Thursday, March 31, 2005

Who Wants to Say Grace?

Before we get on to this upcoming baseball season, I would like to say a couple words about the site. The Official Ninth Email Box was jam packed this morning with welcome backs after my long absence and questions about the schedule for the future. What happened to the radio gig, will Nine by Nine be returning, what are the major tenants of American Transcendentalism? Well, the answers are: cancelled, yes, and a constant pledge to question established cultural forms, reintegrate spirit and matter, and turn ideas into concrete action and social reform. The Ninth enjoys his own joke. The radio gig unfortunately went the way of the birds when Further Review, the fine program that hosted my “thoughts”, was made redundant. Hey, it happens, I certainly thank them for the venue they provided. As far as Nine by Nine, and close-to-daily posts from the least-hardest working man in show business, yes, they will be back. In some form, anyway. The length, content, and structure remains somewhat undecided, but rest assured, if the Sox have played that night, there will probably be some discussion of it the next morning. And yes, I've said this before, and sure, I've let you down. But I'm sorry baby. And let's be honest, you've got commitment issues - you so should've dumped me already. Anyway, I want you back for good, so, as of next Monday, feel free to check back regular like. The Ninth should have something for you.

So what about these Sox? Fine, I'll say it -- a little boring. I went back and read my preview of last year's season (man, I'm good), and was shocked by the overall vim and vigor. I was pumped in '04, in fact, I think I have been every year. Notable for a person who spends max 1% off his life in a state that can accurately be described as "pumped". Would it be a little simplistic to reduce this all to the end of the curse? Yeah, I guess so, but who said this stuff was Sartre? It's not just that they won, it's how they did it. I mean, what's left to see? Crush their way through the first round on a walk-off dinger, complete the greatest comeback in baseball history against their hated rival, then sweep away the best team in the NL to vanquish an 86 year drought. All set against the backdrop of the Nomar trade and the bloody sock. You got something better that? What's left to do? In 2005, every win saves a dying child! They're sick, they're hungry, and the only thing that helps is Red Sox victories. Even that could use some work. This isn't one of those hacky articles where I tell you that we'll miss the curse or that it was integral to the Red Sox experience. That's nonsense, I hated that stupid thing. But after you've had complete and utter satisfaction, what do you do next? We just ate the best thanksgiving meal ever. Garlic mashed potatoes, rich stuffing, gravy that never spills, sweet potatoes with just the right ratio of marshmallow topping, super moist turkey without the "how I made super moist turkey" conversation, you know, all the classics. Now it's a week later and someone's trying to cook us the same thing again. And yeah, I'll eat it, because let's be honest, I'm not in the best shape -- but I'm not that psyched about it. It can't be as good as it was the first time, it just can't. Look, Boston is going to lose on Sunday night. They just are. Opening night, Yankee Stadium, Randy Johnson against a lefty-heavy lineup, Sox going with David "Pitching Myself Into Shape" Wells. This has 7-2 loss written all over it. And do you care? I don't really. I'll have a few beers, laugh at the comeback montages ESPN rolls out, maybe make a few Jorge Posada jokes. That's it. There will be no nashing of teeth, no slamming of fists. It doesn't really matter what happens, and I'm sure I've never thought that about opening day. But I think that's ok. Because you know what, it doesn't really matter what happens opening day. Teams that care about April 1st are teams who aren't planning to care about October 1st. And if that's what winning a World Championship has wrought, then that's just fine and dandy. I guess this is what it's like to be the best. Turning down a turkey dinner. The Ninth can live with that.

Go Sox.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ninth!

Hey gang, long time no see. The Ninth just got back from vacation, what’s your excuse? Oh, you don’t need one. So how about these Celtics, hu? In the last two weeks I’ve heard somewhat convincing arguments for Danny Ainge as Executive of the Year, Doc Rivers as Coach of the Year, Ricky Davis as Sixth Man of the Year, and Antoine Walker as League MVP. Oh, also Wyc Grousbeck as Dorky Owner Who Wants to be Mark Cuban of the Year. I like his chances. Last week, before the dastardly three game losing streak, The Ninth considered skipping a concert, which I had already bought an expensive ticket to, so I could watch the C’s play the Knicks! When’s the last time anyone’s done that? Of course, Boston lost, and I was happy I chose WHAM!. Proves the old adage: he who chooses WHAM!, chooses wisely. (How insecure do you have to be about your band to put an exclamation point after the name? You are FORCED! to be EXCITED! about us, even if you don’t care, because we used special PUNCTUATION! We are into GRAMMAR!) Fine, the Celts have lost their last three, but that should do little to tarnish what has been a miraculous turn-around. Antoine Walker has been a dream come true, staying on the block, rebounding the ball, helping old ladies cross the street. Pretty soon he’s going to cure cancer and we’ll all understand it as inevitable once he got out of Jim O’Brien’s offensive system. Paul Pierce has been balanced and under control, taking over the game only when necessary and consistently opting for drive over jumper. And Ricky Davis, well he might be the best player on the team. But that doesn’t really belong in this discussion, because he has been all year. Do you realize Danny got him, Chris Mihm and Yogi Stewart (both useful pieces in the GP and Toine trades) for Eric Williams’ Knees, Tony Battie, and Kedrick Brown? Makes the whole drafting Kedrick Brown in the first place thing hurt a little less. But there are a few warning signs on the horizon. Gary Payton is a little banged up, which everyone keeps saying is going to matter in the playoffs. Veteran leadership, presence, defense etc. Can I get an Amen for the intangibles? The thing is, Delonte West and Marcus Banks looked like they can handle the job, and wouldn’t you rather have the experience go to players that are going to be here next year? Another concern is the increasing mouth of the club. One rather unpleasant aspect of the Pierce/Walker tandem was always their delight in verbally reminding the other team how much better they were, even when they were losing by 15 points. It’s rude, stupid, and fairly amateurish. While #8’s return has lead to a more spirited bench and general increase in Boston swagger, it’s also made these guys a little less fun to root for. Pierce can’t stop talking, and their post-basket celebrations might have cost them win against Detroit. At the least, I would imagine more times than not it pushes their opponents into better play, not worse. It’s annoying, but compared to the team we had in January, The Ninth will take it. These Celtics are a greater surprise than any of us could’ve asked for. Greater than the Pats, maybe even bigger than the Sox. They’re rebuilding and competing simultaneously – one of the hardest things to do in sport, and nobody thought they would. Somebody even got Willow to bring Mark Blount back to life. The whole thing has been just a delightful cherry on the cake of the 04-05 Boston sports season. And they very well could advance in the playoffs. Yowza.

5 Days and Counting. 5.
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