“Truly, though our element is time” wrote the poet, Philip Larkin(no relation to Barry), “we are not suited to the long perspectives.” That comes from a heartbreaking poem, “Reference Back,” about a young man’s return home who has to come to terms with how life has changed in the house where he grew up. Part of this poem is classically Romantic, in the way it shows how going back to some familiar place is comforting yet might lead us to confront what has been lost over the same period of time. It’s been nearly twenty years since Tim Wakefield pitched his first game for the Pirates.
A lot has happened since then. Wake most likely did not know then he would return to Pittsburgh in 2011, wearing a Red Sox uniform. More significantly, he probably didn’t know he would still be putting on a baseball uniform at all. Most likely, he is happy about what has occurred since then. Professor Abraham at the Globe has been writing about this moment for Pittsburgh and Wake a great deal over the past few days because it is one of the more important stories this weekend. It’s about history and time. It’s also about winning and losing. Is it really possible that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. How would we survive the same fate, as Sox fans? We can’t know. We can’t know what the future brings, even as we are pretty convinced that with such a long tradition of winning, having just one losing season is barely imaginable.
The research I’ve been following on the subject of Happiness (and now unabashedly tossing around this blog) tells us that we can’t really know what will make us happy in the future. As Red Sox fans, we know that another World Series will make us happy each and every year. But, since that destiny is not guaranteed maybe there is something about day to day life that brings real joy? Maybe that’s the key. The long season provides us a new game almost every single day. So there is nothing to carp about, to steal Peter Abraham’s phrase, even if there is a sweep in Pittsburgh, whom as a whole city are grateful for the increase in revenue all around town this weekend. In losing, perhaps, we give a little joy to others. At least that is how I am taking my coffee this morning.
Right of the Pesky Pole Notes:
For great insights about the Pirates & baseball check out the blog I hope you know already:
It is officially summer, and the weather is finally acting like it: a day with absolutely no rain (at least in Montana) and it is 80 degrees. Yet, I’ve been awkwardly introduced to the harsh realities of life: I’m stuck in an office. The low hum of computers attempting to breathe through the ill circulated air finds a harmony with the spontaneous clicking of keyboards. There are no windows, no opportunities, to see what I’m missing in the daylight by being stuck inside.
However, when the door is not open, and there is no window to open, you create your own. Being 2 hours earlier and 2,000 miles away from Fenway, I have opened a new window. A small one that I can discretely hide behind the others, (containing spreadsheets, word documents, and research strategies) the Red Sox Gameday Live is providing me with play-by-play coverage of their current game.
At first disappointed when the 1:35pm start time was pushed back due to rain, I kept busy and hoped that the Northeast rain would clear so the Sox could play. Finally, the first pitch was thrown. The tasks I was assigned seemed a bit less mundane, as I could reward myself with checking the game once I finished something. Another delay. A few phone calls and some wishing the skies would clear in Boston led to a return to play in the 3rd.
The window opened and instead of a bright number in the runs column for the Sox, I saw a dark, dismal 0, the Boston weather made it’s way to Montana. While it could still possibly be quite sunny outside, I would have no way of knowing until 7pm when I could run for home.
Instead, it’s raining. It’s raining walks and runs. Lackey is drenched in disappointment, what happened in the 4th? Was he even aiming for the strike zone? Another rain delay. At least I didn’t miss anything when corporate research averted my attention.
Thank goodness for Gonzalez bringing Ellsbury across that plate. Gonzalez is growing on me; I’m always skeptical of the new players, they have to earn their place in Boston, they can’t simply put on the uniform and demand respect (the same goes for the veteran players, they have to continuously earn my affections). But Adrian, 4 for 4 in the 8th, he’s climbing through my ranks. Finally a ray of sunshine peaks through with a 1 on the board.
Yet, it’s dampened by another rain delay and another dead end in my research. The rain delay continued to end the game. A 5-1 loss to the Padres, really? The Sox simply dissolved in the rain. I closed the window and settled on thinking about the next game. Perhaps the sun will shine in Pittsburgh on Friday or at leas the Sox won’t drown as they did in the first four innings.
As for Montana, maybe the sun is shining and it still feels like summer outside, or it could be pouring (the weather is rather spontaneous here), but a prolonged rain delay won’t end the working day early.
~~Trenna Field, on the Trolley at large
At least one Boston team had a successful night in Canada.
The Red Sox have consistency on the road and at home, a consistency that the Bruins seem to lack. Just look at the last two games in Boston, the Bruins lit up the scoreboard, but once back in Vancouver, the struggled with turnovers and keeping control of the puck. The Red Sox haven’t had that problem lately. They were on fire against the Yankees when every player in the starting lineup had a hit and now they added another W against the Jay’s. 7 in a row? The Bruins should take some notes.
I think the key is in the classics. In literature, it’s the classics that are read and re-read, referenced in popular culture, and tend to outshine the new books. Joyce’s Ulysses is celebrated every year on June 16 because it is rough. It is weathered and difficult to break into. Joyce once said, that if readers can’t make it through Ulysses, then they couldn’t make it through life. It’s difficult and sometimes slow and loses its rhythm but it has stayed the course and remained consistent. It’s still celebrated.
The same is for athletes. The classic players, the veterans of the team, the ones who have been in the game before it became a place for product placement and increasing the bottom line for the brand (note Shawn Thornton unable to wear Red Sox hat during press conferences and NHL interviews), are the ones who stand the test of time. They are sometimes slow, don’t always perform to the expectations of the club, and are sometimes considered too old to be relevant or useful in today’s game. But, they stand the test of time.
Wakefield is back in the rotation, a place he deserves to be. At 44, he might be tired compared to the younger, Alfredo Aceves but he is consistent and he walked away with a win on Wednesday night’s game in New York. Wakefield isn’t tired just yet; he deserves to be the starter on Tuesday against the Rays. The Bruin’s 33-year-old Shawn Thornton has been dusted off and joined the team during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, his first game back since Game 3 of the Conference Finals. When Thornton hit the ice, the game reached a new level, with only 9 shifts in Game 3 he fired the team up. In Game 4 his shifts increased and so did the energy of the team, and it showed on the ice and on the scoreboard. Thornton waited nine seasons in the minors before getting his break. Not to mention right wing Mark Recchi (43) or Jason Varitek (39), two more veterans of their games; players who should not be shelved.
These players might seem rough and worn. Tired and outdated, but they have patience. They stand the test of time as the minutes of the game tick away. They know the game from a different time, yet they are still relevant today.
It’s always good to take the classics off the shelf because they can teach the newcomers something about the game. As Joyce wrote in Ulysses, “a man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” These players have the errors behind them and are leading the teams to new levels of the games they play.
Strike three and game three. Saltlamacchia struck out swinging; at least he swung. The whole team swung during the past three games. Granted, they lost, three times over and it doesn’t look good from afar. Not to mention the loss to Detroit in the makeup game from May 28. The Red Sox have four dark losses in a row. But it could be worse, it could be April again and they could have played worse.
It’s better to look at the little things. It’s a double play to end an inning that has stretched on for too long. It’s Varitek’s homerun during the bottom of the fourth to put the right colored Sox on the scoreboard during the May 31st game. Or Varitek’s base hit in that same game during the bottom of the sixth after 4 runs were gained by the White Sox, just to lift the team again to realize, ‘hey, we’re still playing.’ Ortiz’s Monster homerun in the sixth during yesterday’s game, putting the Red Sox on top, at least for a moment.
The moments that inflate the spirits of the team and the fans, they came back from a rough beginning, they played almost non-stop through the month of May. It’s Jenks coming back after being gone for the month, and coming back to play against his former team. It’s errors made by the umpires, like the fifth inning declaration that Juan Pierre was safe, though all angles (except apparently Marty Foster’s) that Pedroia had tagged him. It’s the little things like Rene Rancourt singing the anthem before the game because the Bruins were in Vancouver. It’s the movement of Saturday’s game from it’s night slot to a 1:00 pm time just so fans can watch the Bruins take on Vancouver. It’s the little things that make the losses not as dark.
In the aftermath of the tornadoes that swept through Western Massachusetts, it’s messy to look from afar. The destruction and sadness is there and leaves a dark mark of loss on the state. But if you look at the little things, you see state police and search teams helping people, you see hospitals setting up extra triage units to help the injured, and you see people grateful and relieved that the majority of things lost can be replaced or rebuilt, realizing, ‘hey, we’re still standing.’
It’s better to look at the little things because the big picture can be messy and overwhelming, and heartbreaking. But it’s in the little things where you find some solace and happiness in the small moments where the right play is made or communities helping one another to clean up and rebuild.
Yes, the Sox were swept, but it was bound to happen. In 162 games, they can’t be expected to win them all. And just because I can’t help it, the Bruins lost to Vancouver with 18.5 seconds left, that’s a hard loss. But, it’s the little things, the fact that Tim Thomas had 36 shots on and only one got in. The things like, another game will come, whether it’s Friday against the Athletics or Saturday’s game 2 against the Canucks. The losses could always be worse and the limited destruction of the tornadoes has given perspective to the games we love.
Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length, said the poet Robert Frost. If you have spent a few days or weeks in my class on the Confessional Poets, or long enough in a bar in conversation with me, you would hear me repeat this quote. I am interested in Happiness. In recent years, the subject has been the source of many studies, a great deal of research and blogs(See Daniel Gilbert) and books, and now perhaps more of a topic at the tavern. (Well, perhaps it’s always been a topic at the tavern.) The difference is now we are looking at sustaining joy, beyond its term limits implied by Frost. But consider readers of Dante. The number of those who study The Inferno significantly outdo those who read Purgatorio or Paradiso, no to mention how many times The Inferno has been translated into other languages. Could this point to our desire to understand pain and tragedy because it feels more mysterious than joy? Or is it that pain is the territory we most often occupy?
The question I have about our current state, which is first place, is if the relief and joy we are feeling now is a result of how terrible April went for the Sox? On a more personal point, my blog has slumped for many reasons recently(including the switch to WordPress) but one of the reasons this week is a solid feeling of contentment. So, here is what I would like to celebrate with you, in communal happiness(doesn’t pain always feel too personal?):
1)Let’s give the middle relief some. How about Rich Hill’s curveball in the 8th in Cleveland
2) Carl Crawford’s awakening
3) Carl Crawford’s awakening
4)Carl Crawford’s awakening
5)I can’t say it enough, but I will move on to Ellsbury. We missed you last year for certain.
6)I bow down everyday to A.G.
7)How about Pap’s consistency?
8)If you get down for a minute or two one of these nights, consider that sweep a few weeks ago. You know the one.
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“Good. I think that’s great,” Francona said when
apprised of Selig’s comments on Thursday about the playoff expansion. “I
wish we were hockey. I don’t like hockey, but the more teams, the better. I
can’t see how it wouldn’t be [good for the game]. It gives a lot of fans reason
to stay with their teams.”
Staying with their teams is something Boston fans know all too well. It’s nice to
be from a place where the teams have a shot at the playoffs. So, even if the
Sox are off to a rocky start, over the last night few nights, fans were able to
glimpse the beginning of one season and the end of another. The Sox and Bruins
have both been able to send wins home in extra innings and overtime. Just
what the Boston fans needed. Not mention the possible second coming of Dice-K last night in California.
The Bruins were in a more dire position; the playoffs limit
the amount of acceptable (if that’s possible) losses. Being down two games in
the quarterfinals was not something the Bruins seemed comfortable with. Michael
Ryder secured a shot at winning the first round of playoff games on the road to
the Stanley Cup. Ryder scored the opening goal for the Bruins as well as the
game-winning goal to bring them back from the brink of the quarterfinals. The
Bruins now lead in the best of seven series.
“But you need your players to step up at this time of
year and every night a lot of times there is a different guy stepping up and
tonight it was Michael,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game.
And through the course of the same nights, a different guy
stepped up for the Sox. Finally. In what seemed to be the eleventh hour, Adrian
Gonzalez made his move in the eleventh inning with a double to bring J.D. Drew
home to put Boston
Maybe Gonzalez was waiting for the right moment to step up
but as the team attempts to regain its position as a contender for the
seemingly far off playoffs, he might have urged Carl Crawford to make his move,
As the Bruins pulled out another overtime victory, (followed by the Celtics sweeping New York) and
as the Sox season is picking up, staying with their teams is something fans can do
easily without having to wish baseball was hockey.
In 2008, Jed Lowrie set a Major League Record, one of those quiet records that doesn’t splash across the screen or on the ESPN news ticker. It’s in the fine print, where some fans might easily forget–or tucked in the details some of us without the right reading glasses might not bother to squint for, the lower footnote.
In 155 total chances, Lowrie did not record an error at shortstop. After the divorce with Nomar (followed by a retirement reconciliation of course), we might consider how important Jed is to the future of the Sox. The episode, a long battle in fact, with mono last year is over.One of the more impressive performances last night, excluding the brilliant pitching of Lester for all innings except one, was turned in by Lowrie. If I want to remember the game, I don’t have to try to recall the look on his face as he tore through first base on his way to double off Price.
With some recent growth on his face, Jed looked tougher than any other moment he has played on the Sox. As he offered some academic advice for a complaining Price, Lowrie exhibited the intensity we have been missing. Finally. Finally the Sox look ready to grind it out. Youk(no surprise there), joined Lowrie on the panel, screaming at Price then encouraging Lowrie.
Mr. Crawford, are you listening? Take notes. Chin up, sir. Chin up!– the same chin on which you might free up for some shadows, lending yourself to the biting, angular intensity missing on the field.