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By Andrew Reilly
I had the good fortune of attending the Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Final in Dublin last week, and for anyone not interested in learning the expectedly archaic rules and traditions associated with such an intricately-titled sporting event, the condensed version goes like this: soccer played with baseball bats.
And it was awesome, but not just for the reasons you'd expect (although let's make one thing clear: dudes running at each other with wooden sticks is pretty amusing). The game was exciting and all, what with Kilkenny besting Dublin 2-18 to 0-18 (Up the Dubs!, as Dublin fans like to say), but as with most sports that happen outside of America the real entertainment was in the stands. Giant flags, painted faces, section-to-section call-and-response sing-alongs, prominently-placed signs strictly prohibiting air horns and flares (flares!) inside the stadium; the whole affair was less sports and more county-level rallies, the good people of Dublin County (Up the Dubs!) rallying their troops against the invading horde from the countryside and whatnot.
A group of four Dubliners seated next to me, asking over and over if they could please be referred to as "concerned fans," insisted they didn't care about the outcome. "We're here," the Concerned Fans explained, "and we're going to lose but we're going to lose to the best and there's still plenty of other tourneys in hurling this year."
And while their fondness for superobscenities too horrid for even the Internet suggested otherwise, it was hard not to envy the idea that their sport was this kind of free-form, amorphous league rather than the structured and regimented one we Sox fans cheer for. Our seasons always end; their seasons may end, but chances are another season or two is just getting started (if not already underway). Barbaric or not, psychotic or not, they have a game they don't have to wait for and a team they're always able to cheer for.
Suddenly it all became clear: I wasn't really jealous of their idiotic songs and the elegant savagery of the game they loved; I was simply jealous of the fact that they, unlike I, could get excited about their second-place team. Perhaps we need year-round leagues, or enforcement of geographic affiliations between players and teams to liven things up. Perhaps we don't need things for the upper and lower decks to scream at each other besides "Cubs Suck" and "Boston Sucks" and "Cleveland Sucks" and similar types of South Side poetry. Perhaps more fights in the stands are not the answer. Perhaps face paint is a solution to a problem we needn't especially concern ourselves with.
Or, perhaps, we just need a team that can gain some ground on the stupid Tigers. Up the Sox!
Week in Review: Expected. Beating up on the Tribe is cool and all, but losing to the Twins in the Metrodome hasn't been funny for some time.
Week in Preview: The Sox enjoy a veritable week off, with Mark Buehrle the lone representative in St. Louis and the team hosting the non-entity Baltimore Orioles, a series highlighted by a showdown between Orioles catcher Matt Wieters and Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham for the title of Best Rookie Ever.
The Q Factor: In 2008, Carlos Quentin avoided his widely-expected All-Star snub and went on to become the American League's arguably Most Valuable Player. This year, Quentin bravely sacrifices a small bit of personal All-Star glory for inevitable MVP trophy glory. Most will agree this is a fair trade; those who don't shall be punished at the merciless hands of impending 2009 American League MVP Carlos Quentin.
That's Ozzie!: "I knew this morning when I woke up that we were going to [beat] the Twins like we did today."
The Guillen Meter: Guillen himself a four-time All-Star (three as a player, one as a manager), the Guillen Meter reads 8 for "secretly nostalgic, but saying something intense and weird when asked about it."
Underclassmen Update: Rookie arm Aaron Poreda will remain in the bullpen for now, as the Sox will stick to their Nothing By Nobody strategy for the back end of the rotation in the second half.
Alumni News You Can Use: Despite the best efforts of Yankee coaches and some inexplicably devoted fans, Nick Swisher remains both an offensive liability and a non-All-Star. A dual threat, if you will.
Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: Have you heard the news that Nick Markakis is not just an entirely awesome baseball player, but also a handsome man and flawless human being to boot? If not, you will. Repeatedly. As though we were witnessing some kind of Ichiro Suzuki/Carl Yastrzemski science experiment gone fantastically right rather than merely watching yet another player from a loser team show up the Good Guys. Smart money bets Nick Markakis will be described as "a good baseball player, maybe the best pure outfielder, now I'm not talking about guys who can just be good outfielders but among good, pure baseball players who play the outfield, he ranks right up there with Mantle and Mays in my book. There's no question about it."
Endorsement No-Brainer: The Sox, on the occasion of their probable final visit to the Twins' home dome, for the Ramones' final studio album. Adios, amigos!
Cubs Snub: Second-year disappointment Geovany Soto heads to the disabled list after straining an oblique muscle during batting practice, batting practice here taken to mean "a several-hour session spent as a human cloud factory."
The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.
The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.
Andrew Reilly is the managing editor of The 35th Street Review and a contributor to many fine publications. He welcomes your comments.
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