The Tenth Man

Second greatest comeback in postseason history … and you all have me to thank for it.

It was the fifth inning and the Sox were getting blanked, 5-0. It was a funeral. Sox hitters looked like zombies, and Sox pitchers were helping the Rays hold an impromptu home-run derby. The TBS announcers had shovels in hand and were tossing dirt on top of the almost-closed coffin.

Wonder Woman had seen enough.

“I’m going to bed,” she said. “I’m sorry honey,” she added, trying to comfort me as my team rolled over and played dead.

And then I had an epiphany: the pre-game cheer! Zan and I forgot—again—to do our planned pre-game cheer!

Before Game 1 of the ALCS, we were in his bedroom, and we took all of his stuffed Red Sox toys—three bears; a disturbing-looking baseball with a face, arms and legs; and a little stuffed Wally doll—and, while I clustered together one hand from each of them, we placed our hands on top and did the “One, two, three: GOOOOOOOO RED SOX!!” thing. And they won.

Then we forgot … before Games 2, 3 and 4. When I broke the news to Zan each morning following the losses, he would say, “We forgot to do the cheer!”

So there we were: the Sox were about to get eliminated, and it was, of course, all because we forgot to do the cheer.

And not only did we forget to do the cheer, but I was dressed entirely wrong. I had to act fast.

I dashed into the bedroom, shed the non-magical duds I was wearing, and threw on my authentic Jason Varitek Red Sox home-game jersey, my 2004 World Series Champions hat and the same shorts—now tattered—that, along with the aforementioned jersey and hat, I had worn for last year’s ALCS Game 5, when the Sox were down three games to one, and rebounded for a three-game streak that sent them to the World Series, which they then swept.

As I emerged from the bedroom and passed the soon-to-be-slumbering Wonder Woman in the kitchen, she gave me the look … the one that says, “Dear god, I married a crazy person.”

“I’m pulling out the big guns,” I told her before grabbing the stuffed Wally doll and heading upstairs.

I entered Zan’s room and, by the dim glow of his nightlight, gathered the rest of the stuffed-Sox crew. I sat on his bed, clustered their hands together in my left, grabbed his right wrist, placed his limp hand on top, then covered it with my right. He stirred a little bit and, for a split second, looked at me groggily.

“Gotta do the cheer, buddy,” I said, then whispered, “One, two, three … goooo Red Sox.”

Wally in tow, I headed back to the family room, stopping first in our bedroom to say goodnight to Wonder Woman, who had just crawled into bed.

“We’re all set,” I told her. “We did the cheer.”

Another scornful look. How dare she not buy into my neurosis?

Back to the couch. I sat Wally down on one side and planted myself on the other. Tampa Bay scored two more runs in the top of the seventh, making it 7-0, and then had the Sox down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh. The Rays were seven outs away from going to the World Series, and the TBS announcers were essentially reading the Sox’s obituary.

“There is, we have just been told, champagne on ice in the visitors’ club house,” one of them said.

Clearly, they were unaware that I had just shifted the entire balance of the game by changing clothes and collaborating in the dark with a group of stuffed animals and a sound-asleep 5-year-old.

The accompanying photo was taken at around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 17, minutes after the Sox executed the greatest postseason come-from-behind victory in 79 years.

You’re welcome.

Game 6, tonight, in Tampa.

(P.S.: Here’s what I stayed up doing till 2:30 a.m. that night/morning, which also was featured on the Dirt Dogs website.)

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I actually quoted Dokken in my yearbook. Dokken. What a tool.

My 20-year high-school reunion is coming up next month, and I simply can’t suppress the urge to say “Whoopdeefreakindoo!”

I keep waiting to feel bubbling up within me some desire to attend this event, but, so far, when I imagine waking up on the Sunday morning after it takes place, I have no premonition of regret about having skipped it.

See, here’s the thing: I hated high school. When adults would say, “Enjoy it! These are the best years of your life!,” I could only assume that life was really gonna suck after graduation. (I am very happy to report that each of the 20 years I’ve lived since graduating high school have been better than any of the four I spent there.)

Admittedly, a big part of why my high school experience sucked was the fact that I looked like a short, skinny, mulleted bobblehead doll. I mean, look at that picture. Sweet Jesus. Let’s just say that the ladies weren’t exactly lining up for dates. (I remember telling Wonder Woman years ago that I had been the second smallest kid in my high school until my junior year. She said she knew I must be telling her the truth about that, because I knew there was one kid smaller than me.)

To be fair, I did have a lot of close friends who were female. Developed some serious crushes on a few of them, too. Unfortunately, when you look like Farmer Ted, teenage girls don’t want to date you; they want you to be their cute, harmless-as-a-puppy-dog guy friend who can serve as an emotional tampon while they cry to you about how the jerk-off hockey player they hooked up with at that party last weekend hasn’t given them the time of day since.

But I’m not bitter.

Of course, it didn’t help that, throughout much of my high-school years, my parents were going through an ugly separation and divorce—which, at the time, I saw as a bit of a blessing, because having my father move out meant that there was one less person in the house with whom I had to argue on a daily basis. Still, that’s a pretty bleak silver lining in a fairly large, extremely dark cloud.

It also didn’t help that I almost flunked out of school on more than one occasion. (When I was 31, I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, and that diagnosis was made, in part, by report cards and teachers’ comments dating back to elementary school. Back then, they didn’t diagnose ADD; they called you lazy and said you didn’t apply yourself.)

One week before my senior year started, I enlisted in the army, with my departure set for one month after graduation. I was one of maybe three guys in my entire graduating class who, instead of going off to college, entered the military. I knew that I hated school, I knew that I would have flunked out of college, and, regardless, I just wanted to get the fuck out of Dodge.

I spent four months in Alabama for basic training and military-police school. During that short time, I grew two inches and gained 26 pounds. When I got out of the army, I went to college, made Dean’s list every semester and graduated with honors.

So, no, I don’t for a moment miss high school.

Most of the people with whom I was truly close during high school, I have remained friends with since—and before we all had kids and enormous mortgages that we couldn’t afford and lives that were completely unmanageable, we actually saw each other once in a while.

As for the more distant acquaintances—well, can’t we all just agree that Facebook eliminates the need for a high school reunion? It’s the perfect compromise. People whom you’ve forgotten about come out of the woodwork, but are kept at a safe distance. Pictures allow you to see how well or how poorly they’ve aged. Don’t really wanna reconnect with a particular person? Just click “Ignore” on that “Friend” request, my brotha. (“The user will not be notified.” Perfect!)

On the other hand, attending the reunion would mean a night out of the house without the kids, surrounded by adults—and alcohol. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll go. If nothing else, it’ll give me something to blog about.

[UPDATE: No, I didn’t go. And I don’t regret it.]

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Posted in Embarrassing, Life | 12 Responses

“Teach … your children well …”

This is the mural above the food counter at a rather grubby, fairly rundown arcade/indoor amusement place to which Zan has been begging me to go with him since he learned how to speak. It rained nonstop all weekend, so we decided it was the perfect opportunity for a family adventure to the strip mall (seriously) where this mecca is located. (Wonder Women has taken the kids there a number of times, but this was my first visit—and I mention that because she deserves a great deal of credit for the things she endures.)

You know that we’ve pretty much given up on being a responsible society when children are beckoned to the dining area by a deformed, morbidly obese pig happily gorging himself on pizza, cookies and soda.

The only things missing are a couch, a remote control and an AK-47.

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Red Rain

We bought these back in March. Had to enter a lottery just to win an opportunity to attempt to purchase them. We figured this would be a hugely important game, and a great way to spend a Friday night in late-September—so we paid a small fortune for them.

Who could have predicted that the Yankees were going to totally suck this year, and that it would be raining things much larger than cats and dogs on the night of the game? We’re praying they reschedule it … because, if they play through, we are so eating these tickets.

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The Demon

Back in March of 2000, while living in the Phoenix area, I got to cover the opening night of what was supposed to be KISS’s Farewell Tour. The publicist who hooked me up with the review ticket asked if I wanted a photo pass to go with it.

“Um … YA-AH!”

I had never before photographed a concert, and didn’t even have a respectable camera with which to shoot one. I was told I could shoot the band during the first two songs, and that flash photography was prohibited. (I guess the band members didn’t want to get blinded and fall off the edge of the stage. Pussies.) To someone with no photographic experience, this sounded about the same as if they had said “We’re going to blindfold you and you have to leave the lens cap on.”

Highly skeptical of my chances of successfully capturing a single decent shot of the band, I borrowed a Canon Rebel (film version; digital wasn’t yet the standard way back at the turn of the millennium) and headed to the show, stopping on the way at a camera shop, where I informed the employees that I needed to buy the most appropriate type of film for shooting that night’s KISS concert sans flash. They clearly thought I was full of shit, but they turned me on to the right film (Fuji 1600), and both they, and I, were pleasantly surprised when I returned the next day to have the film developed and discovered that I had managed to score a few decent shots. (Special thanks to the Associated Press photographer who adjusted the settings on my camera about two minutes before the band hit the stage.)

I still have a special place in my heart for KISS, who I began worshipping at the age of six (you know, until I began worshiping that other band), and whose influence on me had a great deal to do with my insistence on pursuing a career that I would truly enjoy instead of just settling for a job.

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