Sunday, October 28, 2007

"America is depending on you"

For years the Red Sox organization, players and coaching staff, and fans played the role of the guy at the beach who gets sand kicked in his face. He doesn't get the girl, gets seagull droppings deposited on him, a sunburn, and every imaginable form of insult that Mother Nature and human nature can deliver. That was then, this is now.

I'm not expecting a piano to fall out of the sky and hit me. I'm not concerned about sunspot activity, bad weather, black cats, or triskaidekaphobia. Okay, so I haven't abandoned some pet superstitions, but I have a limit, you know?

From baseball to 'taco stand and deliver" the Red Sox have simply gotten it done, so far. No superhero has emerged to carry the locals back to baseball's promised land, rather an assortment of character guys, from Jason Varitek, the bruised warrior, to foreign imports Lowell, Ortiz, Matsuzaka, Lugo, and Okajima, to the "Blew Bayou" guy in Jonathan Papelbon, and the rookies.

We haven't heard any disparaging words from guys disappointed on not getting enough face time, or contract talks (smart guys know they'll get paid), or put downs on the opposition. The Celtics motto is UBUNTU, from the Bantu, emphasizing the importance of collectivism over individualism. Daisuke Matsuzaka spoke of doryoku (unflagging effort) earlier in the season, and the team seems to get it, combining talent, effort, and character for the greater good.

The underachievers from the regular season have come through in the playoffs in the big moments, and the baseball operations/scouting organization has translated theory into practice. Studying tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses doesn't get much attention, but when athletes match up so closely, sweating the small stuff counts. Terry Francona, John Farrell, Jason Varitek et al have sweated the small stuff.

Tonight the Red Sox send cancer survivor Jon Lester to the mound for the second biggest challenge of his young life. Tim Wakefield discussed his injury in terms of possible destiny for Lester, as unselfish an outlook as one might get in one of sports' most individual pursuits. And Red Sox nation turns its lonely eyes to him.

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