Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unbearable Lightness of Boston

It was a beautiful day Sunday in New England. The sun was out, the temperature was in the mid-sixties and there was just a slight breeze. The wind was enough to rustle the leaves on the trees but not strong enough to blow them off the branches.

I had watched the first 8 innings of the Red Sox / Angels game at home. Going into the 9th the Red Sox were leading 6-4 with Jonathan Papelbon on to close out the game. The outcome was assumed to be a foregone conclusion so I left my house for a local watering hole to watch the Patriots.

When I stepped into the bar the score was 7-6 Angels. I still don't know how exactly it unfolded and I don't care. The strange thing was that I was not surprised. Jonathan Papelbon despite his numbers this year has been a heart-attack waiting to happen. Pride goeth before a fall and it seems like nobody has more hubris than Papelbon. It is no accident that the Red Sox locked up Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester to longterm deals but Papelbon is on just a one-year deal. Papelbon has made no bones about wanting to break the arbitration salary records for closers. And after that he's made no bones about wanting the highest salary available from free agency even if that means signing with the Yankees. The feeling among many fans is to trade him - and that feeling just grew that much stronger after Sunday's debacle.

Papelbon's final line for the 2009 playoffs was 2 appearances and a 13.50 ERA. Eric Gagne says hello. And for those out there who are surprised that Boston fans would jettison Papelbon so readily - I have two words for you - Keith Foulke.

Keith Foulke was the real MVP of the 2004 playoffs. He gave up just one run in 11 games. Now he's just a distant memory.

Anyway - the Red Sox lost and their season is over. Like many Red Sox fans - as far as I'm concerned baseball is now over. I'm baseballed out. It may seem like heresy but I'm kinda rooting for the Yankees. The thought is that if the Yankees win it all with Johnny Damon playing a big role then the Yankees may not be in such a hurry to throw mega-bucks at Jason Bay.

Immediately after the Red Sox loss the question in New England was "Where have you gone Tom Brady, our Red Sox Nation turns our lonely eyes to you?" The answer to that question was that Tom Brady was in Denver to play the Broncos. The first half went very well for the Pats. They were leading 17-7 and seemed in control. I left the bar to go to the American Legion where I could enjoy a cigar.

The second half was just the cherry on top of a lousy day for Boston fans. The Pats couldn't score and it seemed predestined that the Broncos would tread the path that eventually lead to their overtime victory. One storyline that hasn't gotten enough play is the role the referees played in the Broncos game-tying drive. First there was a fumble recovered by the Patriots that was ruled not a fumble because of forward progress. Replays show it to have been a fumble. The Pats got screwed. Then there was the "taunting" penalty that kept the Broncos drive alive. Replay clearly shows the ref throwing the flag before the defender said or did anything. My guess is that the ref was going to call pass interference but the fact that the ball was tipped making contact OK seemed to have made him opt for the taunting call instead. Fishy call? You bet! (Or somebody was betting if you know what I mean.)

All-in-all it was a lousy day for Boston sports but that's OK. Boston fans have been to a large extent spoiled over the past few years. In my life I've seen championship teams from the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and from local college hockey teams (Harvard, BC and BU). This post was not meant to sound like I was whining. It was just a chance to say my peace and move on.

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