Saturday, June 6, 2020

Musings on the National Pastime

Back in late February, when baseball spring training camps were in full swing, if someone had said to me, “Bill, I predict by mid-June, the Red Sox will be undefeated and the Yankees will be winless!” I would’ve replied, “Impossible. That would be great if true, but impossible.”
Well, here we are in the second week of June, and the Red Sox have not lost a game yet this year, while the Yankees have not won a game. Of course, it’s really not great because you can plug the names of any two teams into that sentence and it technically is true. That’s what happens when the first half of an entire season, if not more, gets wiped out because a contagious microscopic bugger turned the world upside-down.
By this time each year, I usually write a baseball-themed essay, focused on how well or poorly the Red Sox are doing. Since I can’t write about that, instead I’ll discuss what it’s been like for baseball fans to get their daily fix watching nothing be reruns.
Each area team has its own cable network. For the Red Sox, it’s NESN. The Yankees are on the YES Network, and SNY shows the Mets games. Almost every evening these networks show “classics,” that is, famous games the respective teams played in the past. It’s been fun going down memory lane, and seeing old favorites back in action, such as Fisk, Rice, Lynn, Yaz, Roger, Nomar, Pedro, Schilling, and Big Papi. For the Mets there’s Seaver, Swoboda, Agee, Gooden, Strawberry, Hernandez, Wright, and Harvey.
And you know what? Even though I’m a Red Sox fan, I do appreciate the talented Yankee players from the good ol’ days, like Munson, Nettles, Guidry, Rivers, Jeter, O’Neill, Mariano, Bernie, and Posada.
I’ve watched some absolutely classic and historic contests: the 1978 one-game playoff (known as the “Bucky bleepin’ Dent” game) and the 1986 World Series (known as the “ball through Buckner’s legs” Series). See? Since the Sox won four World Series in recent years, I now can talk about Bucky and Buckner without crumpling to the floor and sobbing in the fetal position.
Other classic games broadcast during the past couple of months include Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the 1969 Miracle Mets, the 2004 Red Sox comeback, and key games during the 2013 “Boston Strong” season in the wake of the Marathon terrorist bombing. There also have been plenty of old games featuring walk-off homers, no-hitters, and bench-clearing brawls. 
With these “classic” games, the featured team never loses. Every night I channel surf between the three networks and I know the Sox, Yanks, and Mets are sure to win. It’s gotten comical, and I’ve reached the point where I’d rather see the Red Sox lose a game as long as the outcome is in doubt while I’m watching.
However, there is one huge advantage to watching reruns of “classic” games: the telecasts end exactly two hours after they begin. That’s right, there are no tedious three-and-a-half and four-hour ballgames, with a combined 19 bases on balls and 13 pitching changes. They edit boring innings out of the classic games, so they end right on time.
This two-hour time limit is so refreshing! Do you remember those “Bataan death march” games in London last summer? Two games were played, with each one close to five hours long! That was embarrassing. Afterward, many British people commented, “I say, we thought the rudest thing Americans ever did to us was throw our tea into Boston Harbor. These two games were much more offensive!”
Well, this week NESN is broadcasting “Pedro Martinez pitching gems.” Tonight the Sox play Baltimore. Gee, I wonder who will win?

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