With Barry Bonds’ girlfriend detailing the physical changes effected by steroids in recent weeks, one wonders about the choice. The first image is of a desperate ballplayer, reaching his late thirties, feeling the natural decline.I imagine Ali fighting Larry Holmes. Let me rephrase: I remember the aged Ali as Holmes’ punching bag, the brutality of unanswered punches.The other story of that beating is that one of Ali’s doctors prescribed “diet” pills for him. The drugs in question made him sluggish. And pathetic. As a young boxing fan, I hadn’t been filled with quite that much sorrow before.
My sorrow today is lighter but wider. It has more to do with the game of baseball than it does with one player. The loss is about the Red Sox, its history and its players, specifically those who played alongside Manny, who are at a loss for words. There were some of us who were baffled by Manny but still kept our affections. There were a few of us who were hopeful for the revival of the Idiots, even if they were in Tampa. One segment on the MLB Network during Spring Training showed him working as hard as any ballplayer could and losing more than twenty pounds, not to mention making major adjustments to his stride to avoid hamstring problems. Painful work.Now the pain is ours.Ortiz compassionately summed it up: “It’s sad.”
But baseball has redemption built into the stats. It has time, which makes the grass sturdy and green..In a few hours the Sox will take the field again, afresh from a laser show and good, old hometown glory.
The cynic in me says that the Johnny-Manny show, over nine games at Fenway with the very first on April 11, won’t deliver as much ticket revenue as they did last year, since fans saw the return of their former heroes on separate occasions. After all, part of the ticket lottery for the Sox reserved games against the Dodgers, Manny’s first visit in June. But even as I write that, I realize that the appearance of the two is far greater than the value of the pieces in the dramatic puzzle. As readers might know, the cynic in me rarely visits, as I am a more optimistic fan and the values of the game afford endless reward and pleasure, even with defeat’s agony.
The images of Manny & Johnny in other uniforms will always be like Hank Aaron in Brewers’ colors. Perhaps a slight exaggeration and too much imagination at work, but each players memorable moments were played in a Red Sox uniform. This is not merely about possession but more about joys each of them delivered. So perhaps the nine games will pass more fluidly and fans won’t endlessly debate whether to cheer or boo, not to mention unleashing racial slurs towards Manny and his fans. Here’s one for time passing and memories sweetened by it. This may contradict and repeat other entries here, but we all know the buzz around the park on April 11 might be more fitting for Hollywood than the classic park we know as Fenway.
The mighty Manny has struck out.
I thought yesterday was about forgiveness. Not to be too sentimental.I love Manny. Nothing was better than the Papi-Manny duo. In those years, as mentioned on the 98.5 the Sports Hub radio preview show, with Manny the Red Sox led the majors in postseason runs. You know all the numbers. You heard the Manny! Manny! on-their-feet chants right before he hit the ALDS rocket to beat the Angels.The fans were delirious that night.
But as I implied, I voted for a standing ovation, in that mix of over 10,000, yes 10,000, votes on Boston.com. Everyone has been snarling about how he left, thus perhaps forgetting all the numbers and glory of 04 and 07, and perhaps taking it all too personally. He’s not our brother, uncle, son, etc. and we shouldn’t treat it that way. I know. I already said I love Manny, which might imply that I think of him as my brother or imaginary friend or something else. In one of my more impulsive comments on Boston.com I also barked back that Manny was our Reggie.New York despised Reggie until his three homers in the ’77 series.
What is important, too, is how one returns. Professor Cafardo at the Globe has mentioned some important pieces of the whole ritual yesterday.Manny ignoring people he has known for years and deciding not to speak to the press all weekend is objectionable. More importantly, as a fan, I think he could have waved or tipped his hat. He could have learned something from the way The Johnny Demon so graciously bowed and tipped his hat before he stepped into the box to almost everyone on the field, including the ball girls.
In anticipation of his return, I sent one of those celebrity calls from Manny to my girlfriend. We had a good laugh. And then I bought a Mannywood t-shirt. I wanted to celebrate. Instead, I am waiting for Godot. Full of contradictions in my fanhood. (As uncle Walt Whitman wrote: “Very well then, I contradict myself”)
If I can put any of this to rest, I must say the gap, the missing piece, the anti-climax, was Manny going up to the plate as he did, all business. We can argue that this is why Manny is that kind of player and nothing is going to distract his on-field game. Manny missed it. He struck out to end the game, too. That’s symmetry for you.
The mighty Manny has struck out. Somewhere, men are laughing, and little children shout. Some of us in Mannyville are sad, a bit sullen, somewhat down and out.
The Red Sox won. Onto the next one.
on the ipod, (always unplanned but strangely coincidental): It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Bob Dylan