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Thursday, October 28, 2004
Updated: May 31, 2:26 PM ET
The Nation's destination: Destiny

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

I woke up thinking about the Red Sox. Answered e-mails, read the paper, showered, shaved, never stopped thinking about the Red Sox. Found that I was so excited, I could barely keep a thought in my head. Skipped through the day's routine doing ordinary things, thinking the entire time, "Holy crap, my life could be completely different in eight hours."

Red Sox
Now it's time to join the ranks of the normal baseball fans. Thank God.
Is this how parents feel when they're about to have a baby? Like nothing has changed, but everything's about to change? That's how I felt yesterday. The Red Sox were about to win the World Series. And I was about to become Just Another Baseball Fan again.

Because that's all we ever wanted. Nobody understood that. Outsiders made up fake curses, called us losers, pointed to a legacy of failure, questioned our sanity. We kept hoping. We kept the faith. We kept passing this team down from generation to generation, hoping it would be worth it. And it was. The last 11 days were the greatest sports ride of our lives: Eight games, eight wins, one championship, a boatload of memories. We crawled through 500 yards of (expletive)-smelling foulness and came out smelling like roses on the other side.

Anyway, I have very few rules in life, but this is one: Any time the Red Sox can win the World Series on the same night of a lunar eclipse, I have to keep a running diary. I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it for me. I want to read it in 50 years, show my kids, frame this baby and stick it on a wall. Here's how Dad was feeling on the night the Red Sox won the championship. I like that idea.

Of course, the Red Sox had to actually come through. Here's what transpired.

DIARY OF A CHAMPIONSHIP
The last few years have been a pretty good run for the Sports Guy. Here's how he followed the last two titles in Boston:

  • Super Bowl XXXVII: Patriots vs. Rams

  • Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots vs. Panthers
  • 5:15 p.m PST -- We're coming to you live from the Sports Guy Mansion! I'm sitting here with my dog Dooze, the Sports Gal and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot on ice. Two pregame notes:

  • Instead of showing a Boston bar, Fox planted cameras inside Red Sox-friendly bars in Los Angeles and New York. Apparently the Neverland Ranch cancelled at the last minute.

  • Fox showed a sequence of breaks that the Sox have gotten over the past two weeks, followed by the obligatory Curse of the Bambino montage with 348 different photos and video images of Babe Ruth. Thanks, guys. You've made this a blast from start to finish.

    5:20 -- Our announcers for tonight: Joe Buck (son of the famous Cards announcer) and Tim McCarver (longtime Cardinals catcher). Why not just go the whole way and have Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog and Dizzy Dean as sideline reporters? And where's Al Leiter? Did McCarver have him liquidated?

    5:25 -- Buck throws it to Chris Myers in the stands: "For the Sox fans who travelled here, they're still kinda numb, they don't know how to act." Yup, pretty much. That's us.

    5:27 -- According to Buck, we have two groundball pitchers tonight: Derek Lowe and Jason Biggs-lookalike Jason Marquis. Nobody epitomizes the Sox experience like D-Lowe, who wore every hat possible during the Pedro Era -- superb set-up man, quality closer, embattled closer, 20-game winner, guy who threw a no-hitter, major disappointment, hero of the Oakland series, head case who tanked his contract year, money pitcher who came through against the Yankees.

    I can't accentuate this strongly enough -- I gave up on this guy at least 25 times over the past six years. You never knew what to expect with him. Just like rooting for the Red Sox.

    5:28 - Leadoff home run, Johnny D! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! It's 1-0, Sox. They're 8-0 when scoring first in the playoffs. That leads to this exchange:

    -- McCarver: "One thing about groundballs, they go out of the ballpark."
    -- Sports Gal (after a beat): "I don't get it."

    Johnny Damon
    The Cards were in a hairy situation after Damon took Marquis deep.
    5:32 -- Following a walk to Manny, we get our first prolonged closeup of a homicidal Tony La Russa. You should know that my Mom called La Russa "brooding and VERY sexy" this week, but added that he looks just enough like Robert Evans where she could never be "totally attracted" to him. And you wonder why I'm a lunatic. Meanwhile, Marquis gets out of the first.

    5:40 -- After Womack's leadoff hit over Cabrera's head, McCarver claimed that Cabrera "jumped too soon," was proven wrong by the replay, then continued to discuss the dangers of "jumping too soon." I love when announcers refuse to admit they were wrong despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is exactly how I would announce games. You can't let little things like facts and indisputable evidence get in the way of your points. You just can't.

    5:45 -- Thank God for Scott Rolen -- he just stranded Womack on third to end the first. Even Ben Affleck isn't in this big of a slump.

    5:51 -- Just had this exchange:

    -- Me: "Hey, you're talking a little too much, I'm trying to type."
    -- Sports Gal: "I'm gonna go on the treadmill."
    -- Me (a little too soon): "Okay, yeah, do that."

    (Uh-oh ... it's a little chilly in here right now ... )

    5:58 -- The Sox just stranded two in the second. Marquis couldn't look any shakier. It's not possible. More importantly, there's been a Woody Harrelson sighting! He's in that new Pierce Brosnan movie. Maybe he got bored of writing Op-Ed columns for High Times Magazine.

    6:01 -- One thing about this Cards team: Very detached group of guys. If you get one fist-pump out of them over a nine-inning game, you're lucky. I'm not even sure if they know each other. You think Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker have ever been formally introduced?

    6:03 -- Following a Hank Aaron sighting, McCarver tells about Hammerin' Hank's 756th home run that didn't count. Curt Simmons was pitching, Chris Pelekoudas was the home plate umpire, and I can't believe I'm writing this down. Meanwhile, three up, three down for D-Lowe in the second.

    6:06 -- All right, I'll ask: Is "Nanny 911" premiering on Fox or the Spice Channel?

    6:10 - Following a Ramirez single, Fox shows Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore wearing Red Sox sweatshirts and clapping excitedly. I wish I was actually driving the Red Sox Bandwagon right now, just so I could screech to a halt, whirl around, point to them and scream, "Get off! RIGHT NOW! I mean it! Get off! Move it! Gather your things and GET OFF!"

    6:15 -- Ortiz doubles, then Manny gets thrown out at home on a Varitek grounder. Third and first, two outs. For whatever reason, Buck and McCarver effusively praise Pujols for throwing out Manny on a routine play (he was out by 10 feet). I think he's in their fantasy football league or something.

    6:18 -- Mueller walks on four pitches. Bases loaded for Trot. "This is an accident waiting to happen," McCarver says. "You wonder how long Marquis can keep walking through the raindrops." Actually, I wasn't wondering that. But Trot ends up CRUSHING a 3-0 pitch to right field, just missing a grand slam by about five feet. 3-0, Red Sox.

    (Note: Nothing sums up this Sox team like Trot getting the green light on 3-0. Get busy living, or get busy dying.)

    6:20 -- The Sports Gal sums up everyone else's feelings: "Why the hell are they showing Red Sox fans celebrating at a bar in New York City????"

    6:38 -- After a hurried trip to Starbucks, we made it back for the top of the fourth -- nobody scored or anything -- just in time to see Manny argue with the black sheep Molina brother, Francona running out to cool things down ... and then the game continuing like nothing ever happened. See, this is where my idea for networks hiring lip readers during games comes in handy. Let's go to Marlee Matlin, who knows exactly what the argument was about.

    6:42 -- What's sadder, that Fox keeps showing these "House MD" promos, or that I was just bummed out that the "You're risking a patient's life!" line wasn't included in the last one?

    6:44 -- Chris Myers reports that La Russa argued to the home plate ump between innings, complaining that Marquis wasn't getting the same calls as D-Lowe. We don't like our hotel room in Boston, we don't like the food at the hotel, we aren't getting the same calls. Hey Tony, you want some cheese with that whine? Get a haircut.

    (Sorry I just turned into my stepfather there ... my apologies.)

    6:47 -- After Womack's leadoff single, D-Lowe has retired 12 straight guys, as well as any chance of the Derek Lowe Face for the night. When that sinker starts cutting away from lefthanded hitters, you know he's got it going. I'm officially counting outs. 15 to go.

    Derek Lowe
    The 2003 Derek Lowe apparently showed up a little late this season.
    6:49 -- Well, we had the lunar eclipse. I think this is a good sign. More importantly, Bonnie Tyler gets to fill out a 1090-form this year -- Fox just replayed the moon with "Total Eclipse of the Heart" playing in the background. Plus, the Red Sox are trying to complete a World Series sweep. This is officially the weirdest night of all-time. I keep expecting Dooze to hop next to me on the sofa and ask, "Hey, who's winning?"

    6:58 -- Marquis becomes the first Cards starter to get through the fifth inning this week. Of course, it took him 110 pitches. But he did it. This Cards rotation reminds me of the SNL cast this year -- seems nice enough on paper, but nobody can carry the show when it matters.

    Time for a quick story: At the Pats game two Sundays ago, I didn't dress warmly enough and ended up buying a hooded Pats sweatshirt and matching old-school ski cap with Pat Patriot on it, which I wore at Game 4 against the Yanks later that night. Needless to say, the combo returned for Game 5 ... and nine days later, I'm still wearing the sweatshirt (with the cap as a late-inning closer). Also, I have a T-shirt covered in bird poop hidden in my bedroom. Other than that, I'm totally normal about this Red Sox thing. Just wanted to get that on the record.

    7:04 -- One-out double for Renteria, one of those Latin guys who's listed at 29 but probably went to high school with Roberto Clemente. That's followed by a wild pitch from Lowe. "If you're looking for the local and you get the express, you're in trouble," McCarver explains. You're waiting for me to make a "I just threw up in my mouth" joke. Nope. I feel pretty good.

    7:07 -- Yep. Mabry strikes out, followed by Black Sheep Molina grounding out to end the inning. You know what? It's not happening for the Cards. It's just not. They should just put on Finland's 1980 hockey uniforms and get it over with. At the rate they're going, they may not even get 10 minutes in the Red Sox World Series DVD.

    7:14 -- Just called my Dad: "Twelve outs to go."

    7:16 -- Desperate to jinx the Sox, Fox sends Chris Myers into the stands to interview Boston fans, including a 12 year-old kid who says, "I can't wait to come back and brag that I got to see the Red Sox win the World Series."

    (You know, in the old days, I'd be cringing right now and awaiting the inevitable Pujols grand slam. Not anymore. Okay, maybe a little.)

    7:18 -- Top three places where I wish Fox had planted cameras tonight: 3.) Steinbrenner's house; 2.) Buckner's house; 1.) Nomar's house. I just picture a sullen Nomar watching the game in the dark, as Mia brings him a glass of water and he says, "Thanks, beautiful."

    7:19 -- After a Damon two-out triple, Cabrera strands him at third. Marquis has gotten out of more trouble tonight than Bobby Brown. By the way, you know when you spend a weekend in Vegas drinking and smoking and playing cards for all hours, then you come back home, and there's that weird Sunday night where you feel disoriented, your head hurts and your heart is pounding from the nicotine/liquor withdrawal? That's how I'm starting to feel. I think this is fun. I think.

    7:26 -- Good question from the Sports Gal: "Why wouldn't the Red Sox want to keep this team together if they win?" Because we're not the ones who would have to pay Lowe and Pedro a combined $90 million over the next four years. That's why.

    7:31 -- With Walker on first, D-Lowe gets a Pujols pop-out to end the sixth. When Lowe got squeezed on the 2-2 pitch, there was at least a 40-percent chance for the self-destructive hanging sinker next. Didn't happen. And yes, I went to the lucky ski cap for that one.

    7:36 -- Just went online to find D-Lowe's pitch count (71). Normally, the network provides these things, but ... well ...

    7:38 -- Boston goes quietly in the seventh, leading to That Guy from Creed singing "God Bless America" between innings. Somehow, they found the one singer who sucks more than the Cardinals offense.

    7:44 -- Classic shot of the nervous Red Sox owners, including Tom Werner looking like he's about to start puking up pea soup like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." Sadly, they don't show bachelor GM Theo Epstein, who could become the next JFK Jr. in Boston if the Sox pull this off.

    7:47 -- Fox runs the always-entertaining "How life was different the last time the Sox won the World Series" graphic. Not only had penicillin not been discovered in 1918, but the NBA didn't exist yet. I think there's a VD joke here somewhere. Whatever.

    7:49 -- D-Lowe strikes out Mabry to end the seventh. At the rate we're going, I'll be driving down "Derek Lowe Avenue" in Back Bay in five years. Six outs to go.

    (Final line on Lowe: Seven innings, no runs, three hits. A win gives him the decision in all three clinchers this month. Not a bad month. All he's missing is Billy Zabka handing him a trophy and crying, "You're alright, D-Lowe, you're alright.")

    7:51 -- My favorite part of the "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss" promo: When the contestant finds out it's a hoax and screams, "We just took six weeks out of our life to make jackasses out of ourselves?" I mean, if you can't trust the producers of a reality-TV show, who CAN you trust?

    Tony La Russa
    Down 0-3 in the series, 0-3 in the game -- it's a little late to start managing.
    7:53 -- Just got an e-mail from my buddy Chipper in Milwaukee: "Just in case, I'm moving the family down into the basement for the next few hours." Probably the right move.

    7:54 -- Nixon singles, Mueller doubles. Second and third, nobody out. Trot's third double of the night, by the way. Has there ever been a World Series team that juggled more heroes from game to game? Meanwhile, La Russa puts down his Wall Street Journal, takes off his smoking jacket, puts down his pipe and tabs his closer (Isringhausen). The right move. For once.

    8:04 -- Somehow, Isringhausen gets out of the jam: Strikeout, groundout, strikeout. Still 3-0. Notice the complete lack of panic on my part. It's by design.

    8:11 -- You know, Francona has been so on fire this series, I'm not even questioning Bronson Arroyo pitching the eighth. It's like playing blackjack with someone who wins 15 grand in chips, then inexplicably wants to split 10s against a 6. Whatever, dude. Do what you need to do. If you want to bring in a white guy with cornrows to get two of the last six outs, by all means, do it.

    8:17 -- Arroyo gets Cedeno, then walks Sanders (33 BBs all year) on a full count. Terrific. Now they're bringing in Embree. That leads to the classic La Russa over-managing move -- pinch-hitting young Hector Luna for Womack (one of the few Cards who seems to be aware that it's the World Series). Of course, Luna strikes out. It was a Luna eclipse. Thank you, thank you very much. By the way, I'm starting to see three laptop screens right now.

    8:21 -- Just had this exchange with the Sports Gal:

    -- Me: "If I have a heart attack and die, copy the text in this document, paste it into an e-mail and send it to Kevin Jackson at ESPN."
    -- Her: "You serious?"
    -- Me: "Actually, yeah."

    8:22 -- Embree gets a pop-up from Walker to end the eighth. Exhale. I immediately call my Dad, who beats me to my first sentence: "Three outs to go!"

    8:28 -- Boston's at-bats are starting to take on a "The sooner we get this over, the sooner we can start pouring champagne on each other" vibe. Meanwhile, having run out of Babe Ruth pictures, Fox skips the middleman and shows the author of "The Curse of the Bambino" -- Dan Shaughnessy -- who's feverishly shoving pins into a Keith Foulke voodoo doll in the Busch Stadium press box. Then Fox shows the Buckner-Mookie clip, followed by the clip of the Boone homer. Keep trying, guys. You're not getting us this time.

    8:31 -- To the bottom of the ninth.

    (Things I won't be doing right now: Calling my Mom and telling her to press record on the VCR because I want to have it on tape when the Red Sox win the World Series. That happened in '86. Went poorly. That was the one time in my life as a sports fan where I never saw it coming -- like Joe Pesci getting made at the end of "Goodfellas," then taking that bullet to the back of the head. Never happened again. Why are we talking about this?)

    8:33 -- Here comes Foulke, who's been lights-out all month, prompting McCarver to gush, "It has been a post-season ... where ordinary Foulke ... has become extraordinary Foulke." Somewhere, Jim Nantz is nodding in approval.

    8:36 -- Pujols singles up the middle. One on, no outs. Just put the lucky ski cap back on.

    8:38 -- Rolen flies out to right, then gets taken in a hearse to the local morgue. One out. I'm having trouble typing.

    8:39 -- Edmonds strikes out. Two outs. "Should I go get the bottle of champagne?" the Sports Gal asks. Um, no. Let's hold that thought.

    8:40 -- I'm staring at Edgar Renteria right now wondering, "Does this look like the guy who will make the last out when the Red Sox win the World Series?"

    (You know what? Yes. Yes he does.)

    8:41 -- One-hopper back to Foulke, underhand scoop to first...

    HEE-YAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    8:41 -- HOLY $%#%@%@ #^%#$@#$@!!!!!!

    8:42 -- All right ...

    Forget about ending the curse and having 86 years of baggage erased in one fell swoop. If you don't get emotional watching a group of guys celebrating and hugging when you feel like you know them, when you suffered all the same highs and lows, when you spent the last seven months with them ... I mean, why even follow sports at all?

    (Translation: It's getting a little dusty in here.)

    8:43 -- Best glass of champagne in my life.

    8:44 -- Just called my Dad. Been waiting to make that call my whole life. "It happened in my lifetime!" he keeps saying. As an added bonus, the apocalypse didn't happen.

    8:47 -- Standing on a podium, Bud Selig announces that Manny won the MVP as Manny makes exaggerated pointing gestures at his teammates. Couldn't be more fitting. They placed him on waivers, tried to trade him to Texas for A-Rod ... and he ends up winning the World Series MVP 10 months later. Just like Team Lucchino drew it up. Plus, Manny gave us this exchange:

    -- Jeanne Zelasko: "Do you believe in curses?"
    -- Manny: "I don't believe in curse, I believe you make your own destination."

    Keith Foulke
    Keith Foulke's 438th consecutive appearance this postseason ened it for the Cards.
    (Not only a strangely appropriate response for the moment, but Mike Tyson must have been delighted.)

    8:50 -- Time for the round of phone calls with my Sox fan friends. My favorite reaction comes from a stunned J-Bug, who says, "I'm in shock, I'm just in shock ... I feel like this won't hit me until March, then I'll be walking on the street and I'll start doing the Fred Flintstone skip out of nowhere."

    That's a little how I feel. Reminds me of a story. Sometimes we bring home doggie bags for the Dooze. This one time, we brought her home a pork chop, which she picked up and slinked over to the living room, then dropped it on the ground. Then she kept glancing at the pork chop, then back at us. Really? This is for me? You serious? That's how I feel right now. Like Dooze staring at that pork chop. A World Series championship? Red Sox players celebrating? Really? For me?

    8:56 -- Highlights from the past five minutes: Every replay of the celebration; poor John Henry trying to get his interview over as fast as possible (he's not exactly an extrovert); Pedro stealing the trophy from Henry, then standing in front of the camera with a huge smile on his face; Theo pouring champagne on Lucchino, who pretended to be cool but was fighting off the urge to scream, "You're messing up my hair!"; a fan holding a sign that said "86 YEARS SWEPT AWAY"; and Fox heading to commercial as Schilling (how have I not mentioned Schilling in this column yet???) gave a toast to a huddled group of teammates -- "To the best Red Sox team ever assembled!" -- followed by everyone lifting champagne bottles and screaming "Yeah!" in delight.

    (I'm not sure if that was the best 15 minutes of my life, but it's definitely up there.)

    9:03 -- One more phone call to Dad. "We must have watched thousands of hours of games together over the years," he says. "I never knew if it would happen. Plus, we were there for the Yankee games! We were a part of this!" He's babbling. I'm babbling. Everyone's babbling. You tend to babble after the impossible happens.

    9:33 -- I'd like to announce that Game 4 just received coveted "Save Until I Delete" status on my TiVO, joining "Fast Break" and the first episode of "Battle of the Network Stars." Lofty company. I just watched the Red Sox win the World Series. It happened. I have proof.

    10:15 -- After an hour of phone calls and e-mails, my friends Hench and Dave show up with a bottle of champagne. We spend the next 90 minutes in my kitchen, drinking bubbly and talking about the season. Everyone agrees that our lives have somehow been changed by this, as crazy as that sounds. It's like removing a decaying tooth that pained you every time you ate something. The curse? That was the tooth. Just a nagging, annoying thing that never went away.

    Now the 1918 jokes are done. Now TV networks can't ruin our playoff games anymore. Now we can watch Red Sox games without waiting for the Other Shoe. Now we don't have to deal with manipulative books and documentaries, or hear about Buckner, Zimmer, Grady, Pesky, Torrez, Stanley and Schiraldi ever again. It's a clean slate. We're like those ugly contestants who show up on "The Swan," get fifty grand worth of plastic surgery, then start sobbing in front of a full-length mirror when they see themselves. That's every Red Sox fan right now.

    Eighty-six years wiped away. Just like that. It was destination.

    (And destiny, too.)

    Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.