Sunday, October 09, 2005

Astros accelerate aging of local blogger (updated)

So, I'll admit up front I'm not much of a sports guy. I find most games really stress me out, and stress is not something I'm looking to add to my life. If a local game is important, I like to try and tune-in near the end. If they're winning, great, I like to watch them close it out. If they're losing big, no problem, move on to other activities. And if it's a close, nail-biter game, well, I'll only pound my heart for a short time.

So, with that in mind, I tune into the Astros-Atlanta Game 4 of the playoffs today during the seventh inning, just after two o'clock. The Astros are down 5 to 1. Clearly time to move on to other activities and hope for a good Game 5. But I don't this time. I get this week's stack of Wall Street Journals and plop down in front of the TV, and see if, maybe, the Astros will start to pull it out. Worst case, a couple innings and I'm done.

Uh-huh. Right.

Observation at this point: Wall Street Journal reading slows to a trickle when you alternate between watching pitches and reading single paragraphs, especially when you easily lose track of the last paragraph you read. An afternoon of reading in slo-mo.

Braves get another run in the top of the eighth. Now 6 to 1. Why am I watching this?

Then Berkman gets his Grand Slam in the bottom of the 8th. 6 to 5. Whoa, this got interesting fast. Heart thumping. Relax, for Christ's sake. It's just a baseball game!

Bottom of the 9th. Two outs. Not looking good, but at least it'll be over soon. Brad Asmus hits a walk-off homer, literally an inch over the yellow home run line on the wall. Stadium goes wild. 6-6 game. Yea! But also now it's "Oh crap, I wasn't planning on extra innings." Heart continues to pound away, not responding to any conscious directives to the contrary.

OK. No problem. Both teams are digging deep in their bullpens. Pitching is getting shaky. The Astros are on a hitting streak. This should wrap up soon. Time noted near 3pm.

Then both sides firm up their pitching and bats go cold.

I'm trapped. Clearly, I'm their good luck charm, right? They were down 6 to 1 when I started watching, and made an amazing comeback in just two innings. I can't bail on them now. I have to watch no matter how long it takes. It's bad enough I can't relax and stop my heart palpitations - I have to have a damn Cro-Magnon-man superstitious brain!

The Astros pull up their last remaining pitcher in the 16th: Roger Clemens. That's it. The bullpen is deserted. How long can he go when he just pitched on Thursday? Will this thing never end?

They then proceed to surpass the longest postseason game in baseball history: the 1986 Astros loss to the NY Mets in 16 innings.

Finally, at almost 6pm, nearly four hours after I started watching and six hours into the game, Chris Burke hits an incredible walk-off home run in the bottom of the 18th (!) inning ("Two games for the price of one!" - the records will say they won in four games, but it was really five). And suddenly, it's over. The stadium goes wild. They empty the bench and mob him at home plate. The Astros have won and get to move on to play the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Championship (2004 deja vu, anyone?). Relief. Heart slows down to its normal rate, an untold number of gray hairs later. Hey, but I productively cleared out five backlogged days of the Wall Street Journal, right?

Go 'stros!

(Update: NPR All Things Considered story on the game)


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