A GRIP ON SPORTS
Yesterday was definitely not perfect. I did not win any sort of lottery. However it was perfect in one special way. And you already know what I'm talking about, because everybody (in this area at least) is talking about it. Read on.
• When a guy hits for the cycle in a major league game, it's a pretty big deal. Not all that many people have done it. But there is little drama in it, as his at-bats only come around every few innings. When a guy throws a no-hitter, it's a pretty big deal. Not all that many people have done it. But the drama can be drained a bit with a walk or two and maybe an error. But when a guy throws a perfect game – or to put it better, when a guy is throwing a perfect game – it's a big deal. Hardly anyone has done it. And the drama? It's intense because it builds and builds and builds, with any little bobble or misstep (see Jim Joyce) ruining a date with the record book. The way baseball is played, with the pitcher on the mound for three outs, then hidden away in the dugout for another three outs while his team hits, only serves to heighten the tension. People are leaning in on every pitch he makes, count out by out, then exhale and relax while his team hits. But as the outs mount in the half-inning, the tension starts to build again until the pitcher emerges from the dugout and walks back to the bump in the middle of the infield. Each inning makes the anxiety grow almost exponentially, as the ultimate goal grows closer and the magnitude of any mistake takes on even more meaning (again, see Jim Joyce or, if you prefer, Ken Phelps and Brian Holman). The last half inning, with everyone in the stadium standing – doesn't matter if it's the home team starter throwing the perfect game; everyone stands and cheers because they want to be able to say they were at a perfect game – and the place a cavern of noise, is as good as sports gets. If the perfection is completed – it has been done 23 times in Major League Baseball's history – the place explodes in celebration and relief. If the quest ends without success (and it does occasionally), the explosion is more of disappointment and disgust.
• Yesterday all those elements came into play for the third time this season, but this time was different. This time is was our guy, our King, who was doing it. It was Felix Hernandez standing tall, wheeling and dealing mid-90 fastballs, sharp-breaking sliders, jaw-dropping changeups. Swing after swing came up empty for the Rays, a team battling for a postseason berth. Batter after batter made the right turn at first base and headed back to the dugout; that is if they weren't one of the 12 batters (there is no way to call them hitters) who struck out, flailing futilely at one of the King's impossible-to-hit pitches. All the elements were in play here. A rabid fan base (OK, 21,889 folks who snuck away for a day game in the middle of summer) in full throat desperate to see something that had never happened in franchise history. A dominating pitcher who knew what was going on and desperate to complete the gem. A young group behind him desperate to not make a mistake and ruin perfection. As the game wore on and the tension built, there was an electricity that ran through the stadium, almost visible to us at home watching on TV, an electricity that made each pitch snap and crack as it headed toward John Jaso's mitt. When it was all over and Felix had pointed to the sky (the pictures are incredible in how they catch his joy), that electricity had dissipated, spread all over the Pacific Northwest, powering an evening of reflection and discussion about something that had never happened before. Pretty cool, huh?
• The Tampa Bay Rays woke up July 23, 2009 and had never had a perfect game thrown against their franchise. Today, three years and 24 days later, there have been three. They are part of a cluster of perfect games that have occured the past few years. Pretty odd, huh?
• Washington State: Other things happened yesterday as well, though I don't think anything else came close. Christian Caple was able to catch the morning Cougar practice, host a live chat, write his blog post and story (the preview of the offensive line with center Elliott Bosch shown in crimson at right) and then catch the perfect game on TV. He has his thoughts about it – and a question – in his morning post. ... The Pac-12 Network debuted last night and I learned something. I only get the Washington channel in high-definition. Comcast is carrying the national channel only in low-def as far as I can tell. I'm spoiled. It's hard to watch sports in low-def anymore. ... The Network is showing some "classic" games (part of the definition of classic, in this sense, is they own rights to them) on the network. Jon Wilner has some thoughts on that.
• Gonzaga: I'm not sure whether I'm really interested in this tournament idea or if I'm kind of creeped out that its being held to honor Phil Knight.
• Eastern Washington: Yes, yesterday was special. Even at EWU, where the Eagles worked on special teams. Jim Allen has the coverage with a story and a morning blog post today. He'll also have a live chat today at noon here at SportsLink.
• Preps: Football practice began yesterday so our Greg Lee filled up his Civic (just guessing, but that's what I drove as a prep writer) and made a trip around the GSL, hitting all 10 Greater Spokane League schools (a great idea I'm jealous I didn't think of). Here's the story of his 165-mile trip.
• Indians: Like George Washington and his sleeping habits, it seems Felix was everywhere last night, including a memory from the Indians' ballpark. We won't ruin Jess Brown's surprise, as it leads her story from Everett's 8-3 win over the Indians.
• Mariners: OK, most of the perfect game stories are linked in the paragraphs above (not this one by Larry Stone, however, and it's worth reading), though we do have some baseball links to pass along. Lost in the hoopla around here was the news the Giants leading hitter, and All-Star MVP, Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for a violation of the MLB drug policy - and he owned it. That will throw a big wrench in their chances of holding off the Dodgers for the National League West title.
• Seahawks: Let's take a break from the quarterback talk and speculate whether an over-the-hill receiver can make the team. And it's not T.O. ... Pete Carroll knew something about Richard Sherman most NFL folks didn't.
• Sounders: Seattle expects to have a team in a planned women's pro league.
• The radio show yesterday was really short thanks to an extended perfect-game-caused postgame show. We'll have the full three hours today and you can listen here. Until later ...