I don't know what exactly sparked this line of thought, this brain thread, maybe I am just a little disappointed right now. Don't get me wrong, like Brian Fantana and the ladies, 'I LOVE the Matsuzaka move', and after beating Green Bay Sunday the Patriots will be back on track, heck, even the Celtics won last night.
But 2006 sure doesn't feel like a 2004 right now. Doesn't even feel like a 2001.
So I decided to try and pick my top personal New England sports memories and list them, in a exercise of nothing but personal gain and self appeasement. I actually highly recommend it no matter where you are from and what team floats your boat. Try this little bit of arts and crafts of the mind and you'll be walking with a little extra Mick Jagger like strut in your step in no time at all.
Here's the first installment. Maybe when I am done listing them I will actually put them in order. For now, the details will have to suffice.
One night in New York
'Soccer Football' as it is referred to by Fox ('Don't eat Spinach! EVER! Find out why, next on Fox!'), is an interesting spectacle when viewed live. As a Sunderland supporter (Think Green Bay, used to be good, lots of tradition, but absolutely awful right now) I have been to games in opponents stadiums where well meaning stewards have told me 'Zip up that jacket unless you want to get killed', when they spot my Sunderland jersey. Once I saw a Sunderland fan being beaten up by a large crowd of so called supporters, with two overwhelmed police officers trying bravely to break the brawl up.
However, nothing could have prepared my for the vitriol, hate and anti Irish rhetoric I faced the night of September the 10th 1999 in Yankees stadium. I had been working in Boston for the summer, and like the rest of the City (and the entire New England region), was completely caught up in the Red Sox. From the All Star Game to the amazing playoff series against Cleveland, it was an incredible season. It all formed a shining backdrop for the beyond-superlative season Pedro Martinez turned in. The Dominican Dandy was simply God like. Every five days he chose to come down from whatever super-planet he lived on and granted us mortals an audience with a pitching deity.
Before going back to Ireland I wanted one last weekend of the Sox, I wanted to catch Pedro live just one more time for '99, and treated myself to a trip to New York. I thought it would be kind of cool to see the Sox play in Yankees stadium, and managed to work it so that the game I would actually go to would be the one Pedro pitched in.
I travelled on my own as the few friends I had in Boston at the time were busy or away that weekend. As I travelled I felt like I was embarking on a personal Mecca of some kind. I checked into my Manhattan hotel and changed for the night. It was chilly enough so I chose the Red Sox warmup jacket and put on a Irish National Team baseball cap.
The moment I stepped into the lobby of the hotel to begin finding a way to Yankee stadium I started to regret my clothing decision. The doorman took one look at me and actually slammed the door in my face. The walk up to the stadium from the train was even more harrowing. Someone actually threw a hot dog at me.
I found my seat and looked around nervously. I saw a couple of Red Sox hats, one or two jerseys, but really, there must have been as little as 1% of the crowd rooting for the Sox, in a crowd of close to 55,000.
The Sox went a little too easily in the first and the Yankees fans roared their approval. I watched the Sox dugout as Pedro bounced out along with the rest of the team to take the field, and something amazing happened. On the other side of the stadium, in the bleachers, hundreds of fans started to cheer and wave Domincan flags. It was completely uplifting, they cheered his warm up pitches one at a time, the atmosphere in the stadium became entirely electric, it felt like a vital playoff game.
Come the second inning and the Yankees struck. Chilli Davies hit a solo shot, putting them on the board, and driving the home crowd wild. I felt someone slap the back of my head, I turned to see an enormous, angry looking, purple faced Yankee fan in a Bronx Bombers jacket practically spitting at me; 'Irish Baseball? What the f**k is that? Get out of here a$$h*l*! Go eat a potato Mick!'.
I couldn't even think of a good comeback, but an unusual ally came to my aid. Out of nowhere a guy the image of Mike Tyson, but with the size of William 'the Fridge' Perry ambled over and sat down beside me. He was wearing a XXXL Red Sox jersey over what must have been a XXXXL hoody with 'Valentin' and '13' on the back.
The clown behind me said something about me again and this time my new buddy turned around and said 'Watch your mouth or ill wash it out with soap for you.' I just nodded at him and returned to watching the game, feeling slightly less intimidated now that I had my own 350lb body guard.
The carnival atmosphere intensified. With the Yankees winning the Sox were in trouble. And that's where Pedro broke out perhaps the best game of his career. In the middle of the team's longest road trip against their strongest competitors, he faced down the Yankees and threw a complete game one-hitter, facing only one batter over the minimum. Pedro struck out the side in the 5th, 7th, and 9th innings, for a total of 17 in the game. He fanned every Yankee who came to bat at least once.
Pedro was such a ferocious competitor, he was like a boxer, who was angered by his opponent (Chilli Davies) landing a punch, and who went on to absolutely annihilate him. With Pedro dealing his 97 mph fastball, his wicked curve and that Delicious changeup, the powerful all-world Yankees lineup was reduced to one fair ball after the fourth inning. Have a think about that. They hit ONE ball into play from the fourth inning on.
Every time he fired in one of his pitches I felt my emotions get pushed higher and higher. The Dominican fans in the bleachers were going absolutely insane. My new buddy beside me was pretty quiet, completely focused on the game, but after every strike out he just mumbled, 'K, another K'.
I practically floated out of Yankee stadium, everything from there is just a blur. The bright stadium lights, several Red Sox fans celebrating in front of the stadium.
Like Ron Bergundy, ''I wanna say something. I'm gonna put it out there. If you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back.'' I want to come right out and say that was the single greatest pitching performance I have ever seen, and this coming from a guy who saw Niall Rowen of the Dublin League Blacksox pitch in both the A and B league finals in 2006! I am sticking to my guns. Pedro, that night, was the greatest.
As I left the stadium I heard Frank singing '...start spreading the news..' over the PA system. I couldn't get that song out of my head for days, and when I hear it now I remember nothing but that chilly night in New York watching Pedro carry the Red Sox on his back deep in the heart of Yankee land. Little bonus, the Sox swept the weekend series.
Just good times all round.