Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So this playoff thing is pretty cool, eh?

I feel a bit funny writing about the Tigers now, since I pretty much neglected them for the final weeks of the season, as they let the AL Central slip away. And I was out of the country (at least it seemed that way with the six-hour time difference) while they completely shut down the Yankees in their first-round playoff series.

(The New York papers were so much fun to read during my layover in L.A., however. The NY Post had me laughing all morning on Monday. "Fire Torre," "Trade A-Rod, "Sheff's old as dirt," "Unless your last name is Wang, you're a Yankees pitcher that sucks." I'm paraphrasing (slightly), but those back page headlines are a delight of absurdity - which was much-needed, since I was shoehorned into a table at the airport Burger King, trying to ration out my $5.00 Croissanwich. Yuck.)

The Leelanau Sports Guy already called me out on whining about being in Hawaii during the Tigers-Yankees series, so I won't try to pretend that I wasn't enjoying the sun and beach while Detroit was apparently shocking the baseball world. But I did feel like I was missing out on something really special. I heard the last inning of Game 4 through the Batphone, so I wasn't completely tuned out.

But I was a lone doofus, standing in the thoroughfare of Honolulu's Chinatown, with one arm raised and yelling "Yes!" (Now that I think about it, I looked a lot like that Japanese dude on Heroes, after he teleports himself to Times Square... Hai!)

I've seen footage of the Tigers celebrating with the fans at Comerica Park (which ESPN's Buster Olney called "perhaps the greatest team celebration you will ever see"), Kenny Rogers soaking policemen with champagne, and Jim Leyland appearing to kiss anyone who'd stick his or her lips through the netting, and wish I could've seen that live - even if it was just on TV. Reading assorted blog posts about the victory is great, but makes the whole thing feel kind of distant to me.

"Boo-hoo"? Don't cry for you, Joel Zumaya? Okay, okay... You're right. Besides, I came back with a great-looking tan.

My biggest fear was that the Tigers' playoff run would flame out - start to finish - while I was away. So I wasn't just happy that Detroit would still be playing post-season baseball (and humbled the overlord Yankees in the process) when I came home. I was thrilled that I'd be able to watch some of that action. So last night's Game 1 vs. Oakland was my first real taste of playoff baseball, Detroit-style, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

That 4th inning may have been more enjoyable than any one particular inning I can remember. Not only did the Tigers chase Barry Zito - possibly Oakland's best chance for a win from a starting pitcher - after making him work as we've been begging and pleading for them to do virtually all season long, but Nate Robertson came back from what looked like a stomach churning "Oh, $#!+" situation to blowing away the next three batters. If that wasn't a fist-pumping moment - one that could make a poor guy tear his rotator cuff - then I'm not sure I've ever seen one.

It seemed like a microcosm of the entire season. The Tigers did something unexpected, and showed that they’re capable of playing truly good baseball. Then they allowed their comfortable lead to suddenly become precarious. But when faced with adversity – a situation in which it looked like they’d wilt – the Tigers flexed their muscles and demonstrated just how tough they really are. It was an exhalation and an exclamation. Robertson yelled to no one in particular, yet to everyone watching, and walked back to the dugout triumphantly.

How was Oakland going to win the game after that?

But I think I could've done without seeing Sean Casey's left calf snap/spasm/explode like warm taffy in super-duper-X-slo-mo a dozen times, though. FOX Sports, thy name is not restraint. Was anyone else wondering if they were feeling a leg cramp after the first three or four viewings of that? Casey won't play tonight? No, you're kidding me.

Besides that 4th inning, however (and, well, you know, the Tigers winning), I think my favorite moment of the game was the awkward silence after Steve Lyons teased Lou Pinella about managing Tampa Bay. (Pinella: I like winning, too. Lyons: Then why'd you take that Tampa Bay job?)

Did the FOX director fall asleep there? How could you not get a camera shot of the look Pinella had to shoot at Lyons after that? (Yes, Mike McClary, I think Sweet Lou wants to deck Psycho Steve. Fiercely.) Or was he too in love with switching over to that stupid "Diamond Cam," which has to be the most useless camera angle in the history of sports. (The under-the-basket cam used in NBA games might be a close second.)

Let's see Milton Bradley strike out again from... a little lower angle than the one you just watched. Wow, that added something, huh? Hey, do we have a shot of Casey's calf exploding from that camera?


Okay, I'm definitely ready for tonight.

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