Friday, October 17, 2003

The crowd watching the Yankees-Red Sox game at Zlata Hvezda Sport Bar consisted mostly of study-abroad students, probably the most horrifying element among the foreigners "living" (I'm not sure if a semester-long frat party qualifies as living) in Prague. But you've got to hand it to them: They all stuck around to the bitter end at 6:15 a.m. We all did.

I myself camped out in the back with a pair of old timers, one of whom didn't have a strand of hair on his skull that wasn't white. Busibrness in Prague for 10 years or so. Something about health care products distribution. And something else. Don't remember.

"Is this seat taken?" I asked at 2 a.m.

"Who are you rooting for?"

"Red Sox," I said.

They smiled and spread out their hands welcoming me to the table.

These guys were the real thing. I think they knew what was going to happen from the very beginning. The man with the white hair must have downed a glass of wine and a single beer during the course of four hours. In that time I'd guess they exchanged maybe 50 words with each other, total.

Round about 4:30 a.m., in the sixth or seventh inning, with not much going on and the Red Sox up three, I noticed something funny: Most of the people in the room had stopped watching the game.

"You're going to Amsterdam on the 30th? Dude! I'm gonna be in Amsterdam then! Party in Amsterdam!"

Not the old timers. They just sat there, arms crossed, glued to the screen. They knew what was going on. They'd been through this before.

The room definitely leaned Red Sox -- about 65% for, I'd guess. That was nice.

The game, the game. OK, I haven't followed baseball since puberty, so if you're a big fan, me describing this game is going to sound a little bit like a Martian's anthropological notes from the Senior Prom.

Pedro Martinez is amazing. I've truly never seen anything quite like it. He kept throwing the ball, and those people in the funny stripes kept swinging that wooden stick, and they kept missing. Over and over and over again. Wow, wow, wow.

And then. Uh oh. The end's in sight, but there's trouble. They tell me this guy's only got about 100 or so good tosses in him, and he's running out. Something's happening. Some sort of authority figure has come out to that little hill in the middle of the field. There's some sort of discussion.

To my right, opposite the old timers, sat two incredible geeky (in a good way) English teachers. "Leave him in! Leave him in! YOU'VE GOT TO LEAVE HIM IN!!!!"

The authority figure pats Martinez on the shoulder and goes back to his hole in the ground. It feels good. Should it? I don't know. I like it.

And Roger Clemens! Oh man. Let's go back to 1986, when he pitched for the Red Sox in that ill-fated World Series against the Mets. This guy was my hero then. My mom met him and get him to sign a baseball for me. "To Scott. Roger Clemens." It's somewhere in a warehouse on Long Island now.

But here's the thing: He was scared this time. You could tell. Scared of the Red Sox batters. Like he didn't want to throw the ball to the plate, lest they do something nasty to it. So he kept doing weird stuff like throwing it at the ground in front of the plate or way over to the side. Chickenshit little punk.

It's actually a funny thing, a showdown between two great baseball pitchers, because they never confront each other directly, at least not in the American League. And yet even a complete ignoramus (say, a British person) could feel the conflict -- and tell that Martinez was kicking old man Clemens's sorry tush.

But Martinez didn't have enough pitches in him. I soon learned the meaning of the word "Rivera." The Yankees grim reaper, Mr. Cerny calls him. Ouch. Still kinda smarts.

And now, ladies and gentleman, the World Series -- the New York Yankees versus Florida Marlins. Oh Jesus, could anyone possibly give a rat's ass? The Marlins? Excuse me? They don't exist! Ask your grandfather! It's a fictitious team.

It's like Chuck D. says: "God takes care of old folks and fools, while the the devil takes care of making all the rules." Except wait. That can't be true, because the old folks and fools were all rooting for the Red Sox and Cubs this time.

Like I said, the old guys to my left knew all along. What, you didn't expect the Red Sox to choke? Of course they choked! Death. Taxes. Red Sox choke. Duh.

Sic biscuitus disintegrat.

That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Have a nice weekend.


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