October 28, 2007
I'll be up front here: I'm rooting for a sweep tonight.
It's not because I insist that the Red Sox dominate this series from start to finish – although I'm OK with that. And it's not because I don't want to see Josh Beckett own the opposition again Monday night – Lord knows I could watch that all week.
With Jon Lester taking the mound for the Red Sox in Game 4, though, I want to see it end on his watch. I want to see him close out the series, the perfect ending to a season in which he came back from cancer, but struggled with his control and consistency. I want to see his season end the way he deserves.
That isn't to say I don't appreciate the back story of Aaron Cook, the Rockies' starting pitcher tonight. Like any other interested baseball fan, I'm aware that he struggled through a bout with blood clots in 2004, and had what was considered an extremely serious medical condition.
What we have here tonight, then, is something baseball fans crave: A chance to admire athletes who have been humanized by their personal afflictions.
Should we feel guilty about that? Should we be complaining when Fox ramps up their back stories, trotting out the obligatory segments on the two pitchers overcoming life-threatening situations? Should we take a step back when Lester says, "I don't think there's anything special about that," as he did this past week?
I say no, and here's why.
We've all had family and friends suffer through cancer, heart attacks and other serious health problems. We all know the pain those ailments can cause, and when they take hold, warding death off becomes the most important thing for the person afflicted and for his or her closest friends.
When they hit a professional athlete we're already cheering for, then, it's shocking. Young, healthy and famous, they're supposed to be immune to the things we don't want to think about. After all, if they can strike a top athlete, what's to stop them from finding us?
As the member of a family that's been hit by cancer numerous times, I'll be rooting for Jon Lester tonight. And I'll be rooting for him for many more reasons than his affiliation with the Red Sox.
Sucker for drama? So be it. Give 'em hell, Jon.