Thursday, October 24, 2013

Storybooks Don't Always Have HAPPY Finishes

There is a particularly unpleasant subset of sports events which involve 99 percent of the elements of a stickily sappy sports story for boys except for their ending, which is when happiness, virtue and inspiration all get run over by the world's largest semi. They're horrible to watch, yet somehow fascinating, because deep down, we know that's how things work out more often than not for everyone. The random power of the universe thumping puny humanity is the ultimate chalk play.

The most common form of the tale comes from boxing -- as in, beloved Champ (Joe Louis, Ali) has one fight far too many. But there have been others just as excruciating to watch. Greg Norman's fold in the 1996 Masters, which made even winner Nick Faldo feel awful. Craig Morton's comeback with the 1977 Denver Broncos and its fatal encounter with Super Bowl XII. Plucky rookie pitcher Bobby Sprowl thrown into a start against the Yankees the 1978 Red Sox had to win (and he had no business being in) and suffering total annihilation.

Add Carlos Beltran last night to the long list of unjustly suffering jocks. I don't care how much of a Red Sox fan one might be. Anybody who didn't feel bad for the Cardinals outfielder has a shriveled call to a talk show where their should be.

Here's a distinguished veteran player with a borderline Hall of Fame career playing in his very first World Series game. First, he stands in right field and watches his teammates piss the game away in the first two innings with comically inept fielding. Then, the cause pretty lost, he makes a spectacular catch colliding into the bullpen wall to prevent a grand slam. And hurts his ribs and has to leave the game. Beltran is now "day to day" and my guess if he returns to action, the injury will have the same impact on his batting (and he's one of the best postseason hitters ever) as Miguel Cabrera's injuries had on his in the ALCS.

In short, Beltran's first and possibly only Series may have ended in its first 45 minutes. And sad as that is to contemplate, what's even more dismal is HOW it ended.

Beltran clocked himself with a wonderful display of hustle and skill that wound up being the worst possible thing for his team and himself. His virtue was its own punishment, not reward. I'm sure that somewhere inside manager Mike Metheny's brain, the unworthy thought floats that "you know, if he'd only dogged it a little bit, we'd still have him. So we'd have lost 11-1. Big deal."

Fate is indeed cruel. It also has a very distasteful sense of humor.


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