Sunday, February 20, 2011

Time Travel and Sports

Steve's sermon today referenced "Back To The Future" and betting on sporting events. Coming on top of my "Nod To Cleveland" post and Ben's tentative list of Worst Moments, it just naturally connected into a "If you could change Boston sports" reverie. Which led in at least two directions at once. (I'm a trained professional daydreamer. Don't try this at home.)

I am ashamed to note that I had forgotten about Reggie Lewis, and that jumped well up the list. Which put me in mind of Darryl Stingley, paralysed in his prime, who I had also overlooked. I had the trifecta of less devastating injuries at inopportune moments already on my list: Ted Williams getting injured just before the 1946 World Series, Tony Conigliaro getting injured just before the 1967 World Series, and Jim Rice getting injured just before the 1975 World Series. (Conigliaro is a crossover here. The injury wasn't career ending, but he was never the same, and he died young, likely from sequelae of the head injury.) In terms of changing events, just getting them those days off would be big.

Granting that the life tragedies and sports tragedies are not on the same level but overlap, the time travel aspect suggests that sitting down and having a conversation with Carlton Fisk in the spring of 1974 could solve a lot of problems. His injury, Wise's avoidable injury, Rice's injury, Armbrister, Eephus pitch, change in the wind just before Bucky Dent's* at bat, Lou Piniella's deke. Just as a bonus, getting Evans to listen to Lau/Hriniak sooner, and pulling in whoever else would listen would be great, too.

The 1986 World Series. A target-rich environment. The searing pain comes from so many simple things that not only could have been done, but absolutely should have been done. Pinch-hit Baylor instead of Greenwell. Give Bob Stanley the honor of the last out (he could have gotten one of those guys), Spike Owen's pickoff, Dave Stapleton... I just can't stand it, even 25 years later.

The 1986 Super Bowl, different story. Even though the officials took away a touchdown (Stephan Starring didn't step out of bounds) and gave the Bears a field goal (missed call end of first half), and Lin Dawson got a freak injury, all of those together wouldn't have given the Patriots that win. Super Bowl XLII (Helmet Catch), same thing. Sure, there was a lot of luck on that play, but you don't want to take away the greatest catch in history, even if it is against your team.

The 2003 playoffs were not the worst moment, but they were so representative, such a culmination of all of Red Sox history that they deserve mention.

On a slightly different tack you could mention the Red Sox not signing Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson in 1945 (they uh, failed the tryout. Sure.) because Tom Yawkey was a racist bastard.

* A measure of how crazy and obnoxious George Steinbrenner was can be observed by noting that Boston fans felt sorry for Bucky Dent, always known before as Bucky F-ing Dent before that, in his dealings with Steinbrenner.

Completely different direction.

I imagined a sports interview, and quite automatically put it in Monty Python style, of an announcer asking some knowledgeable fan of a long-suffering team - probably West Ham or Leeds, then - what moments he would change in his team's history. As soon as he listed one "Love to have that disallowed goal back in '74. Have Allan Clarke hold up just a bit..." the announcer would get distracted into the mechanics. "But what if Clarke wouldn't listen to you about that? What then, eh?"

"Well, if I'm getting to change what I want that isn't the issue, is it? It's rather assumed or there's no point to the question."

"Ah, but what if Clark tells you to f-off and not tell him how to play? What would you do then?"

"Oh, stop time and pull on his jersey just for a moment, then. However you like."

"Wouldn't work. The pull would only have effect while time was moving, and then you'd be seen on the pitch and the game would be up, wouldn't it? So that's out."

"Move his foot back six inches."

"He'd tip over."

"Look, you asked me here to talk about what moments I'd change, not to give a dissertation on the possible contradictions of time travel."

"So you're admitting you couldn't do it then, aren't you? The whole thing's a fantasy."

"Well of course it's a fantasy. That's what you asked, innit?"

"Forget Clarke then. He's going offsides, nothing you can do, forget about it. Give it up man, it happened decades ago. How about the '78 Club semifinals? What would you do there?"

"First I'd cool down Trevor Cherry against Argentina in '77 so he doesn't lose those teeth and get sent off. He wasn't quite the same after."

"Nah, you couldn't calm Trevor down, you'd just make him madder. You'll have to find another way."

"Hampton, then - look, this is ridiculous. Your entire premise is that it's a fantasy where I can change history, then you're complaining because I'm fantasizing and can't change history..."

Well, it seemed funny to me, anyway. Looking at it in print an all, it doesn't seem so impressive. Perhaps if you get the accents right.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Seemed funny to me, too. You got the flavor of the MP skit, as I see it.