ESPN goes pretty overboard in their coverage of the Red Sox and Yankees, leading most of the non-Northeastern portion of the country to view both squads with a mixture of resentment and jealousy. Resentment because teams that oftentimes are just as good get ignored; jealousy because both squads spend tons of money and are quite good most of the time.
That aside, ESPN switched from Cubs/Astros to the Red Sox game for good reason last night, to watch the ninth inning of Jon Lester’s no-hitter against Kansas City.
The best thing about a no-hitter is that unless it’s against your favorite team, everyone watching is rooting for an individual to complete a performance that will be easy to remember for years to come, a tough feat in a sport where each team plays 1,600 games every decade. I remember watching Curt Shilling come within one out of throwing a no-hitter in a day game at Oakland last year. It was at work, and for the entirety of the bottom of the ninth everyone attention was focused on the TV, as everyone rooted for Shilling to do something we would all have no trouble remembering in 50 years.
And Shilling’s a jackass! It’s not that I think it’s a wrong for a player to have a blog during the season like Shilling does. That would be quite hypocritical on my part, and there are several other athletes blogging away, including even Bengie Molina, for Pete’s sake. But Shilling blogs while refusing to talk to the media, something I just can’t ever agree with when an athlete is making millions of dollars.
Lester, even though he pitches in the area of the United States that probably least deserves him right now (not that Boston is a bad place — just that their run of high winning percentages and championships is getting old, but I guess I’m not breaking any new ground, here … let’s just move on), isn’t some self-righteous blowhard like Shilling, he’s a much quieter pitcher just trying to make it in the Majors — after beating cancer.
The day Lester was told his lymphoma was in remission has to be the best of his life. But he’s had quite a pair of unbelievable nights since then: starting and winning Game 4 in the 2007 World Series to sweep the Rockies, and last night’s no-no. So in less than two years Lester has gone from a talented prospect fighting for his life to a Major Leaguer with two different accomplishments that will be celebrated in Cooperstown. You think in Boston Lester will have to pay for another meal or drink ever again?
When he struck out Alberto Callaspo to end the game (which Boston won 7-0, by the way), it was one of those moments when I almost couldn’t have rooted for somebody harder if they were playing for my favorite team. In the aftermath the sellout crowd stood and roared, and his teammates, coaches and especially manager Terry Francona seemed more sincere and emotional in their congratulations of Lester than perhaps any time I’ve ever seen after a regular season game. The Red Sox have had four no-hitters in the past decade, but this one meant the most for obvious reasons. So I don’t blame ESPN for switching over from the Cubs and Astros. Sometimes baseball’s biggest teams also make the best stories.