Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Death March Down Memory Lane

Windsor joined me for a two-game swing over the last couple days, visiting Bowie on Sunday and going to Camden Yards today. I will be sure to share my Sunday notes later this week, but for now my mind is on the 6-3 thrashing (or at least it feels that way) at the hands of Red Sox Nation- and it seems as though the entire nation was in attendance at Camden Yards. At least I think it was Camden Yards; that’s what the sign said. Those in the stands might have disagreed, given the wild chants of “Let’s Go Red Sox” drowned only slightly by the weak pleas by Orioles fans. The “LUUUKE” cry when Luke Scott came to the plate only a whisper to the roar of “YOUUUUU” that followed Kevin Youkilis stepping up to bat. The stands were even more slanted towards Red Sox fans than usual, a 70-30 Sox to O's fans ratio would be a generous one for the Orioles faithful who stuck it out. I have never been all that eager to go to Fenway Park, but now I feel as though I have already been there.

But this game was more than that. It was the feeling after strike one when you knew the Orioles batter was already done. It was silly swings on 2-0 counts. It was that sinking you get in your stomach when you know the game is over as soon as the bullpen starts warming up. It was getting within 3 feet of an Aubrey Huff would-be home run to tie the game, only to know that in the end it wouldn’t be enough.

I witnessed the most obnoxious fans outside of Columbus, Ohio scream their heads off after a bloop single, erupt in a chorus of swearing and screech like banshees after every ball and strike. It was more than passion, it was the unloading of the worst parts of the Red Sox bandwagon. Moreover, it was the entire stadium, not merely a section of fans here or there as so often accompanies the Yankees visits. I actually don’t mind being at a Yankees game anymore. Yankees fans have a cooler confidence about them, they are smug and convinced of their own superiority, but they save their energy for when it matters, and are far more respectful of other fans (still not very, but far more than “the Nation” can boast).

However, this travesty of a game started me thinking about the worst experiences I have had at a sporting event, and after reflection, perhaps this wasn’t so bad after all. I mean, I have had worse…

Third Place: October 6th, 2001- Cal Ripken’s Last Game
Okay, I am sure you all are scratching your heads on this one. I know I should be thrilled simply to have been at this game, but my disdain for Brady Anderson finally boiled over in this one. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the stage was set perfectly for Cal to make his final at-bat. Brady Anderson was batting with Cal on deck in a clear loss to the Mariners. Anderson, however, was being dealt nothing near the strike zone. The crowd was chanting “One More Time” as Anderson was determined to get a hit out of this wild frenzy. It seemed as though even the Mariners wanted to give Ripken another at-bat. Sure enough, Anderson did what he did so many times in his Orioles career- swung and missed at a ball at the shoulders and struck out. The ceremony was wonderful, but I could not get over that anticlimactic finish ruined by the likes of Brady Anderson. Giambi shaved the ‘stache, why couldn’t Brady shave the sideburns?

Second Place: December 22nd, 2007- American University at Maryland Terrapins
This wasn’t so bad because of the result (67-59 loss by the Terps that wasn’t even as close as the score), but because of the implications. My brother had gone out of his way to acquire our extended family tickets to this game over the Christmas break, so all our cousins and siblings loaded up and drove to College Park to see the Terps in action. The family is spread over the east coast and for all our Maryland state pride he is the one member of the family to decide to attend the University of Maryland. This was his big opportunity, it seemed, to bring the focus back from everyone’s respective alma mater to the flagship institution of the Old Line State. Well, the game was a testament to Gary William’s critics. Poor fundamental play, out-hustled for every loose ball, and a lackadaisical reliance on pure talent that wasn’t necessarily there. I am blessed not to have to watch Dave Neal pretend to be a basketball player for several months before Coach Williams begins subbing him into key situations where he doesn’t belong.

First Place: September 1st, 2007- Appalachian State Mountaineers at the Michigan Wolverines
Yes, I attended one of the greatest upsets in sports history, and had to endure the devastation of being on the losing side. In fact, I wrote a preview for the game on a blog I used to contribute to in which I predicted a final of 35-18 Michigan, explaining that the spread offense would give Michigan quite a bit of trouble but that talent in the end would have to prevail. I was ripped by commenters and the other contributors that I was giving ol’ App State too much credit; that the Wolverines would invariably steamroll the upstart Mountaineers.

A week and 4 quarters later, as Michigan lined up for that final ill-fated field goal attempt I uttered words that I may regret for the rest of my life. “Okay, okay, they have had their fun, now Michigan is going to win it. They blocked one earlier, but there’s no way we haven’t adjusted for it this time.” Same rush, same side, same result, and the 112,000 in attendance could not leave fast enough. Along with the other Wolverines faithful I walked numb, my heart in my hands in utter disbelief, feeling my maize and blue apparel chafe more and more as the harsh reality sunk in and my sunburn sting that much harder with every heavy step out of the stadium. I'm not gonna lie, this one is still with me.

No, I suppose a 6-3 loss isn’t so bad, thank God for the 162 game season. And to think, the college football season is just around the corner…

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