Baseball? Not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole iconic thing – even a bit of a magical thing – about America’s pastime.
And, of course, I live near Boston.
And Fenway Park.
And the ghosts of Teddy Ballgame and Yastrzemski and The Curse (and The Curse Reversed).
It’s transcendent stuff, all that.
Impossible to ignore if you grew up here, and I did.
But you want to get my heartbeat going… that niggly feeling in my belly, telling me something pretty dang cool is coming, igniting the fuse that sends a smile spreading slowly across my face?
Tell me the Patriots’ season opener is about to happen.
Sprinkle in the fact that everyone outside a few states, tucked into the northeast of the ol’ USA, pretty much hates our boys…
And add that we get to unveil a Super Bowl banner, with our embattled Quarterback on the field?
I’m a happy girl.
And so, when ‘Gronk’ – a very big man with a very little boy’s joy inside – fought and found his way into the end zone three times last night, and Tom Terrific – who by all rights should have been distracted – threw a total of 4 touchdowns and exactly zero interceptions?
You better believe I was up and downstairs to hang out with the afterglow this morning.
I turned on the tv a little after 8:30, and settled into my chair with a tall cup of coffee.
The program cut back from commercial and two people were standing on a soundstage, to the left of a big screen that I silently and casually and mentally expected would show my football highlights.
But instead, they said something about a national moment of silence, the first one of the morning. And my brain fog cleared and it hit me.
And the big screen behind the pundits became the whole screen, and I knew I was in New York and a firefighter with white gloves rang a bell, once.
And there was silence.
I heard nothing in New York, and nothing in my house. And my nose felt that twang it feels when tears are being packaged for just-in-time delivery. And soon I was wiping at my eyes.
The feelings – the horror, the sadness, the disbelief and devastation, the anger and the fear – can be called up in a single beat of the heart.
The images in my mind are all in brilliant color. They never fade.
And then men in kilts were playing bagpipes, and then the sports reporters were talking again and I wasn’t really paying attention, awash in my personal remembrance of that day. But I heard them say something about a 30 for 30 short.
30 for 30s are often excellent. They are documentaries on sports – all kinds of sports, from track and field to college basketball to boxing to football to (well, you get the picture) – but they always have a personal story, a very cool point of view.
30 for 30s are like VH1’s Behind the Music were to me years ago. Didn’t matter if I didn’t like the band or the music they created. I could stumble across a Behind the Music on Glen Campbell and be sucked in for the whole thing, welling up several times along the way.
So, this morning, suddenly I was sucked into this 30 for 30 short, called The First Pitch.
And this football fan flew back in time, fourteen years…
and became a baseball fan.
It was October 2001.
Forty nine days after the attacks that extinguished the lives of nearly 3000 people on a crisp blue-skied September morning.
And who was playing in the series?
The Arizona Diamondbacks.
And the New York Yankees.
By all that is cosmic and magical, the Diamondbacks should never have had a chance (no offense Diamondback fans, I’m just talking cosmic and magical forces. Those are bigger than any fandom and can’t be mucked with).
But the Yankees were losing. Down 2 zip in a seven game series.
And then they came back into Yankee Stadium.
Packed full of still-stunned New Yorkers.
Headlines of an impending, new attack on the front pages of the papers.
Defiant signs in the hands of fans.
Wonder and hope in their eyes.
And, regardless of anyone’s politics, an amazing thing was about to happen.
George W. Bush, President of the United States for a mere eight months when the attacks happened, was going to be there.
He was going to throw out the first pitch.
Sure, he had the Secret Service watching out for him – making sure our President is safe always matters.
But he was going to walk out, in the open, in front of 40,000 people… this man who was the most important target for the same people who planned and executed the deadliest terrorist attack ever.
He had thrown out a first pitch on one other occasion, in a major league baseball game.
He bounced that one.
His Dad had done it once.
He’d bounced it too.
But this day?
When it counted.
When tens of thousands of people in Yankee Stadium weren’t Democrats or Republicans, but Americans, gathered to watch a sport known as America’s past time…
In New York?
Bush didn’t stand in front of the mound, he stood on top of it.
And he didn’t bounce the ball, he threw a strike.
Right down the middle.
And I remembered it all.
I remembered watching it.
I remember thinking, at the time, that it would probably be his best speech ever – though he never said a word.
I remember thinking, in my mind, it might go down with the best presidential speeches ever.
But I’m hokey like that.
So this morning, I woke up a football fan.
And became a baseball fan.
The Yankees went on to win that World Series.
Of course they did.
And I found myself smiling at the memory.
A Yankees fan from Boston.
Thanks for readin’.
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