Friday, February 8, 2008

The View From the Top

October 25, 2007- As I write this, I feel like an eight year old on Christmas Eve. I have cleared my schedule for seven of the next nine nights from 8:00 to midnight (or else would have if I wasn’t at Kent where this is basically impossible). I get ultimate treat, vindication for the hundreds of hours spent reading, and Sports Illustrated, for watching SportsCenter and listening to ESPN Radio. These things never seemed like chores, but now they are just that more worth it. My team, in this case the Red Sox, has made it to the championship.

For a lot of players, making it to the championship is just another step towards a championship, but for a fan it can mean more than that. The goal is the same, and like it does for fans of the 28 teams who’s seasons’ have ended, 2007 will seem incomplete if the Rockies beat the Sox. For a fan though, just making the finals has a lot of advantages. For 28 of the thirty teams, the season ends early. This means that fourteen in fifteen fan bases have to go through an abyss period, where the playoffs are going on but with your team out it is difficult to care about what happens (just ask any Yankee fan who has had to walk into the student center with the Red Sox on TV for the past two weeks). Not all abyss periods are created equal. The playoffs have surely been much more painful for a Mets fan to watch after their team’s historic collapse than they have been for, say, a Devil Rays fan who’s team was essentially eliminated a few days after players reported to spring training (that is if the Devil Rays actually had fans).

The next advantage is simple; I get at least four more Sox games this year. That means at least four more nights of studying with one eye on, at least four more nights of rushing to the SC around 9:20 wearing my Beckett jersey to watch the game, at least four more pitching match-ups to judge (Beckett-Francis? Win. Schill-Jimenez? Win. Matsuzaka-Fogg? Depends on which Dice-K shows up.) four more nights of pointless rituals grasping for any bit of karma I can get for the Sox (like it is going to swing the series if I wear my Red Sox flip-flops to the library), and at least four more nights when from 8:00 to about midnight, I can forget about my own problems and focus on the team that I have been following since March. After all, isn’t that what being a fan is about in the first pace?

There is a funny thing about championships; the games themselves are usually anti-climactic. For every game seven, you will get two or three one sided four or five game series. For every game winning Vinatieri field goal, there are three Super Bowl blowouts. For every Joe Carter there is a Bill Buckner. Over the course of a six to eight month season, every team will have to peak, and it is rarely in the championship. In 2004 the Red Sox’ four game sweep of the Cardinals was overshadowed by the 3-0 comeback in the ALCS. Likewise, it will be extremely difficult for anything that happens in the next 10 days to overshadow the Rockies needing every one of their fourteen wins in fifteen games just to make the playoffs, or J.D. Drew erasing a season of under-achievement and animosity from fans with one perfect swing, a series changing grand slam to dead center. But who knows, maybe something will, and that, my friend, is why they play the game.

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