Schilling the willing; the quick and the dead.

I’ve already sung the praises of Curt Schilling for his unassailable dedication and superhuman performance in game six of the ALCS. But, after reading about the details of his unprecedented surgery (thanks to Tarky for the link), I think I am in even greater awe. Not only did he undergo this procedure the day before his all-star performance, the operation itself had never been done before. The man must have balls of steel, and unbelievable faith.
I’ve got the makings of an entry about the importance of faith — in life, in sports, in Red Sox fandom, in the dugout — but that’s another topic. For the moment, I’d like to talk a bit more about game six, as it seems like a good preface to a discussion of the almost religious faith which is so much a part of this team. Yesterday afternoon, I was speaking on the phone with my parents, who, to my utter surprise, were almost as wrapped up in the ALCS rivalry as I have been, despite the fact that I have never known either of them to watch or have any real interest in professional sports. For some reason, the series had captivated them both. We spoke at length of game six and Schilling’s performance in particular, and my dad made an observation that struck a chord with me and seemed to illuminate something I had sensed while watching the game.
“You know,” he told me, “I was noticing Schilling’s stoic expression, and the stony faces of the Yankee batters who faced him. At first, I thought the batters were trying to intimidate Schilling, to show him they weren’t afraid. But as the game wore on and Schilling kept pitching so beautifully, their expressions seemed to evince fear rather than fearlessness. They were in disbelief, and it shook them.”
“I think you put your finger right on it,” I told my dad. I’d sensed the same thing, but was so caught up in what Schilling’s performance was doing for the morale of the Red Sox that I hadn’t been thinking about its effect on the opposing team. While Fox showed footage of one Yankees fan in a ghost costume designed to incense and put the fear of God in any Sox fans present, while the rest of Yankee Stadium did everything it could to intimidate Boston with symbols of the curse, of the indomitable history stacked against us; while all this was going on, Schilling was having the same effect on the Yankees themselves.
While they may have started out confident, each time the Yankee lineup faced Schilling, their expressions became less cocky and more fearful: they simply could not believe what they were seeing. It was as though the Red Sox had marched out the spectre of some real Yankee-killing pitcher to a laughing crowd and he turned out to be not spectral at all, but a live and holy terror. They expected Schilling to be a ghost, but he was a miracle in the flesh, and it stumped every last one of them. It was like watching a film in which a character comes back from the dead impenetrable, unharmable, and proceeds to exact revenge on his once-arrogant-but-now-terrified enemies. Schilling not only buoyed his team by upping the ante for Red Sox dedication, he dealt a spiritual smack to the Yanks by blowing them away with wonderment.
Perhaps this is why Schilling’s unabashed discussion of his Christian faith during the postgame press conference was so striking. Not only did the man look like he was on a mission from God, he truly felt that he was. Whatever it was, everyone felt it, the Yankees included.

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8 thoughts on “Schilling the willing; the quick and the dead.

  1. An important thing to note, especially in reference to the stoic look on the Yankees faces: not only were the Yankees in awe of what Schilling was doing to them in the present, but they had to be aware of the fact that he had already done the same thing to them in 2001. Twice. He beat them in their own house, in the World Series, and issued what I think might be the best quote ever regarding the over-rated-ness of Yankee Stadium and it’s “History”:
    “Mystique and Aura are dancers at a nightclub.”

  2. And Schilling provided the awe. He knew that hope is faith, holding out its hand in the darkness — to break the curse. And he did it with humility — a virtue foreign to the Yankees.

  3. m’God woman, I’m married to you and — I did not know — you are able to say this without foreknowledge of ’em? As I am wont to say so (too) often “Wow!”

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