My voice is hoarse, my hands are sore and red from clapping, and I’m deliriously, indescribably happy.
I just had a sports experience unlike any I’ve ever had. I went to my first Yankees baseball playoff game thanks to the generosity of my friend Andrew, and if you haven’t seen any news or highlights today, well, it was kind of a dramatic finish.
Down 2-1 in the ninth to an outstanding Baltimore Orioels team, Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for $30 million man Alex Rodriguez and crushed a home run to right to tie the game.
Then in the 12th, with Ibanez due up again, I turned to the guy next to me in Section 433 and said “OK Raul, you kept us here before, now time to send us home .” (I swear to God and Tebow that I said that.)
And then he did. Ibanez crushed another homer, this time a game-winner, and I was one of 50,000 delirious Yankees fans, cheering and stomping and hugging strangers as the clock ticked toward midnight.
One of the things about being a sportswriter for a long time is that not only do you get jaded, but you’re really not allowed to cheer at games. You go, you sit in the press box, you describe the pandemonium beneath you, and get swept up in a great storyline, but you don’t really cheer.
As a “recovering” ex-sportswriter for the past year, I’ve learned how to root as a fan again at stadiums and arenas. But nothing prepared me for the electricity of playoff baseball at Yankee Stadium, a place that I still think is too big and impersonal, but on Wednesday night felt special.
When Ibanez hit those homers, the stadium shook. Noise went to a new level. And I finally experienced what October baseball has been like for Yankees fans since 1996.
Walking down the hallways after the game, still giddy with excitement, Andrew, who’s seen dozens of Yankee playoff games, smiled and said to me “I’m so glad you got to experience this.”
Some other thoughts from a wild night in the Bronx, and stick with me because I may just be rambling here as my head is still pretty jumbled.
— Two funniest things I heard: 1, standing outside the stadium before the game, two 30-something guys walked by. One said to the other, “Old ladies, and gay guys, that’s who hits on me.”
And 2, when a (presumably drunk) guy with his shirt off ran up and down a nearby section, the snarky woman behind me yelled “There’s my future husband! Come up here and woo me, my prince!”
— Biggest difference between regular season fans and postseason fans that I noticed? Everybody Wednesday seemed into the actual game itself.
— I had so much fun watching the 10-year-old kid and his dad who sat next to me, as the son rooted and yelled and grimaced all night, while his Dad calmly explained things to him. At one point in extra innings I asked the Dad if the kid would have to go to school tomorrow.
“Depends on who wins,” he said with a smile. I hope that kid is playing hooky right now.
— Finally, hard to see how the Orioles come back from this loss. Just crushing, to be two outs away and have your closer blow it, for the second time in three games. They’ve had a hell of a season and I’ll always love Buck Showalter for resurrecting the Yanks in the 1990s, but I can’t see how they win this series.
**Finally today, a great story from the “Today” show about a Mom named Jessica Stilwell who was fed up with her kids’ lack of interest in household chores. So she went on strike, just to see what would happen.
It wasn’t pretty. But I salute you for trying, Mrs. Stilwell.