Page 2 columnist
Any time Game 7 of the World Series involves the potential demise of the Yankee Dynasty, the potential inclusion of Bob Brenly into the Bad Manager Hall of Fame, and the potential for Roger Clemens to choke on the biggest stage imaginable, with the added bonus that the Emmy Awards and the Hugh Hefner Roast are showing on other channels ... well, it sounds up like the TV night to end all TV nights.
Of course, I kept a running diary. Here's what transpired:7:32: We're coming to you live from the Sports Guy Mansion -- I'm joined by a Miller Lite bar bottle that I found hiding in the door of my fridge, as well as some leftover ham and an unopened bag of Sour Patch Kids that's looming for a key moment tonight (kind of like Mariano Rivera). Who am I rooting for? That's a game-time decision. Stay tuned. 7:33: I wish Fox could have figured out a way to sneak me into the opening promos, the ones where they intersperse footage of the games with opera music and those goofy closeups of players staring into the camera and trying to look serious. Those kill me. I could have been typing in my underwear and slowly glanced up from my laptop or something. Maybe next year. 7:35: Tonight's pregame show is hosted by Jeanne Zelasko and former Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy. I don't even have a joke here. 7:37: First shot of Bob Brenly with one of those, "If we lose this thing, I'm packing a suitcase, getting in my car and driving south until I hit water" looks on his face. Maybe Brenly and Byung-Hyun Kim could get a "Thelma and Louise" thing going. 7:41: During the pregame warmups, Arizona's P.A. announcer explains to the 60,000-plus pom-pom-waving bandwagon jumpers at Bank One Ballpark things like Four balls equal a walk; When you touch home, that counts as one run and Don't root for any player with an "NY" on their cap. 7:43: Trumpet. Fireworks. Anthem. Flag. Goosebumps.
7:48: You know, every once in a while, a new series comes along that raises the bar for all of television. This November, that show is "24." TV Guide says, "Believe what you've heard. . . "24" is the best new show of the season. It's like a first-rate movie thriller -- one of the most exciting nights ever." The Washington Post exclaims, "This is one of the most engaging shows of this or any season ... full of suspense, intrigue and surprises." The N.Y. Times says, "You'll be checking your watch in amazement that the hour is already over ... and then setting your times for the next episode." And Bill Simmons exclaims, "If I see one more promo for this show, I'm going on a three-state killing spree!"7:51: Time for my personal moment of truth ... who should I root for tonight? The evil Yankees, or the fast-food D-backs? Could I handle all the annoying Yankee fans I know after a fourth straight (miraculous) title? Could I handle the possibility of two insta-franchises (the Marlins and D-backs) winning a Series in a four-year span when my beloved Red Sox haven't won since 1918? What's the lesser of two evils? (Maybe it's a question of "Who should I root against?" That way I'm not rooting for anyone. Does that make sense?) 7:54: I always thought Michael Jordan's comeback would be the greatest comeback of this decade ... but how 'bout the guy who played the Principal in "The Breakfast Club" reprising the same role for "Not Just Another Teen Movie"? That elicited a legitimate "WOW!" from me during the preview they just showed. Two months, Bender. You're mine for two months. 7:56: The D-backs fans are waving white pom-poms. All they're missing is the Tomahawk Chop. By the way, Curt Schilling is 4-0 with an 0.88 ERA in the 2001 postseason. "This guy lengthens the strike zone," gushes McCarver. Sounds like my prom night. 7:59: First pitch. This game might actually end before midnight. (Nahhhhhh ...) 8:01: The not-quite-as-despicable-since-he's-retiring-and-seems-somewhat-vulnerable Paul O'Neill gets thrown out at third gunning for a triple. McCarver gives the gamble his blessing, saying it was a good risk because the Yanks hadn't gotten a runner to third with less than two outs in the past 54 innings or something. We're not even out of the first inning yet, and my head is already spinning. 8:07: One through nine for Arizona: Womack, Counsell, Gonzalez, Williams, Finley, Bautista, Grace, Miller, Schilling. Not exactly the Big Red Machine. (By the way, Fox's scouting report for Roger Clemens includes the graphic "Big-game pitcher?" They don't make question marks big enough for a graphic like that. I'm rooting for him to pull an Aron Garcia tonight -- 12 runs, 15 hits, him crying on the mound, Joe Torre yelling at him, the whole shebang.)
8:14: My least-favorite TV/baseball invention of the past decade: When the home plate camera zooms in on the pitcher's face and takes up the whole screen. Do I really need the ability to count the number of whiskers on Clemens's chin, or the number of Randy Johnson's nose hairs? Does anyone enjoy this?8:18: Hey, it's the first shot of Byung-Hyun Kim looking petrified in the D-backs dugout. I had 8:32 in the ESPN.com office pool.
8:34: As Mark Grace stands at the plate with a guy on first, one out and a salad fork sticking out of his back, Joe Buck explains that Brenly started Grace over Erubiel Durazo tonight because Grace had "worked too hard for too long" to get to this moment. Wasn't this the same logic that resulted in "Buckner over Stapleton" in Game 6 of the '86 World Series? Uh-oh.8:39: Grace singles, but Clemens strands runners on second and first to get out of the second inning. Confused by the turn of events, Arizona fans get up and start heading for the exits before the P.A. announcer urges them to remain in their seats. 8:44: Schilling strikes out Clemens: Nine up, nine down. I can't believe that two former Red Sox pitchers are swapping zeros in Game 7 of the World Series. Unbelievable. I hate being a Red Sox fan. They haunt my life in a "Dr. Lewis' loser black sheep sister Chloe on 'ER' " kind of way. 8:57: Matt Williams beats out an infield single. Two on, two out in the bottom of the third. Hey, how 'bout Williams being married to the girl from "Blame it on Rio" -- the one who slept with Michael Caine and whose breathtaking performance during the topless beach scenes shamed Demi Moore into getting an immediate boob job? Can't we have some sort of "Jumping Out of Your Seat And Doing a Fist Pump" pay-per-view match with Johnson and Brigitte Sampras-Wilson? Can Don King make this happen? 9:00: Clemens strikes out the side to get out of the inning. We're only through three innings, and he already has thrown 285 pitches. Classic Clemens. Meanwhile, some "West Wing" writer is going too long with his speech and the Emmy orchestra is playing that "Hurry the Bleep Up!" music to ease him along. Too bad we can't import them for the rest of this game. 9:05: McCarver, unedited: "Joe, we talked about this in the opening, and it is absolutely REMARKABLE, that the Yankees, this is their SEVENTH game, and they have had one inning, in this series, in which they have had a runner on at third base, and less than two outs, and they did that with the score FIFTEEN to nothing last night." 9:06: McCarver again: "The Diamondbacks, for the most part, their victories have come early in the game, middle of the game. The Yankees, of course, have won two dramatic games, Game 4 and Game 5, and that's why, we are tied at 3-3." 9:12: Twelve up, twelve down for Schilling. If it weren't for O'Neill's double in the first, I'd be making jokes like "Schilling just entered the bar, ordered a drink and sat next to Destiny ... she looks a little tipsy ..." 9:14: Mmmmmm ... Sour Patch Kids. Did you ever compare Sour Patch Kids to members of the Corleone family? The red one would be Michael; the orange one, Sonny; the yellow one, Tom Hagen; and Fredo would definitely be the green one. 9:17: With the score still 0-0, Buck and McCarver remember the famous 1-0 Game 7 of the '91 World Series, when Jack Morris pitched 10 innings for the win. Most underrated baseball performance of my lifetime. Nobody ever talks about it. Amazing. (And while we're here, Jack's quote about female sportswriters -- "The only time I want to talk to a women when I'm naked is when I'm on top of them or they're on top of me" -- was the funniest sports quote of all-time. Jack Morris really slipped through the cracks of history, didn't he? World Series Hero and Comedic Genius. Quite a combo.) 9:20: Clemens strikes out Schilling to end the fourth. Still 0-0. The Sports Gal pops into the room and gives a lukewarm review of the Emmy's so far, saying simply, "Ellen DeGeneres is hosting." 'Nuff said. She then grabs my Sour Patch Kids and eats the last two red ones. The lesson here, as always: Women are purely and simply evil. 9:26: McCarver: "The problem with the Yankees offense is that they've been making EARLY OUTS in the inning. That's why they can't get a runner to third base. They've done it, again, only one inning in seven games -- a runner at third with less than two outs. So it's the inability to score cheap runs against Diamondback pitchers, that is the point there. No groundballs. No sacrifice flies ... when the Yankees have scored, the Diamondback pitchers have made them earn it. Seven of the 12 runs scored, once again, the home run." 9:28: Hey, the home plate umpire's name is Steve Ripley. Believe it or not. 9:30: It's 0-0 through four and a half. I feel like I'm watching ESPN Classic right now. "Who will blink first tonight," Buck asks, "Schilling or Clemens?" I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that Clemens will be blinking like Jose Canseco within the next two innings. Just an educated guess. 9:34: I love the "Take me out to the ballgame" commercial with all the players singing in different languages as much as anybody, but how could they leave out Rickey Henderson? How can you have English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Australian ... and not Rickey-Speak? Buy Rickey peanuts and cracker jacks ... Rickey doesn't care if Rickey ever gets back ... 9:38: Jeter just made a nice charging play on a chopper by Craig Counsell... and you just knew this was coming. I'll let you guess who said this one: "Don Zimmer says that Derek Jeter on this particular play is the best he's ever seen. Glove down, body down, throw hard. That is a very difficult play." (Just for the record, I'm the best you've ever seen at typing while watching the TV at the same time. Watch what I do right here ... watch how I'm typing and I'm looking up at the TV. Watch this. Bam. I'm typing. Right now I'm typing and I can't even see the keyboard. I'm not looking at it. Again, I'm looking at the TV, not the keyboard. Watch my fingers moving ... now watch my eyes. I'm still watching the TV. Amazing.) 9:43: After five, it's 0-0. I'm rooting for the idiot Arizona fans to start The Wave, just to see people inevitably colliding into one another. No way they could pull that off. Keep waving those hankies, folks. The Jumbotron will direct you when to cheer. Thanks for coming. 9:45: There isn't a better commercial jingle going right now than the "This Bud's for you" song. This Bud's for you ... and you and you and you ... this Bud's for yewwwww! (It's running through your head now, isn't it? Now you know how I feel.) 9:50: Eighteen up, eighteen down for Schilling. If not for O'Neill's double, he could be buying Destiny a second drink right now. 9:53: Hey, a run! After Steve Finley singles, Danny Bautista doubles him home for the game's first run (and gets subsequently gunned out by Jeter trying for a triple). 1-0, Arizona. Please note that Clemens wasn't backing up third base on the throw. 9:58: You know what's weird? I'm not rooting for either team. Now I'm rooting for a tense 1-1 game that goes on for like 25 innings. I don't care who wins -- I just want extensive long-term damage to the pitching staffs. To borrow a political science phrase, I'm rooting for a Zero-Sum Game kind of thing. Does this make sense? 9:59: Buck going into a commercial: "Who will blink first? Roger Clemens will blink first. A hit by Finley, an RBI double by Bautista, 1-0, Arizona." As always with these Yankee teams, you wait to see how they'll respond. For the past four seasons, it hasn't been a question of "Can they come back?" but "How will they come back?" I refuse to believe their dynasty could get submarined in Phoenix Freaking Arizona, of all places. It's almost enough to make me root for them. Almost. 10:03: Jeter singles, O'Neill singles. First and second, no outs. Meanwhile, the Emmy's are still chugging along on CBS, the Hugh Hefner Roast just started on Comedy Central, the Jets are stunning the Saints on ESPN, and in an unexpected wrinkle ... "Brian's Song" is showing on ESPN Classic. Good God Almighty!
10:06: First and third, one out, Tino Martinez up ... and Hugh Hefner is talking about Brian Piccolo at the Emmys.(Uh-oh. Overload! Overload! I think I feel another seizure coming on. Oh, God ...) (Errrrrraaggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!) (EERRRRRRRRRAGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!! (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!) (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!) 10:07: I'm officially rooting for Arizona. The thought of Yankee fans all over the world exhorting another comeback win makes me physically ill. Could somebody please get me a lobotomy and a white pom-pom to wave? 10:08: Dammit! Tino rips an RBI single to right. Tie game. Now we have to take a three-minute break, while the P.A. announcer explains the change in score to the Arizona fans. Your Diamondbacks were winning by one ... but when Mr. Jeter touched the five-sided white box called "Home plate," that meant the Yankees have tied the game. The score is one to one. That means we will need one more run to win this game, which can only come when our players our batting. Thank you for your patience. 10:12: Finley chases down a potential gapper by Shane Spencer to end the top of the seventh. Great play. Unfortunately, I was typing and missed Jeffrey Ross' speech for the Hugh Hefner Roast. There's comedy, there's high comedy, there's transcendent comedy ... and then there was Ross's off-color joke about Bea Arthur and Sandra Bernhard from the Jerry Stiller Roast two years ago. He'll never top that one. 10:17: Curt Schilling leads off the bottom of the seventh, as Bob Brenly basically grabs a megaphone and announces to his fans, "I have no confidence in our bullpen, folks! None whatsoever! We're going with Schilling until his arm comes flying off." 10:19: Tony Womack singles with one out in the seventh, causing Clemens to get the hook for Mike Stanton. Not a bad job by the Rocket: 6.1 innings, 1 run, 7 hits. Surprisingly competent. It must be a nice feeling to root for Clemens and have him actually deliver in a big game. I wish I knew what it was like. Meanwhile, on Comedy Central, Sarah Silverman tells Alan King, "A nursing home in Florida just called. Your last fan just died." 10:30: Stanton somehow pitches the Yanks out of the seventh, thanks to an ill-fated hit-and-run in which Counsell swung and missed (strike three) and Womack was thrown out at second. That was right out of the Tony La Russa Graduate School for "Over-managing in big moments." Brenly practically has a Ph.D at this point.
10:34: Alfonso Soriano comes up big again -- a homer to left field! The Yanks lead 2-1, and they have the greatest postseason reliever of all-time coming in to pitch the eighth and ninth.For once, McCarver sums it up best: "The Yankees and Diamondbacks have played 66 innings ... the Yankees have had the lead for 7½ of those 66 innings. Unbelievable." (Just for the record, I rewound the tape to the sixth inning for this tidbit from McCarver during Soriano's previous at-bat: "Usually in games like this, a Double Threat ends up being the difference, and Soriano's a Double Threat -- guys who can run and hit with power, 'cause they can beat you on the bases or with the longball." Well done.) 10:38: Dave Justice sets the record for "Most Hits In A World Series Game By A Corpse" with a single to left. Even Brenly knows that Schilling is gassed; Schilling leaves to a standing ovation from the Arizona crowd, as the Jumbotron implores them, Stand and cheer! Now! Stand and cheer! Hurry! Stand up! Come on, we worked on this! 10:40: Miguel Batista enters the game to face Derek Jeter. Here's something McCarver missed: Last Thursday's USA Today revealed that Batista is working on a novel about a kid serial killer. Said Batista, "He has an extra power that nobody understands what it is, not even himself," describing his writing career as, "I'm just like the guy from the series 'Dream On;' I watch a lot of movies, and that gives me ideas ... I feel like I am pregnant with all these ideas. I am just trying to give birth to them." (You can't really pick out a "funniest part" of that excerpt, can you? I think not.)
10:43: After Batista induces a forceout by Jeter, Brenly immediately yanks him and brings in Randy Johnson to face Paul O'Neill. I'd like to order the torn rotator cuff, please? And could you throw in some blown-out elbow ligaments? Thanks.10:45: You have to love those Fox "Sounds of the Game." Here what Brenly said after yanking Schilling earlier in the inning: "We're gonna put Miguel on this guy here, get a fresh arm in here. Hell of an effort, Big Man. You're my hero. You're my hero. (Signalling for reliever) That ain't gonna beat us. We're gonna get that (run) back. That ain't gonna beat us, Big Man." 10:48: The Big Unit retires pinch-hitter Knoblauch to end the inning. Within 4-5 minutes, Fox will unveil their first "Mariano Rivera is really damn good" graphic to terrify everyone who's rooting against the Yankees. 10:50: Flipped to ESPN Classic just in time to hear, "I love Brian Piccolo ... and I'd like all of you to love him, too. And tonight, get on your knees, and please ask God to love him." It's getting a little dusty in here at the Sports Guy Mansion. I'm not crying; I think I have something in my eye. 10:53: As the tension mounts and Rivera throws his first pitch of the bottom of the eighth, Fox seizes the moment by digitally inserting a "Shallow Hal" movie promo behind home plate. Thanks, guys. 10:55: The "West Wing" producers accept the Emmy for "Best TV Drama," right as Fox flashes this graphic about Mariano Rivera:
- LOWEST ERA: ALL-TIME POSTSEASON:
Marino Rivera 0.70
Sandy Koufax: 0.95
Christy Mathewson: 1.15
Eddie Plank: 1.32
(By the way, any time a pitcher jumps off the mound, fields a bunt, throws to the lead base and gets the out, one of the baseball announcers must refer to him as "cat-like." Little-known rule.)11:15: Whoa! Womack doubles off Rivera to tie the game! The D-backs scored off Rivera! The D-Backs scored off Rivera! Just like that scene in "Rocky 4" when Rocky cuts Ivan Drago -- "He's cut! The Russian is cut!" (Speaking of sports movie analogies, I'm openly rooting for the D-backs at this point, and just yelled out, "FINISH THEM! FINISH THEM!" I feel like John Kreese at the 1985 All-Valley Karate Championships. I wish somebody was standing next to me yelling, "Get 'em a bodybag ... yeahhhhhhhh!") 11:17: Rivera hits Counsell as the moronic D-backs fans boo, as if Rivera did this intentionally. Could somebody electroshock them, please? Now Luis Gonzalez strides to the plate under these conditions: Bases loaded, tie game, one out, the winning run of the World Series 90 feet away, the greatest postseason reliever of all-time on the mound. This game is now being simulcast on ESPN Classic. 11:22: My unedited notes from the final five minutes:
Dink single ... AZ wins! ... players mob first base ... Luis Gonzalez = hero ... Bob Brenly: "I'm off the hook!" ... BK Kim: "Me too!" ... Fox flashes "Fastest expansion team" graphic ... Arizona P.A. system blasts "We are the champions" ... poor Buck Showalter ... reaction shots of the depressed Yanks (twinge of sadness for them -- great team) ... McCarver called the Gonzalez hit right before it happened: Warned of the cheap single over the drawn-in infield (amazing) ... where's Mrs. Matt Williams??? ... top three Series of my lifetime? ('75, '91, '01) ... lots of hanky waving ... almost worse than watching the Yanks win again (almost) ... replays: it doesn't get any better than those shots of players joyously jumping out of the dugout ... FEEEEEE-nomenal game.11:28: The Sports Gal's postgame contribution: "You know how they sing '2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate?' after Little League games? Wouldn't it be funny if the winning teams had to do that after World Series games?"
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