After a draining night of watching a certain team I care a great deal about lose an important game in sudden, sickening fashion, I trudged out of bed this morning, got ready for work and, of course, started thinking about Jose Valverde and the Chicago Cubs. I’m sure that’s healthy.
I’m prone to making drastic leaps that can leave my friends confused, but allow me to re-connect the dots my beer-zapped brain linked this morning.
If sports are supposed to be entertainment, then Jose Valverde is a one-man cabaret act. At least he used to be.
From the safety of the left field grandstand, I got to know Valverde pretty well during my first year living in Arizona, while he closed games for the Diamondbacks in the 2007 season. That year was a great one for them, packed with one-run wins and a surprise division championship and the accompanying trip to the playoffs. Valverde was named an All-Star that season in recognition for his ability to rack up saves, but it was the way he pitched that got him into the spotlight.
Even by the overbown standards of closer antics, Valverde was out there. In addition to leaving the bullpen to the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa,” the Chase Field PA would blast the song after every out, punctuating the histrionics emanating from Valverde on the mound, stalking and kicking and screaming and basically letting go of all inhibitions as he unhinged himself from reality in the midst of his job, which was throwing a baseball with a game on the line.
That playoff game — Game 1 of the 2007 NLDS against the central division champion Chicago Cubs — was the first playoff game I’d ever attended in any sport. And I was sitting next to a Cubs fan that had flown in that morning, grabbed a hotel near the amusement park on I-10 a few miles north of the stadium and then politely watched in horror as Lou Pinella pulled Carlos Zambrano early. The Diamondbacks took the lead against Chicago’s bullpen, and Valverde slammed the door shut as loudly as possible, highlighted by a blaring “I LOVE IT WHEN YOU CALL ME BIG POP-PA” every five minutes.
“Man,” the Cubs fan said. “I’m going to hear that song in my sleep.”
I’m jumping sports, but I thought about that guy last night after watching an emotionally draining hockey game — five hours of the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, capped by a goal a little past 1 a.m. and Tuukka Rask briskly gliding back to the locker room to figure out what happened.
While I was reaching for the remote to turn off the game as quickly as possible, all I could hear was the Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger,” the Blackhawks’ goal song that had already played three times that night before the third overtime clincher.
I was asleep not long after that goal, exhausted and beat and annoyed. When I woke up this morning, I still had the song in my head, and I thought about that Cubs fan, an obvious diehard who wanted to potentially see a little bit of history, but who left the park with his ears ringing and probably trudged off to his hotel, exhausted, beat and annoyed.
Things aren’t so great for Valverde these days, either. After some time in baseball purgatory, Valverde is back in the majors, but it’s been a struggle, and the reports are that he could be at the end of the line in his second stint with the Tigers. He hasn’t been strutting so much as he’s been left stranded on the mound wondering what’s gone wrong.
As for the Bruins, it’s only Game 1 of a seven-game series, a game played on the road, no less. There’s no reason to think they can’t be OK after this. But I wonder where that Cubs fan is. I wonder how he felt getting up the next morning in a strange hotel room in the middle of the desert, questioning whether this whole “caring about sports” thing was even worth the trouble.
And I wonder if he likes hockey, too.