Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jealousy is Your Friend Seeing a No-Hitter

I got the call last night at 10:37 eastern standard. My good friend Mike had just left Comiskey Park, where Francisco Liriano threw the first no-hitter of 2011. The call was totally unexpected, and not just because I wasn't aware a no-hitter was happening. Mike happens to live in Milwaukee, and there was no indication that on this particular night he'd find himself on the south side of Chicago. It came out of nowhere, which is what makes it so great and so bittersweet.

First, I'm happy for Mike. He's a huge Brewers fan, and he's more than put his time in at live baseball games. This was well deserved.

On the other hand, it dredged up some rough memories.

Four years ago tomorrow, on May 5, 2007, my friend Kyle and I had left field seats at the old Yankee Stadium. Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound against the Mariners, and because it was Cinco de Mayo, Kyle and I dressed up in ponchos and sombreros and had a sign that said "CinKo de Wango." It was going to be a fun day.

But then it turned to hell.

But not right away.

You can read the game story here. Wang's patented sinking fastball was diving like a hungry heron that day, my friends. You could tell he had hit his stride almost immediately, and after a 5-run 6th inning, it became clear that the Yanks had the game in the bag. And yet, we couldn't relax. Something was afoot. Wang had a perfect game.

I'm one of those compulsive no-hitter perfect-game checkers. If a pitcher gets through three innings unblemished, I notice. I can't help it, it's just how I am. I like to make my girlfriend angry by jinxing potential milestones like that very early in a game. "Hey," I'll say to her in the second inning. "Granderson just got a triple. He's already got the hardest part of a cycle! Nothing can stop him now!"

So believe you me, I was well aware of the perfect game. When he got through 6, everyone else started paying attention. When he got through 7, the tension built in the stadium. Then came the 8th. Sexson started it by grounding out to the pitcher. One down. Ben Broussard, who is now a musician and no longer in the league, came up next. Wang dealt a strike.

And then...

And then, my friends, he threw his only changeup of the game. Worse, he threw it high. Broussard smoked it past the point where Yankee gloves could reach. Ding. Dong.

What will probably be my one and only chance to see a perfect game in person was gone. In my poncho and sombrero, I joined the rest of the Stadium in applauding Wang's performance, but secretly I was quite disappointed. Today, I'm glad for the experience, but at the time it seemed like it would have been more fun if the home run came in the first inning and we could have watched the masterful 8 innings without anxiety. And when I heard Mike celebrating outside Comiskey last night, a huge part of me was happy for his luck and enjoyed Liriano's feat vicariously. But there's also that other part, that little seed of jealousy planted four years ago by a French-Canadian swing on a Taiwanese change-up...


Let's take a quick stroll around the world of sports.

1) I LOVE LOVE LOVE watching LeBron James torch the Celtics. You can tell by their expressions just how much they utterly hate LeBron and the Miami Heat. They desperately do not want to lose to these guys, and I think they understand this will be the last year when competing with them is a viable reality. Game 1 was a delightful blend of bad feelings and chippy calls and near-fights. Game 2 was less contentious, but no less bitter.

And let's be clear: LeBron is kind of a douche, or he at least made a douchey decision because he's surrounded by other douches. But man, he is fun to watch on a basketball court. I mean, good God, he is incredible. In a weird way, it's almost like the presence of the Boston Celtics is giving me permission to root for him from a safe place. A lesser of two evils type situation, you know?

But then again, you can't help but be reminded of that timeless DMB lyric:

"You seek up a big monster, for him to fight your wars for you...
But when he finds his way to you, the devil's not going..."


The point is, I might regret this support in the next round when he's beating up on the Bulls or Hawks.

Until then, though, I refer you to another DMB lyric:

"Been to suffering, been to hell, it's a place you can get lost in...
but I've never seen a darker world than the rotten heart of Boston..."


2) The internet is littered with articles about Derek Jeter's decline. Here's a good one, courtesy of Jill. My take? He's finnnne.

Then again, whenever he comes to bat I replay this video, so I'm not totally up on how his year has gone.

3) The Yanks lost last night despite having plenty of chances to score more than 2 runs. Sabathia got hit surprisingly hard by one of the worst teams in the league and tonight we have to count on ole Freddy G. to give us the edge in the series.

4) The run of four Clasico matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona ended yesterday with Barca advancing to the Champion's League final on the strength of a 1-1 tie at home. My analysis, after watching at least part of all four games (though I missed the bulk of what was apparently the best one...the King's Cup final, Real's only victory): first, Barcelona is fun to watch. Second, Iker Casillas is an annoyingly good goalie. I say annoying because more goals would have been nice. Third, soccer refereeing is just atrocious. I know we all complain about NBA and baseball and, to a lesser extent, football, but they badly, badly need the robots in professional soccer. I'm sure this is selection bias to an extent, but it seems like there's basically a 50% chance that the refs will get any major call wrong, and I also think that 75% of the soccer matches I've seen in the past, oh, 6 years have been ruined by the refs.

I don't like Ronaldo, but he has a point in this article. I don't know if there's any kind of pro-Barcelona conspiracy (I doubt it), but the outcome of this Champion's League tie was entirely swayed by the refs.

I know it's really common for Americans to call soccer boring, but I think I'm fairly past that point. I can enjoy 90 minutes of action without getting too restless. But the big thing keeping from true soccer fandom is the constant refereeing bullshit. Every time I commit myself, something happens to ruin the moment. It's one thing to win, and it's another to lose, but in soccer I feel like I can't even trust the outcome. To me, that's not a fun or interesting part of the sport. It just sucks.

Seriously, look at this play. The game was tied 0-0, and Real was about to score. This foul was called on Ronaldo, the guy in white, and the goal was disallowed. It's absurd:

Anyway, I keep coming back to this with soccer, and at this point I feel I've learned my lesson. See you at the World Cup in 2014, where I'll probably have the same exact gripes.

5) There were a lot of Osama jokes in the aftermath of the announcement Sunday night, and for the record, this was my favorite (from my friend Brandon, via twitter):

"So sad. A couple of months earlier and he could have made the in remembrance slide show at the Oscars."

That'll do for today. Huge game for the Bulls and Lakers tonight. Enjoy.


  1. Nice post today. Loved the article Jill found on Jeter. Like the Celtics, Jeter is old, and there is no cure for that (ironic that he and the Celtics share something). I've argued it before - he was very poorly advised in fighting for his last contract. It needed to be a much smaller fixed amount with very large performance bonuses. That way, if/when it didn't pan out, he could have declined w/o throwing Yankee fans into a quandary (the loving "long goodbye" scenario). The guy, and his eventual grandchildren, were already set for life before this last contract. This needed to be about legacy, not money.

  2. My take? He's finnnne.

    Less than a year ago you were trying to convince me he had a shot at Rose's hit record.

  3. Correction. I said he was mathematically ahead of Rose at that juncture in their respective lives and careers. I believe I said in the post that he would probably never break the record since he wouldn't be able to manage himself and play until he was 45 like Rose.

    San Fran, I agree but think we're underestimating Jeter's ego. I don't think he was ever going to go for anything but top dollar.


  4. How dare you correct me?!?! First mention of it was here:
    when you said "While we're here, I should note that Jeter's lifetime hit percentage is 27.8, and if he can stay healthy and play into his 40s, he actually has a fighting chance to overtake Rose"

    We went back and forth in the comments with me saying that Jeter had absolutely no chance and you eventually mostly agreeing with me.

    You broke it down the following day here:

    The first line of that post: Yesterday, I briefly mentioned that Jeter had a shot at Pete Rose's all-time hit record.

    Q.E.D. (I have no clue if I'm using that correctly, but it felt good to type)

  5. Jacob "The Destoryer"May 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    I'm happy you're back to sports. Couldn't really get through the Osama post, but you know what? To each their own.

    As a big New York sports fan (and pittsburgh for family reasons) I've been having a lot of trouble choosing which team to cheer for in the Heat-Celtics. Even though I feel sick every time I think it, I think I'm rooting for the celtics in this one. I hate them SO much. But I hate what LeBron did with his free agency. Bosh is a loser at heart. He was in Toronto. And Wade... He's not terrible.

    On the other hand, I HATE KG, someone needs to stab Pierce again, and Rondo, although a dick, is fun to watch. And Allen? Class act.

    I'm rooting for a Hawks-Memphis final. Lets see how Stern deals with that.

  6. I am exactly like you when it comes to perfect games and hitting for the cycle. And the problem is that you feel like a total idiot when the no-no is broken up in the fifth. How did I think that he even had a shot with four innings to go?!

    I have to say though that watching Roy Halladay's no-no in the playoffs last year made me at least feel like I've been a part of one.