September 30, 2009

Ray Ratto of the SF Chronicle talked about his ‘Niners should keep their heads up after their loss to the Vikings in the final seconds of the game. “The best
way to explain Mike Singletary’s assertion that Sunday’s anesthetic-free splenectomy in the Metrodome was “already a positive,” is to turn to the Vikings’ radio broadcast where just before the final play, one of the broadcasters said, “Greg Lewis is in the game? Percy Harvin must be tired.”
The second is to imagine 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan’s face, a lipless highway flare of impotent rage as the replay that verified Minnesota’s
27-24 Favre-ing of the 49ers was shown on the press-box television.
And the third is, of course, Singletary himself shouting at the players and proving why the next person to cross him might be the first. Even after being told that the media was able to hear every word, he decided to make sure that every word could be heard.
“I don’t want to see you looking at the floor!” he barked, while at the other end of the tunnel Brett Favre was basking in the glory of his game-winning 32-yard prayer-and-a-half to Lewis, the Vikings’ fourth receiver. “You didn’t steal nothing! You didn’t do anything wrong! We will see them again! In the playoffs! Hold your heads up! Don’t you look down at the floor for nobody! You have nothing to be looking down at the floor about! Pick your heads up, put your shoulders back and let’s rock!”
In sum, Favre was sheepish, Lewis was flabbergasted, the Vikings’ broadcasters were stupefied, McCloughan was a shade of maroon one only finds covering one’s grandmother’s windows, and Singletary swore that defeat was victory, only without oxygen.
It isn’t, of course. Defeat is pretty much defeat in the National Football League, and this one was particularly groin-level painful. Favre and the Vikings, en route to the coroner with a 3rd-and-32 and 12 seconds left, went to Sandlot Special 32-A, all hands on deck.
Favre rolled slightly right, shook defensive end Justin Smith and let fly just before Parys Haralson could clock him from behind. He hurled the ball toward the back right corner of the end zone where Lewis, the former Eagles veteran who hadn’t caught a ball all season, had shaken a half-step free of dime back Mark Roman, and the rest is that throbbing four-lane vein in Singletary’s forehead.
And his assertion that daggers to the heart heal quickly remains to be seen. Oh, sure, the St. Louis Rams are the NFL’s version of Dr. Feelgood after their 13th consecutive defeat Sunday. So yes, the lads can stand late Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park and declare themselves cured after beating the moribund Sheep, but this loss will hurt a lot longer than that win will sustain them.
They had mastered an arrhythmic game without the services of Frank Gore. They had overcome their own physical mistakes and shortcomings by forcing the Vikings to face their own. They elevated tight end Vernon Davis (seven for 96 and two scores) to the official second offensive option.
And they very nearly covered for one of those ill-timed bursts of Jimmy Raye-style conservatism as well. After going ahead 24-20 on the second Davis touchdown reception, Raye called for five Glen Coffee running plays over two three-and-outs which gained a total of minus-2 yards, and the second series exhausted only 20 seconds, leaving Favre 89 seconds to play with.
He stumped the band in only 87.
“I totally support everything (Raye) did,” Singletary said. “I don’t analyze it. If it had worked, you wouldn’t be writing about it.”
And if the garage hadn’t blown up, checking your fuel level with your lighter would have been a good idea, too. Truth is, quarterback Shaun Hill has developed enough rapport with Davis that they can become part of the ball-control plan, and besides, there was no way of knowing Favre didn’t have any more late-game magic in him. The play calls gave the Vikings a chance to win that they hadn’t really merited.
But maybe the sense that the game was the 49ers’ to win (and would have if not for Favre and too much time on the clock) causes Singletary to brim over with sangfroid after a game that should have caused him to eat a soda machine.
“I’d rather we lose now, taste it, chew on it, swallow it, and get better,” he said. “I want them to remember what it feels like, learn from it and go from there.
That was a good team we played today, and I do look to see them again.”
And if that isn’t enough to make Scot McCloughan swallow his own face in anticipatory tension, well, you just didn’t get to see him Sunday. The man looked like the kid who plays the coronary aneurysm in the middle school science play, and may not yet be up for another round of Brett Favre with time on the clock this coming January.




Dick Heller wrote in the DC Post about a great Yankee memory that was a painful Red Sox memory. “The Yankees trailed the Red Sox 2-0 with two on and two out in the seventh inning when their slap-hitting shortstop lofted a lazy fly ball toward left field.
“Good – that’s an out,” Boston manager Don Zimmer thought. Then he remembered that the wind was blowing out and Fenway Park’s Green Monster wall was a mere 315 feet from home plate.
The date was Oct. 2, 1978, and the two teams were conducting a one-game playoff for the American League East title. As the batter, Bucky Dent, ran toward first base, he lost the soaring baseball in the shadows. Only when he saw the umpire waving his hand in a circular motion did he realize he had made baseball history.
Contrary to popular retrospective belief, Dent’s three-run homer did not win the game. Bona fide slugger Reggie Jackson went deep in the eighth to provide the actual margin in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory. But it was Dent whose name provokes an obscenity from the lips of many veteran Red Sox fans to this day.
And when he appeared for a game at Fenway several years ago, he was introduced as “Bucky Effing Dent” – a somewhat more polite version of his hardcore nickname in Boston and environs.
No wonder the denizens of Red Sox Nation still take it so hard. A marvelous fielder who made the majors with the White Sox at age 21 in 1973, Dent was
anything but a power hitter. He poked 40 homers over 12 years and just four during a 1978 regular season when he batted a sickly .243. But all he needed
was one to achieve lasting fame or infamy, depending on rooting interests.
“Every kid dreams of hitting a big home run,” Dent told Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post last year. “[Mickey] Mantle was my hero, so I used to imitate him.
Two out, bases loaded in the ninth, World Series, and you hit a home run. That happened to me. Those dreams do come true.”
Not exactly, but close enough.
As usual with epic events, there was a story behind the story for Dent. Several, in fact.
For one thing, his blast, if that’s the word, came off Red Sox right-hander Mike Torrez, a Yankees teammate the previous season. Later, the two became close friends and make many joint appearances a year to kid each other about their fateful encounter three decades ago in Back Bay.
“That home run has kept us both in the news, so I’m kind of tickled pink that I gave it up,” Torrez told the Palm Beach newspaper. “What the hell. He got lucky, but that’s all part of the game.”
As he went to the plate, Dent toted a bat belonging to teammate Mickey Rivers because he had batted just .143 with zero home runs in his previous 20 games.
A few moments later, Bucky was writhing on the ground after fouling a ball off a tender left leg in which he had suffered a blood clot during spring training.
While Dent was being treated, Rivers called out from the on-deck circle, “Hey, homey, you got the wrong bat – that one has a crack in it.”
A batboy ran out of the dugout and handed Dent new lumber. On the next pitch, Torrez hung a slider and… instant horsehide history.
Despite all the Yankees’ previous pennants, this one was special. In mid-July, they trailed the Red Sox by 14 games, prompting owner George Steinbrenner to fire rock-rumped manager Billy Martin and replace him with easygoing Bob Lemon. The Yankees caught up by sweeping a four-game mid-September series at Fenway that became known as sporting circles as the “Boston Massacre.”
After their dramatic playoff victory, the Yankees rushed past the Royals in the ALCS and the Dodgers in the World Series for their 22nd championship. In the Series, Bucky Dent batted .417 and was named MVP. That fall, it seemed, wonders never ceased.
Dent retired as a player in 1982 and served as the Yankees’ interim manager during parts of the 1989 and 1990 seasons. Now, at 58, he runs a baseball
school in Delray Beach, Fla. – and he still knows how to make Red Sox fans feel the pain.
In left field of the school’s baseball field, there is a replica of Boston’s Green Monster erected by Dent in 1988, and the scoreboard relates his impossible
dream anew every time someone looks that way. It reads Yankees 3, Red Sox 2, bottom of the seventh.”


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