuckin' wit ya," and head out for a beer? Can we wake up now? Aren't we on Candid Camera...?
Well, anyway. The good news is that though the Sox remain at an even .500 thus far in the Post-Nomar Era, they've looked excellent in this series against a much-improved Tampa Bay club. Especially, as Theo promised, on defense, highlighted last night by Manny.
I have to say, as soon as that ball went rocketing for left field, because of the way the camera followed it, I assumed it was another home run (Schilling had just given one up to Rocco Baldelli). I watched Manny running, tiny figure in the broad camera angle, and then all of a sudden the lens was zooming in towards him as he climbed the wall, grimacing, and watched the white ball drop into his black glove while fully airborne.
Having seen him make a similar catch only to drop the ball in Minnesota, I held my breath as Manny crashed back to earth, ragdoll-like. After a few seconds as he lolled on the ground, the ball became of secondary importance to the blinding fear that he was hurt. But like Cuba Gooding Jr.'s hot-dog wide receiver character in Jerry MacGuire, he was faking us out, lying there on the ground whispering, "Just let me enjoy this moment."
Commentators later pooh-poohed the exuberant hug with Johnny Damon after Manny bounced up, wild hair shaking cap-less in the excitement, but it's exactly what I would have done had I been there, had I seen him collapse to the ground that way in person, and witnessed his triumphant resurrection. Even Tampa Bay fans cheered this magic show; all the world wanted to hug Manny just then.
It would be very easy for Boston fans to become still more jaded by the Nomar trade, to be reluctant for at least the next ten years to embrace anyone fully, lest the relationship sour as it so often has in the past. Manny, though, is like sunshine forcing its way in--you can't keep a straight face watching him flap his arms and make faces at Pedro, as Pedro teases him from the dugout steps, both of them uncannily like a proud parent and a delighted Little-Leaguer who both know that there will be ice cream cones all around later on.
And Pedro--that crazy Jeri curl, waggling his index finger at the Tampa Bay batter after almost being hit by a foul ball, that finger strange and double-jointed, swinging like a pendulum at the knuckle, recalling Roger Angell's description of his hands as "lizardlike". That smile, always like the cat that swallowed the canary.
And Curt, the Keifer-Sutherland stubble he's been sporting of late very becoming, the bags under his eyes the result of the sleeplessness of a recent slump, grimacing and cursing and spitting and hurling his way through as rough-and-tumble a complete-game effort as has ever been thrown, sighing and shaking his head and all but beating his own chest over the Baldelli home run in his post-game interviews. There has never been a professional celebrity athlete with whom I identify more than Curt Schilling.
So maybe we won't be giving The Love to another one guy anytime soon, and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the lesson here is simply not to put all your eggs in one basket--not to expend all your considerable passions on one shortstop.