I want to talk about the real reason why the Florida Marlins won the World Series.
Certainly much of the credit has to go to the Marlins players. But I frankly don't think we would have won Game 7 without an incredible clutch performance by the people in Section 449 of Pro Player Stadium that amazing night.
That's where I was, up in the upper deck, along with my son Rob; his friend Bill; and several hundred other people, virtually all of whom who had crossed that thin line between enthusiastic sports fan and raving psychotic. It was as though all our bodies were wired directly to the scoreboard, so that every play sent huge jolts of electricity through our central nervous systems, causing us to rise and fall and twitch and jerk in unison. When a Marlin got a hit, we shot to our feet like human Whack-a-Moles, thrusting our fists skyward, roaring into the night air; when a Marlin made an out, we collapsed, cursing, to our seats, pounding our thighs in despair.
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Not everybody in Section 449 was rooting for the Marlins. Sitting behind us was a cluster of guys who represented everything that has gone wrong with humanity:
1. They were rooting for Cleveland.
2. They were lawyers.
And the worst thing of all is, their team was winning. Inning by excruciating inning, the game turned into a living hell for us Marlins fans, as Cleveland's early two-run lead looked as though it might hold up. Behind us, the lawyers got louder and smugger; we Marlins fans spent more and more time sitting, staring, waiting.
After the sixth inning I went to the men's room, where the mood was restive among the men lined up three and four deep at each urinal. They were talking in the democratic way men sometimes do in sporting-event men's rooms, nobody making eye contact, everybody staring straight ahead, everybody entitled to voice an opinion, everybody a leading authority on whatever sport it is. The consensus this night was that the problem with the Marlins was Bobby Bonilla, although the men did not call him ``Bobby'' Bonilla. They called him ``Bad Word That You Can't Put In A Newspaper'' Bonilla, and they wanted him out of the game .
That also was the mood back in Section 449 when Bonilla came to bat in the seventh; the crowd was grumbling, ready to boo him big time, because he was hurting the team, he was not getting the job done, he . . . HE HIT A HOME RUN! YES! YESSSSSSSSSSS!! WE LOVE YOU BOBBY BO!!!!
And so the Marlins were down by only a run, and there was hope again in Section 449, but there was also fear, and there was more tension than the human mind can handle without snapping. I definitely snapped. I reached that point where I believed -- admit it; you have done this -- that I was responsible for what was happening on the field. I became convinced that the position of my hands for each pitch was critical; I experimented with clasping them, putting them in my pockets, etc., trying desperately to find a system that worked. Next to me, my son Rob was doing the same thing, except that his system required him to punch the people on either side of him. This was OK with me -- I was willing to take some punches, if that was the price of winning the World Series -- but it was very upsetting to Rob's friend Bill, because his system required that nobody could touch him during a pitch.
I realize this seems insane now, but it seemed totally rational that night. Everybody in Section 449 was doing something to help the team. Several rows in front of us there was a man -- he sells cars for a living -- who'd wait until some tense moment, a moment when the entire crowd was seated, silent, breathless, waiting for a pitch, and then he'd leap to his feet, whirl around and yell at the rest of us: ``COME ON! THIS IS GAME SEVEN OF THE WORLD SERIES!! MAKE SOME NOISE!!!'' Then he'd immediately sit back down, and everybody would resume being tense and silent. The car salesman must have done this 50 times during the game, but the rest of us didn't mind. We understood. He was doing what he had to do, to win.
And so, at the agonizing pitch-by-pitch pace of baseball, we worked our way to the ninth inning, and Section 449 managed to get the Indians out, and it came down to the last chance for the Marlins, and I do not have to tell you how hard we worked to get that tying run home. There was joy in Section 449, but only for a moment; we knew we had to go into extra innings, and we frankly didn't know how much strength we had left.
Who's got the button?
Between the ninth and 10th innings, a man stopped in the aisle and delivered a brief speech to the Cleveland lawyers. He spoke with passion, but also with great dignity, especially considering that he was wearing a large foam Marlin on his head.
``I'm sorry,'' he told the lawyers, ``but you are going to lose. It's not your fault. It's your DESTINY to lose! You're from CLEVELAND!''
And that man was right. The Marlins, as the world now knows, won the game. But the world does not know why they won. I do. Here's the secret: After experimenting with every possible hand position, I had a sudden realization, in the 11th inning: Maybe it wasn't my hand position. Maybe it was my polo-shirt button. It had been unbuttoned for the entire game, and when Edgar Renteria came to bat with two out and the winning run on third base, I buttoned it, and the run scored, and DON'T try to tell me this was a coincidence.
I explained this all to my wife Michelle, a professional sports writer who covered the game. She is skeptical. She believes -- get this -- that the Marlins won because Renteria got a base hit.
Women. They do NOT understand sports.