Was at the pool hall last night night while game 6 of the NLCS was going on.
Not that I was watching it, mind you. I was in the back of the pool hall again (at the famed Abe Rosen table), and unlike Game 7 of last year's ALCS, they didn't tune every TV set in the place to the game. Indeed, most of the sets that I could see were tuned to Rangers/Islanders.
It's a testament to how far the NHL has fallen that Rangers/Islanders couldn't get my interest, at all. Someone else had to point out to me that it ended with the Isles winning their first-ever shootout.
I started off my match with my one-handicap-rank-lower opponent, Barbra, going on a nice run in the first game of 8 ball, which gave me a pleasant scare, and got me shooting well. After tying up the table a little bit, I pulled out the first game, then proceeded to sweep her--hard--in the next two games of 8 Ball. After the first game it wasn't even close.
But the seeds were already sown for my destruction. I started to feel bad for her during the 8-ball match, since it looked like she was getting frustrated. I also started to think about other stuff, like my handicap going up--I was 14-5 going into the night's match, so it figured that a third straight winning week would get the league director's attention.
Worst of all, I'd been winning without making any long shots. Going into 9-ball, this is a recipe for disaster.
And so, I messed up in the first game, going on a nice run that ended just before Barbra's handicap ball. Then, a blind shot she took into a cluster kicked the nine ball in in the second game. Then, in the third game, I rattled my opponent's handicap ball (the Eight) in the corner, leaving it right in front of the pocket. I was about to do the sportsmanlike "this shot is too easy for you" thing and concede the game, but she insisted on shooting. She made the shot, but the cue ball hit three rails and dropped into a pocket on the other side of the table.
With ball in hand, on the nine ball, I missed a nonchallant side pocket shot, from maybe three or four inches away from the pocket. Tied match.
One more rattled eight ball later, it was over. I'm still disgusted.
The most prized thing in sports is the killer instinct, a reaction that when your opponent is reeling, you not only refuse to let up on them, but you turn up the pressure even higher. It just kills me when that instinct fails to kick in, and you start finding ways to beat yourself.
On a perhaps unrelated note, another thing that occurred to me was that playing Barbra was perhaps the first real interaction I've had with a woman I didn't know since getting married. It's strange, since I've been off the market for more than two years now, but I felt just a little bit awkward. Different.
OK, now that I'm done boring you with my pool game (and personal life), after my match was done, I caught the action in the NLCS on one of the HD's by the bar. It was the bottom of the sixth, and the Astros were already leading 4-1. Oswalt was just filthy--his 95+ heater slicing into the corners of the strike zone. Reminds me a bit of vintage Ron Guidry, in the way it seems incongruous for someone so slight of build to whip it so damn hard. By the time Morgan Ensberg singled in Craig Biggio with the Astros' fifth run, the Redbirds looked beat. And in time, it was official.
So the Astros meet the White Sox in the World Serious. As Alex Belth puts it, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez against Andi Pettitte and Roger Clemens. One team that hasn't won in 88 years, against one that hasn't won, ever (that would be since 1962). History made either way.
Here's to one last good taste of baseball before we go off to that cold winter.
Meanwhile, there's been a bit of noteworthy news in Yankeeland that probably merits a few blurbs:
News Item--Mel Stottlemyre Calls It Quits as Yankee Pitching Coach (Blum/Yahoo Sports) Long time coming, and probably for the best. I doubt Mel was ever as good a pitching coach as was believed when he was coaching the 1986 Mets, or as bad as he was thought to be his last few years in Pinstripes. Like Don Zimmer's departure a few years back, I'm sad he's leaving, but I'm happy he gets away from the backbiting and office politics of the World of Yankee.
News Item--Joe Torre Will Remain Yankee Manager (AP/ESPN.com) This one surprised a little, because of George Steinbrenner's long history of not tolerating failure, and of interpreting the word "failure" in a very liberal fashion. Still, it's welcome news. There's no manager out there that I can see doing a better job than Torre, and it's not like he has lost the respect of his players. So firing the manager now would be change for change's sake.
News Items--Leo Mazzone Speaks to Yanks (Borden/NY Daily News) But Joins the Orioles (Rubin/NY Daily News) Getting Leo in pinstripes was a pipe dream, but I'm surprised that Mazzone left Atlanta despite turning down the Yanks' offers. Factor in that search was probably the Orioles retaining Leo's longtime pal as their manager. I guess we'll get to see how much of a miracle worker Leo has been, all these years--the Braves and Orioles are teams to watch next season.
With Mazzone and Stottlemyre out, the candidates for the pitching coach range from Neil Allen (organizational favorite) to Joe Kerrigan (possible Red Sox spy favorite) to Ron Guidry (emotional favorite) to the unknown. Right now, despite things to like about each candidate, I favor the unknown.
News Item--Joe Girardi To Manage the Marlins (Frisaro/MLB.com) We've been hearing for a decade about how Girardi will make a great manager some day. I don't know what this talk is based on, but the Marlins sure hope the buzz turns into reality. This leaves one more vacancy in the Yankees coaching corps, and no current favorites to fill the bench coach position.
News Item--Felix Heredia Suspended for Steroids (Noble/MLB.com) I guess someone got sick of Larry Mahnken calling him a fairy. Still, the one distinguishing thing about the steroid cheats is what a pitiful list of characters this is--guys just hanging on to their careers, for the most part. The other thing--which hurts me to note as a Dominican American--is that so many of these guys are Hispanic. Like the Agegate scandals, it sends the message that Latinos are just more willing to cheat than other people. I'd prefer to think that this means that supplement companies throughout Latin America got some 'splaining to do (to paraphrase Desi Arnaz).