It looked like every fan at the ballpark tonight stayed at their seat after the final out had been recorded (by Jonathan Papelbon, who should also be noted for tying the club consecutive-save record to open a season at 18), chanting "We. Want. Curt. We. Want. Curt."
You know, I'm confused, sometimes, when I see the way the fans drink in Curt at the ballpark, and then contemplate the posturing from my fellow fans outside the park whenever the subject of Schilling comes up, when everyone is quick to preface any remarks on Schilling with some caveat about how they don't like him personally, but...
Of course we like him personally. So what if it's artifice? Isn't that all this game is? Pomp and circumstance, marketing and show, and somewhere in between all that, a little magic?
Like any good movie, at times, it requires suspension of disbelief. It requires setting aside cynical pretense and going with the emotion of the moment. Like Curt and the Fenway crowd did tonight.
"What these fans did for me tonight, I'll never forget it," Curt said in his postgame press conference. I don't think any of those fans will, either. And let's face it: we all wish we'd been there.
I was reminded of an experience I had in college, watching Curt labor through a 200th victory that wasn't all that pretty. As a music major for my first year and an active member of Music Dept. social circles every year thereafter, I got exposed to a lot of the philosophical side of music and its demanding lifestyle. Often, as a decidedly un-athletic person, the things I experienced as a musician (of sorts) are the only analogy I have for what I see in sports.
When I was a sophomore or junior, a world-class instrumentalist came to teach in the department. I didn't study with him, but I did play in the ensemble behind a tour de force solo performance he gave after officially reporting for duty as a professor. And this concert--it's one of my lasting memories. One of my own movie moments. It's almost impossible to describe the beauty of how this man played one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire for his instrument; to this day thinking of it or listening to the recording I have of the piece can bring tears to my eyes.
Meanwhile, there was a graduate student on the same instrument who'd been with the department for a year or so, who had also proven himself a solid, if not as gifted, instrumentalist. Forced to study under the virtuoso, who had been a child prodigy and toured the world as a soloist before settling down at UMass to teach, this graduate student soon began to suffer. Because--as he told a mutual friend he and I had, who told me about it--the virtuoso couldn't teach. He would tell the student that what he was doing was wrong, and then demonstrate on his own instrument, and do exactly what the student had been doing in the first place. Astonishingly, he seemed to have no idea how he played the instrument, while the student had had to be very clear and conscious about his technique. It bothered the student to no end that he was forced to study with the virtuoso--the two were clearly such different animals when it came to their instrument that they couldn't communicate.
And you know--I always preferred the sound of the graduate student when he played to the virtuoso, undeniably gifted as the latter was. Because in the sound of the graduate student was not only good intonation and technical work but the sound of the thought and labor he had put into learning what he played. There was a sweeter tone to a hard-won sound.
To me, if pitchers can be divided up into virtuosos and graduate students, Curt Schilling is the consummate master's degree candidate in pitching. He doesn't have the gifts of a Pedro Martinez or the brilliance of a Roger Clemens--he will tell you himself he lacks that pure, raw talent.
But what he has is enough physical talent to begin with, and then enough determination and appreciation for the task to perform at a higher level, maybe, than he has any business occupying. And like that graduate student I remember from college, it's sweeter, sometimes, watching him perform.
A heartfelt congratulations on a well-deserved celebration for him tonight.