Clink. The first cube of ice hits the bottom of the glass.
Clonk. The second cube ricochets off the first and settles into an uneasy tower of frozen water, braced only by the invisible arc of silicon fused solid.
Tunk…tunk…tunk… The Scotch pours over the ice in rhythmic spurts, one then two fingers deep
Tunk… tunk… Better make it three.
They call alcohol liquid courage for a reason. Not so much because it increases one’s bravery, but because it eases one’s fear, and fear is the enemy of performance. The stakes are high now, frighteningly high, and there is little choice but to deliver. Three years ago, Jose did this without the sweet kiss of alcohol, his skin ravaged by infection and antibiotics the only thing standing between him and disaster. He worked clean in 2004, having to rely on the courage in his soul, rather than the courage in the glass to get him through four games of World Series tension.
Not this year. This year he is healthy. This year he is strong. The first sip burns, burns as it always does, burns with anticipation, burns with exhilaration. The second is easier, so much easier. And then come the words.
Jose is jealous. He is wildly, passionately jealous of Josh Beckett, of St. Josh a Beckett. Beckett will walk on to the Fenway mound at just a bit passed 8:30 this evening calm as can be yet with a frightening intensity. His emotions cooled, not by the cracked ice in a glass entwining with intoxicating liquors, but by the ice in his heart, in his arteries in his veins, intoxicated by the ecstasy of 37,000 madmen who want nothing save to bask in his brilliance.
Josh Beckett, on this good evening, is who Jose wants to be. He is who you want to be as well—Confident, assured and completely and utterly in control of his destiny. There are stories in fiction, in comics, in movies of men who can control molecules, who can shape the very reality around them to conform to their needs and their demands. Those men are fictional but their power is not.
Perhaps it does not take the comical form of an old tire morphing into an ice cream cone, but the power is real. With each pitch Josh Beckett can stop time; he can bend space. You know it is possible because you have seen it before. You saw it in 1999, when a sore and broken Pedro Martinez defied the cruel truth of a devastated shoulder, to make his own reality. You saw it in 2004, when a hobbled Curt Euro demanded that his physical limitations yield to his indomitable will. And you will see it tonight. No, Josh Beckett will not have to overcome a fraying shoulder or an ankle torn asunder, but he will defy reality. He will defy that most basic law of the universe that says simply, “no one can be that good.”
But he is. He is that good.
And for today, and perhaps only today, so is Jose, so are you, so are we. Jose sets down the glass and lets the ice melt slowly in its crystal cage, until the amber scotch grows gradually warmer, even as Jose’s gaze grows gradually colder.
And the words continue to come. They come quickly like a fastball; sentences veer off into new ideas like a curve, and all fear drops out of sight like a splitter to the dirt.
Jose does not need liquid courage, not tonight. He has Josh Beckett on the mound, and that is courage enough for anyone.
2. From time to time, Jose likes to inject a bit of political commentary into his KEYS, to use the bully pulpit of his little corner of the Web to advocate for causes near and dear to America’s powerful Japanese-German-Jewish-Unitarian lobby. This is not one of those times.
That said, Jose does feel that it is an imperative for him to take a few moments on this historic occasion to comment on the war. He does this with nothing but the deepest respect and gratitude for our fighting men and women, but duty calls and Jose must respond.
It has become the tritest of jokes to say “If we don’t
Sun Tzu urged us to know our enemy, and thus it is incumbent upon us to understand the nature of this adversary, these iRockies on the baseball field and understand how they differ from the Iraqis in the desert.
- Everyone knows exactly why we’re playing the iRockies. They won the National League, we have to play them; it’s really straightforward. By contrast, it is not totally clear why we had to go to war with the Iraqis. If we applied the same logic we used in the war with the World Series. We would be getting ready to go play the Washington Nationals, because they seem like a more desirable opponent, and as we speak, Theo Epstein would be making speeches connecting the Nationals to Colorado’s 2-1 series win over Boston this summer, and discussing how Dmitri Young could not be allowed to threaten our championship ambitions.
- We know that the iRockies, the whole of the iRockies are our opponents. No one on that team is trying to help us, there are no iRocky factions trying to undermine other parts of the team. The pitchers aren’t trying to seize control over the batters or face versa. This is helpful.
- The iRockies definitely want us there. They want us to come to Colorado and bring economic prosperity and liberation from watching the pathetic Denver Broncos. The Iraqis? Not as clear.
- Unlike the Iraqis, people close to the iRockies don’t seem to have cared about their situation at all until recently. If, before the war, you asked any Iraqi out of distance of the secret police, you can bet he had an opinion about how his country was governed. If you asked an iRocky fan about the management of the iRockies last April, he probably didn’t have a clue.
- Jose will bet that almost every single person in Baghdad can name, three, ten even twenty five Iraqis. Do you think most people in Denver can name three iRockies?
- The map to victory against the iRockies is clear—score more runs. Fighting against Iraqi insurgents, not so much. Also, regardless of whether a surge helps against the Iraqis, we definitely cannot add more players in the battle against the iRockies.
Coming up tomorrow: How fighting the Taliban is like pitching to Todd Helton. (Note: Beards are involved.) Jose would add that he really doesn’t like the Taliban. He thinks it is terrible that they made all of the women cover themselves with former Sox pitcher and excellent bowler John Burkett. They weren’t even allowed to go outside without a Burkett on.
3. Speaking of the Rockies, Jose doesn’t get the name. He’s been going through famous people named Rocky left and right and he can’t find anyone from Colorado.
Rocky Marciano was from Brockton. Rocky Graziano was born in New York and was played in the movies by Paul Newman who was born in Cleveland. Rocky Balboa was Philly through and through. Rocky the Flying Squirrel? Frostbite Falls Minnesota. Rocky Johnson is from Nova Scotia, and his son Rocky Maivia, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. the Rock grew up all over, but not in Colorado. Rocky Colavito played for six teams, none of whom was in Colorado. Rocky Anderson, the Mayor of Salt Lake City, is kind of close to Colorado, but not nearly close enough. Rocky the Bull is the mascot of the University of South Florida, which is a little far away.
This leaves us, Jose supposes, with mountains, which’ let’s be honest, is a little absurd. Would we ever call a baseball team here the Appalachians? Would we break it down and have it be the Boston Berkshires? No, of course not. That would be stupid. Now maybe, you could argue that the mountains, while part of New England, are not really part of Boston. Fair enough, but would you want our club named for any other feature of our city? Would the Boston Harbors be a good name? The Boston Commons? The Boston Bars close at 2AM? No, of course not.
Instead we chose a simple, likeable mascot in the form of hosiery of an incredibly flamboyant hue. What’s not to like? So Jose suggests that if the Colorado baseball team wants to be taken seriously, they change their ridiculous name and choose something that reflects the clothing of their cowboy ethos, perhaps the Colorado Brown Chaps. Chaps, also has the benefit of being an acronym for Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software, which would make a great sponsor for the team every time the National Western Stock Show comes to town.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.