Like countless other night owls and insomniacs, I had taken advantage of NESN’s “Sox in 2” feature numerous times before this morning. There had always been one caveat, however: I knew the final score.
I enjoyed watching a game in the timeframe the architects of baseball had intended – two hours or less – but either before or during the rebroadcast I had already learned the end result. Whether I watched or listened in “real time” or caught the final score on the news or net, there was no mystery waiting for me at 2 a.m. This allowed me to channel surf with no concerns I’d miss something magic like the time I saw word of Carl Yastrzemski’s 3,000th hit come scrolling along the bottom of a long-forgotten sitcom (Happy Days? Laverne and Shirley?) after I had badly timed a surfing session – or maybe you’d call it a dial-twist -- back in September of ’79.
But last night was different. When I went into my daughter’s room to read a few pages of “Judy Moody” around 9:50 p.m., the Sox trailed the Yankees 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh. After several pleas of “just one more page” I managed to get her light off and then promptly fell asleep at the foot of her bed. By the time I awoke it was 11:56 p.m. and I went to check redsox.com for the final score from Fenway. Then I stopped myself. What if I actually watched “Sox in 2” all the way through without knowing the final score? Could I do it? I vowed to try.
Hunkering down in front of my bedroom flat screen with the volume down low (sleeping wife) and a pile of unread magazines at my feet, I breezed through the first six familiar innings with a little surfing thrown in (the last 30 minutes of “Secretariat” – another case where I knew the ending). I started paying more attention in the seventh, of course, and as the Sox tried to break through against the New York bullpen and Steven Tyler adjusted his ridiculous cowboy hat for the umpteenth time from behind home plate, I stopped myself just before checking my iPhone for emails and started congratulating myself for a job well done. I was going to make it to the end clueless and content.
Then, in the top of the ninth, I made a cardinal sin of “Sox in 2” mystery viewing – I looked at the clock. It was 1:51 a.m. when Russell Martin flew out to Crawford for New York’s third out, and by the time the Sox came up against Rivera it was already 1:53 and counting. I knew based on the timeframe that this game was not going into extra innings – in fact, it was likely the Sox were going to go down quickly or win in dramatic fashion. There was no time for any other conclusion; the show was going to be over in seven minutes, and even a series of singles off the Sandman would take longer than that. But while some of the mystery had been revealed, watching the DVD clock just below the screen actually added another layer of excitement to the proceedings. If the Sox were destined to win on a walk-off, who would deliver it – and how?
Papi grounded out, but then Crawford reached on an infield single. 1:56. Salty was called out on strikes. 1:58. Reddick stepped in and I thought, “OK, this is it. He has to either homer or get out. Nothing else fit the timeframe. One strike. Two strikes. I leaned forward as Rivera leaned back, and there it was at 1:59… a called third strike.
Things didn’t turn out like I wanted, but I was still proud of my efforts. I felt like calling my brother-in-law, who has made a fall ritual of DVR-ing Michigan football games, avoiding all electronic and human contact, and then watching the Wolverines in peace and commerical free after his three kids have finished their Saturday slew of soccer games or other activities. I thought back to the summer of 1997 when I had concert tickets in town the same night as Roger Clemens’ return to Boston with the Blue Jays. I put in a video cassette and went to the show (long since forgotten), figuring I would have another great performance to watch when I got home. I had a momentary shock around 10:00 when Dan Shaughnessy walked in and sat down a row in front of me; knowing he must have come from Fenway, I avoided looking at him lest his facial expressions or lips give a clue to what had transpired. What he actually recognized me and said hello, I quickly yelled, “Don’t say anything, Dan!” and he smiled. He must have known what I was up to.
And after a radio-free drive home, I made some popcorn, sat down, and watched the Rocket mow down his old teammates. After Clemens fanned Mo Vaughn to give him 16 Ks through 8 innings, I grabbed the phone to call a buddy I knew was watching until I realized it was 2:30 in the morning. Ah, there is a kink in the system – you have to have a friend watching “Sox in 2” to enjoy any mid-game analysis by phone or text.
I won’t be needing “Sox in 2” today, as I’ll be over at Fenway watching the Sox try and even things atop the East against Sabbathia. But with a babysitter due at 7:00 and my wife making dinner plans, I am kind of hoping that Lackey and Co. can speed things up a bit without the magic of video.