Sunday, August 05, 2012

Grand ol' game delivers again

Baseball is an old friend, a comfortable companion, here for six months or so, if I need it.

I haven't watched much of it this year. Work and other pursuits have kept me busy. Jenn and I did catch a minor league game in Chattanooga with my friend Kurt a couple of months ago.

This afternoon I was trying to ignore a migraine when I got an email from my buddy David, a Detroit Tigers fan from Ferndale, Mich. He told me Tigers manager Jim Leyland had been thrown out of this afternoon's game against the Indians. The Tigers were looking to sweep the Tribe.

"I'll go turn it on," I replied.

And I did.

Baseball's leisurely pace -- it is not boring if you know its rules and strategy -- is part of its endless appeal. I scanned the headlines, surfed the Web, even listened to part of a Charlie Rose broadcast on Bloomberg Radio, all while the Tigers and Indians maneuvered in Motown, and I missed nothing. It helps that the Tigers' TV talent do their jobs well.

The game see-sawed a bit. Cleveland by a run. Tie. Tigers by a run. Tie. So forth.

I thought Detroit had it won in the bottom of the ninth when Austin Jackson hit a triple -- the best offensive play in the game -- with nobody out. Wrong. The Tigers offense couldn't move him 90 feet.

Free baseball ensued.

And everything imploded for the Old English D. The Indians scored three runs in the top of the 10th. Fans headed to the exits. That seemed to be that.

I came close to switching the TV to a DVR-recorded broadcast of today's "Face the Nation." Then I remembered the time my dad and I left Neyland Stadium with three minutes or so to go in the 2002 edition of the UT/Georgia football game.

Tennessee took the lead and lost it -- and the game -- in a span of two minutes we didn't see. I vowed then and there I'd never leave a sporting event early again. Maybe I would make an exception for life-threatening situations. Maybe.

Sure enough, I was rewarded for my patience.

The Tigers scored five runs in the bottom of the 10th, the last two on a majestic, super, joyful walk-off home run by Miguel Cabrera. For a second or two, it felt like the postseason -- The Shot Heard Round the World and Kirk Gibson's gimpy trot around the bases in '88 and Magglio Ordonez's '06 miracle shot in the ALCS all rolled into one.

I didn't jump up and down. But I grinned. And grinned. And grinned some more. Felt like anything was possible.

For a minute, I didn't think about datelines and deadlines, deadly shots in Wisconsin and Colorado or civil war in Syria. For a minute there, I was a kid again, and all was right with the world.

Exhibit A as to why baseball is the greatest game of them all. Don't tell me otherwise. Don't talk about football or basketball or golf or The Olympics. I'm not buying it.

Not today.

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