until Texas vs Kansas

Tuesday, September 27

 

Pure Elation

Last night’s sporting events, which I was so excited for, completely encapsulated everything wonderful about sports. It was a mixed bag of disappointment, inspiration, heartbreak, and elation all rolled into one. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that it was perhaps the greatest sports night of the last year for me. I’ll walk you through it.

7:30 I sit down at my restaurant’s bar to take in the beginning of the LSU and Tennessee game. I’m anticipating a lot of emotion from the LSU crowd, but I’m overwhelmed by just how stirring it all is. It’s one thing to say, “Damn, those poor folks down in Louisiana need something to cheer for.” It’s quite another to actually see nearly 100,000 of them standing and cheering for the team they love. It’s an inspiring moment and it sets the tone for an emotional, wild evening.

7:45 The game is just about over. Tennessee looks lost on offense, they turn the ball over, and LSU scores on their first play from scrimmage. I don’t really have a horse in this race, but I’m hoping for a Tennessee win because LSU remains a potential challenger to Texas.

8:35 Erik Ainge makes a wild, ridiculously dumb throw from his own end zone, the Tigers intercept him on the five yard line, and the lead increases to 21-0. Tennessee looks all but done at this point.

9:00 With LSU firmly in control, we switch to the Chiefs-Broncos game for some Monday Night Football. I don’t care too much which team wins, but I’m carefully watching this game because my fantasy football matchup comes down to this game. I’m down 20 points, but I have Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, and the Chiefs kicker all to play. Nine times out of ten they’re going to combine for enough points to get me a win.

9:30 The Broncos are cruising, Larry Johnson has already fumbled, and the Chiefs offense as a whole is doing its best impression of the Tennessee Volunteers. I’m starting to get depressed about the outcomes of these games. With little going for me in the football world, my friend Matt (also a rabid Giants fan) and I head down to the local sports bar that has the baseball package.

10:05 The Giants and Padres are set to open a four game series, with the Giants trailing the Pads by four games. With only seven games left, the Giants will be eliminated if they split the four game set, as they’d be four back with three to play. They’ll have to sweep or take three of four. I tell Matt that the season comes down to tonight. Win tonight, we’re three back with six to play; a daunting task, but not a lost cause. Lose tonight and it’s over. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Padres are opening the series with their ace, Jake Peavy. The Giants counter with rookie lightweight Brad Hennessey.

10:20 After the Padres first hitter of the game singles to left, Ryan Klesko deposits a bomb into the right field bleachers for a 2-0 Padres lead. I call my girlfriend and tell her that it’s turning out to be a miserable evening for my teams.

11:15 The Giants mount their first serious rally, loading the bases with two outs for Barry Bonds. J.R., the third member of our Giant cheering section, has finished work and now joins us at the bar. We’re pounding the counter of the bar in excitement and stand up to watch. No sooner have we gotten up from our bar stools when Bonds lines the first pitch to right for an easy out. Rally over. Someone shoot me.

12:00 J.R.’s birthday officially starts at midnight, so two rounds of shots ensue. We need them, as nothing is going our way. J.R. makes his birthday wish: a comeback Giants win. We toast to it, but it’s a faint hope, as Peavy isn’t slowing down.

12:05 Sometimes, you turn into a pumpkin at midnight. But sometimes, it’s the other way around. Tonight is one of those nights. I hear clamoring from some folks by another TV and I head over to see what the fuss is all about. Tennessee and LSU are in overtime! I arrive just in time to see LSU kick a field goal, then watch as Tennessee marches in to the end zone for the win. At last, something I was hoping for comes to fruition. Another Horns contender is knocked out. For one night, I’m a Rick Clausen fan.

12:15 Trevor Hoffman enters the game in the 9th inning with the Padres leading 2-1. Hoffman’s last blown save was way back on April 29th, to give you an idea of how dominant he’s been. After Pedro Feliz meekly grounds out to start the inning, it’s looking grim. The Giants have light-hitting catcher Mike Matheny and a pinch hitter left to get a rally going. Matheny answers the call with a single to left. Jason Ellison comes in to pinch run, bringing up pinch hitter Edgardo Alfonzo, better known to Matt, J.R. and me as “El Burrito.” The fat man flies out to left and the Giants are down to their last out.

This is where things get crazy. Randy Winn comes to the plate for the Giants and hits a ball to deep center field. Brian Giles has a track on it and jumps up at the wall to make what appears to be a game-ending catch. Hoffman pumps his fist and Matt, J.R., and I let out groans of agony. But Giles then crashes down the ground and the ball trickles out of his glove. Ellison races around third to score and Winn is suddenly standing on third base with a triple. The game is tied!

After a walk to Omar Vizquel, J.T. Snow comes to the plate and singles sharply to right, giving the Giants an improbable 3-2 lead. We’re now jumping around the bar like drunken buffoons, hugging each other, high fiving, and taking more shots to celebrate the lead and J.R.’s birthday. Armando Benitez closes out the Padres in the last of the 9th and the Giants suddenly find themselves just three games back with three more to play against San Diego. It’s the closest they’ve been to the Pads since early May.

The Chiefs players on my fantasy team do nothing to help me win, but at this point, I could care less. LSU has lost and the Giants have won. It was a wild, emotional evening that reminded me why sports are so much fun. I live for nights like last night.

--PB--

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