Tuesday, April 05, 2005

First and Last 

Opening Day. A time of hope. A time of new beginnings. A time of... what the #$%#$! 16-6??!!

OK. I just needed to get that out of my system. Odd as it sounds, there were a lot of positives to take out of yesterday's shellacking by the Cubs. The D-Backs had, what, 7 walks? (More?) Counsell got on base three times, twice by walks -- there isn't much more you'd want from a leadoff batter. Gonzo laid down a sweet infield hit down the third base line to drive in a run when the infield had shifted right on him. And 6 runs, 12 hits. That's a good day's work. When you drive the opposing team's starting pitcher out of the game before 5 full innings (thanks to 106 pitches) while getting blown out, that's got to be a moral victory.

Which is not to say that Javier Vazquez did not, in fact, have a bad game. Was he tipping his pitches? Who knows. I'm sure Vazquez was surprised to leave the boo-birds of the Bronx for the boo-birds of... Copper Square. And Greg Aquino didn't have a strong outing, either. But Brian Bruney certainly justified his last-minute addition to the roster.

But in the end, it's just one game out of 162. And faced with two options -- panic or hope -- at this point there's no reason to not continue hoping.


Now, it should noted that I was this sanguine immediately after and even during the game, so my essential optimism should not be attributed to Carolina's victory last night in men's college basketball's last game of the season.

But it doesn't hurt.

I won't say much about the team or the game because I believe that if you don't talk much while the outcome's in doubt, you don't get to talk much when the outcome is decided. But a few words are in order.

I watched the game at McDuffy's with a friend (who happened to be at Carolina at about the same time I was -- we traded stories about our '93 Franklin Street experiences) and with other UNC alums. We were outnumbered by Cubs, I mean, Illinois fans probably 2-1. (I'm not kidding, there were as many Cubs shirts as there were bright orange shirts.) It's always fun to watch tournament games in a bar setting, as it allows for give and take between cheering sections, and last night was no exception.

Certainly, Illinois fans were quiet from about 7 PM to 7:45 PM or so. (Overheard in the restroom at half-time -- I'm paraphrasing here -- "I didn't expect the Cubs to have more points than Illinois.") But Illinois made a great run in the second half, which for the most part didn't rattle UNC.

And then they finally remembered that Sean May played for them in the middle and pounded the ball inside. I tell you, to see May now and compare him to his early years is amazing -- he's really improved. And of course I'm happy to see Roy Williams get a win.

Less than an hour after the game ended, I was at home with my family. Considerably different from watching bonfires in a cold drizzle on Franklin Street until 3 AM like I did 12 years ago, but no less satisfying.

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