Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Weekend Brings All The Joys To The Yard

I think my loyal fans were due for a really loathsome post title, and boy did I deliver!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, and in every third breath for the past week, I was lucky enough to see games 1 and 2 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium. I went with parents and girlfriend on Wednesday, and on Friday my friend Kyle and his buddy Matt came down for the weekend. As an added bonus, we saw the Giants murder the Raiders on Sunday at the Meadowlands, which was my first regular season NFL game. Here are some highlights from what I can safely call my best weekend in sports, in case you aren't totally sick of the unrepentant boasting:

*First, let's make it official: Friday's game 2 is the best sporting event I've ever seen live. No shadows, no doubts. This isn't a matter of chronological bias, where the most recent game sticks out the most; it's indisputable fact. I'm not going to make a top ten list, but quickly, here are some noteworthy and exciting games I've witnessed in living color:

Duke 95, Kentucky 92, 12/18/01, East Rutherford, NJ: This was the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, and I was on winter break my freshman year. Kentucky jumped on us from the get-go, and at some point in the second half Coach K got so pissed that he resorted to the classic motivational ploy of pulling all his starters and putting in the scrubs. Duke was down by about 10 at that point, and the second stringers managed not to lose much more ground in four minutes, which pumped everyone up. Duke was coming off a national title, and at the time I should have been worried that Coach K was counting on storyline tactics to win games, but it was pretty exciting stuff. When the big guns came back, they used the manufactured momentum to roll over the Wildcats.

Cardinals 3, Mets 1, Game 7, 2006 NLCS: They gave all the Mets fans cute little towels at Shea Stadium, and nobody could be bothered to stand during the exciting moments, instead choosing to wave lamely from a seated position. I'm convinced the horrible atmosphere in this game is directly responsible for the 3 years of misery the Mets have endured since. The only time they showed any emotion was when Endy Chavez made the greatest catch I've ever seen, robbing a home run in dead center. But Yadier Molina homered in the top of the 9th, and Beltran struck out looking with the bases juiced to end the game.

Other than that, there were a variety of really great Duke home games against UNC and Maryland, some Syracuse games from when I was a kid that were great but that I can't totally remember, and the Yankee walk-off win against the Royals in their second-to-last regular season home game this year. Any trip to Yankee Stadium is always pretty special, too. But Game 2 last Friday easily trumped them all (in fact, game 1 probably trumped them all on Wednesday).

*Kyle and Matt had seats in the upper deck, and weren't able to find anything open near my bleacher seat since the stadium was so packed, so I was on my own and free to roam. To start the game, I moved to the right field bleachers, the craziest and most fun section in the Stadium. The fans here are generally younger, drunker, and more diehard, especially during the playoffs when the expensive seats are taken by folks with lots of money.

When the game started and the Yanks took the field, Nick Swisher ran out to his position in right with his head down. The bleacher creatures started buzzing and shouting his name, but Swish kept his stare on the grass. He maintained that posture until he was almost to the wall. Then, rising up, he gave a 'fist pump' that was actually more like a kick and a roundhouse punch done simultaneously. "Let's fucking go!" he yelled (yes, it was audible), and I found myself jumping up and down and screaming involunatrily, and noticed that everyone else in the bleachers was doing the same. Have I mentioned before that Swisher is the coolest person on Earth?

*I've never seen a stadium go apeshit faster than when A-Rod hit the game-tying home run in the 9th. At that point, I was back in the left field bleachers (a semi-angry Hispanic dude kicked me out of his seat in right), and had made ballgame friends with the people around me. When the ball shot off A-Rod's bat, there was that 'holy shit, is this happening?' moment when the entire stadium caught its breath and wondered if it had a chance. We watched Gomez keep backing up in center, and when the ball floated into the bullpen, there was a burst of noise that can only be called deafening. It's one of those scenes where you can hear the high-pitched screams around you barely standing out from the low roar of 50,000 spectators in full throat. Myself and the guys on my row and the one behind me thought about high-fiving, but instead formed a spontaneous circle and jumped up and down for about two minutes in a group hug.

*David Robertson has nuts of steel. When he got out of the bases loaded, no-out jam in the 11th, it was impossible for the Yanks to lose.

*On the streets around the Stadium after the game, the scene was semi-apocalyptic. For whatever reason, at least ten bongo drum players had set up along River Avenue and 161st, so there was a constant throbbing as people milled around in the darkness. In their immediate vicinity, vibrant dance groups sprung up, bodies gyrating in strange urgent rhythms. I passed a thin man with wild hair standing on top of a fire hydrant, holding a baseball card book and screaming out "this is the team!" People moved in roving packs, starting cheers or letting out high-pitched screams. A group of four muscular guys in pinstripes stood in the middle of River Avenue, demanding high fives from all passerby. Those pedestrians unfortunate enough to be wearing Twins gear took a verbal lashing that (thankfully) stopped short of violence. At one point, waiting to meet up with Kyle, I stopped in the middle of the road, faced the flow of foot traffic, and pretended I was some helpless authority in the midst of a mass exodus. Weird times.

*Moving on quickly to the Giants game, it was pretty perfect. Kyle and I had seats in the 5th row of the upper tier, which actually turn out to be a pretty great vantage point. And the game went just as I'd hoped; by that point in the weekend, we were on about six hours sleep in two days, wounded by the degradations of excessive cheap beer, and looking to enjoy the game in a relaxed fashion. The cool autumn weather did its part, and the Giants did theirs, ending any drama within about seven minutes against the very, very hapless Oakland Raiders. We were able to enjoy the game without committing stores of energy that were simply absent from our deprived systems.

It turned out to be a great day, complete with a solid, brief performance by Eli and dominant Giants defense. Kyle even had one line that almost had me rolling on the dirty cement with laughter. As always, the caveat is that I have a weird sense of humor, and this might only have been funny in the moment. But early in the fourth quarter, when Giants placekicker Lawrence Tynes kicked a short field goal and was greeted by lackluster cheers around the Meadowlands, Kyle clapped his hands with enthusiasm. "That's it," he said, "keep chipping away!" The scoreboard read 41-7.

*Speaking of drinking, here's how you kick off a really bad night in a bar: start a conversation with a cute red-haired girl, stick with it for about ten solid minutes, and then have her abruptly stand up, say "I'm gonna make out with that guy," walk fifteen feet away, and immediately follow through with a dude who looks like every douchebag you've ever hated. That was the beginning of Matt's Saturday adventure at an NYU college bar called Phebe's, and I got to witness the whole thing. From there, he spent maybe two hours trying to break his way into a dance circle of all girls. They rebuffed him (and all other prospective male suitors) in no uncertain terms over and over, but he wouldn't quit. I've rarely seen such misplaced persistence.

I found out later from one of the girls that the group was a bachelorette party (to give you an idea of how much fun these girl were, the blond who I pressed for info when she happened to sit down next to me made sure to be as snooty as possible in her terse answers, as though instead of saying "hey, what's the story with your group?," I'd screamed "HEY BABY WANNA COME GET LAID THE FUN WAY?") which means a lot of them probably had husbands or serious boyfriends. A truly unfortunate group to cast your lot with. Matt's night kept getting worse, and you can probably hazard a rough guess as to how it ended. But in case you can't, here's how: with him sitting at a table with three girls at 2:45, horrendously drunk, and the one nearest to him consciously leaning away every time he spoke, and me trying to drag him from the bar, thinking "man, I just met this dude yesterday, and he's definitely going to vomit in my apartment tonight."

(In Matt's defense, the night was a string of horrible luck, and he generally seems to be someone who has success with females, and also he didn't puke. However, if I didn't already feel fortunate to have a nice girlfriend, his (mis)adventures in Phebe's served as a nice reminder that I should probably propose marriage in a week or two.)

*Speaking of nothing, if you're interested in blowing about 500 dollars in a single week, go to two baseball playoff games and an NFL game, and invite friends down so you can go out drinking two nights in a row in what might be the most expensive city in America. Don't get me wrong, it was a great time. It's just too bad that I can't buy my loved ones any Christmas presents this year.

Okay, that's probably all you're interested in reading today. Tomorrow, back to basics. We'll review my (breathtakingly accurate) predictions, wrap up the other Division Series,' apologize on behalf of Yankee Universe to Chip Caray and Ron Darling, honor Derek Jeter, and maybe even say some nice things about Mariano. I leave you now with one of the funniest photos I've ever seen, taken after game 3 in Minnesota amid the Yankee celebration. It's better experienced with no context.

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