God bless StubHub, standing room only, and, at least so far, a stomach that can handle it.
It was in the middle of John Axford's meltdown in the ninth inning last Friday when I realized why I had become a sportswriter.
In the business, all you invest is your time and energy. No loyalties, except to the reader. No passion, except to the story. The result is the result. Just make it quick and be sure to give me something to write about.
But not this afternoon and night.
I couldn't remember the last time my stomach churned like this, when my anger spewed out at a home plate umpire who in the late innings still hadn't figured out a strike zone for either the Milwaukee Brewers or Arizona Diamondbacks. It was probably back in 1973, when catcher Jerry Grote let a pitch get by for a passed ball in Game 3 of the World Series, a play that put my New York Mets in the hole against Oakland.
My son, Chris, house sitting in Fox Point, and I were exchanging texts this day and night. All I could finger out was, "I'm sick."
That's because the sportswriter that remains in me was unfolding in front of my eyes in my basement. There was so much poetry to the moment as my stomach gurgles. Axford, the Brewers' Mr. Clutch since he last blew a save on April 18, is about to bookend his season with his most devastating blown save since Opening Day, when he lost in Cincinnati. Men on first and second. No one out. Score tied at 2.
But Axford strikes out Aaron Hill for the first out. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson doesn't have Hill put down a bunt, just one batter after he called a successful squeeze bunt to tie the game. Axford eventually escapes the danger, allowing the Brewers to live at least one more inning.
"Thankfully," my son texts at inning end, "Gibson is a fucking moron."
An apt, if not impolite, characterization of the manager who pitched to Prince Fielder with first base open in the first game of the series and who refused to find a way to get the lead runner to third base with less than two outs in the ninth inning of the series deciding game.
But I still have not relieved the gnawing in my gut by the bottom of the 10th inning when my daughter, Becca, calls for an update. She had not been able to watch because she is an athlete herself and was playing a volleyball match for Northern Michigan. Yet, she's a fan. In fact, she earlier had texted a request that I provide a game update for her so she can check it between sets two and three of her match.
She was walking home, approaching her house, when she called. Craig Counsell flies out and Carlos Gomez singles as we speak.
That leads me to rant on Nyjer Morgan, a.k.a. Tony Plush, who has done little at the plate or in the field the entire series.
My daughter, ever the athlete, tries to calm me down. "So maybe this is the time for him to redeem himself," she says, knowing only too well that the full measure of any athlete in any sport is how he or she responds at the most important moment, no matter what has happened before.
She walks through her front door as Gomez steals second to move into scoring position. "The game's on here," she says, not needing my play-by-play anymore. "Go watch."
As we hang up, Morgan grounds the ball through the middle. Did it take an hour for that ball to get through? Gomez comes storming home. Did he set a land speed record rounding third? The Brewers win, starting a celebration never seen at Miller Park, or in my basement.
My phone beeps. "Fucking right!" Becca texts.
Her language may leave something to be desired in some circles, but her point is clear.
As I watch the on-field mayhem, I'm jealous I'm not there to write this one, like I was 29 years ago at County Stadium after Cecil Cooper's single assured the Brewers a berth in the World Series, or three years ago at Miller Park when Ryan Braun's home run and C.C Sabathia's herculean pitching put the Brewers in the playoffs. My loyalty would have been to the reader, my passion to the story.
Yet now, I am happy I can rewind the DVR and watch it all over again, this time without the hand-wringing and hair-mauling angst with which I had watched only moments before.
Do I want the Cardinals or the Phillies? Give me the Phillies. That way I won't have to put up with the insufferable, God's gift to baseball, Tony LaRussa, manager of the Cardinals.
OK, so it's the Cardinals. I can deal with that even if I can't deal with LaRussa. Besides, now I can just touch mute if want to shut him up.
When I grab the Saturday morning paper at 6:30, the sports section greets me with a picture that captures the emotion of the moment. Mouths open. Hands raised. Didn't know Counsell and Yovani Gallardo had such serious hops. Poor Jerry Hairston, doing his best Jim Valvano impression and searching for anyone to hug. Pure joy, on the field, in the stands, and, as I recall, in my basement and probably in TV rooms all around the state.
My basement called me back at 3 p.m. Sunday for Game 1 of the NLCS. Tonight, it's off to Miller Park for Game 2. God bless Stub Hub, standing room only, and, at least so far, a stomach that can handle it.