Sunday, July 23, 2006

There is an underappreciated old movie I enjoy quite a bit. Actually there are quite a few, but this one particular film has been on my mind since last night's game with the Mariners ended the way it did. It's called Khartoum, and it's about an uprising in the Sudan in 1884. Charlton Heston stars as "Chinese" Gordon, a British general leading the defense of Khartoum. The Mahdi, the leader of the Sudanese attacking the city, is played by Laurence Olivier. It's quite good, I highly recommend it.

It is of particular significance to this evening's post because there is a particular scene where the two rivals meet in the Mahdi's tent. The backstory, as simply put as possible, is that a British relief force is slowly marching down the Nile, ostensibly to rescue Gordon. In reality, Prime Minister Gladstone ordered the commander to move slowly, so that Gordon would be forced to flee the city and that British troops would not have to fight in the Sudan. Gordon refused to leave, and sent his deputy to force the advancing force to come more quickly. The Mahdi's forces intercepted and killed the deputy, but the Mahdi sent a fake message to Gordon saying the British army was picking up the pace. Not long after, the Mahdi summoned Gordon to his tent for a conference, where he revealed the ruse.

Believe it or not, this does actually relate to the defeat in Seattle. The Mahdi tells Gordon that the message was fake, and explains why he did it. By the Mahdi's rationale is that if you allow your adversary a few sunny moments of false hope, then he will be utterly devastated when he sees the totality of his defeat looming before him. To make a long story short, that's a bit like what befell the Red Sox yesterday.

Every time Seattle took the lead, the Red Sox tantalized their fans with comeback. Then the Sox would do something dumb. Alex Gonzales managed to flip the ball in Mike Lowell's general direction, which may have been a nice play, provided, of course, that a Seattle baserunner weren't running between them. The throw hit the runner in the back, and turned a potential force play at third base into a run.

Then there was Manny being Manny, sliding every which way but where the ball was. Actually, that's a bit unfair, he did manage to slide into the ball in the seventh. Might have been a nice play, if they went to Seattle to play soccer. Alas, that it had to be baseball.

But the play of the game had to be Coco Crisp's over the top effort to make a circus catch on Beltre's potential home run. Unfortunately, Coco was coco-nuts on the play and the ball bounced off the wall 10 feet behind him. After that came a series of mishaps that would have horrified the Three Stooges. By the way, I feel redeemed from that awful pun, as the Red Sox currently sell t shirts with that dreadful play on words on the front and Crisp #10 on the back. I know. I've seen them. And I am aware that one really ought not write a parenthetical paragraph, but I'm only human. In case you were wondering, Reason # 77 that you ought to know you're a tool but obviously don't realize it, is you are wearing an "I'm Coco Nuts" shirt (apologies to my good friend who was wearing one when I was hanging out with him over the 4th of July, reason # 13 that you are given immunity from tool status is that you hooked the Cincinnati Kid up with a quality cigar).

Manny couldn't/wouldn't/didn't do more to back up his center fielder than point to the ball. Then there was the wild throw that wasn't cut off by Alex Gonzales. By the time Lowell came up with the ball and threw home, it was too late. What should have been a loud out, or maybe a double because it was a reasonably well hit ball, and a lot of things can happen became an inside the park home run because the Red Sox vaunted defense fell asleep at the switch.

And then Jason Varitek stepped to the plate, the captain had the last shot to tie the game. And he took a two out, two strike pitch deep into the right field seats. The Red Sox had their few sunny moments of hope. They had a bit of life. As Tito said, Varitek had a "beautiful swing" at it. And then Richie Sexson reached out and snatched it from their grasp. He hit a walk off homer off of Mike Timlin. I wonder whether that took the jam out of Timlin's doughnut.

It was so stunning in its perfection and timing that it left only me to question why Francona left Timlin in for the ninth inning. Surely after something like the Keystone Kops turn a long fly ball into an inside the park home run a man of even moderate intelligence might have thought that it wasn't Timlin's day. That the stars were aligned against him. That maybe karma was coming for him like that old bat in the car came for Earl Hickey. Not Francona. Not yesterday. Mariners win.

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