Thursday, June 2

6/2/05 -- Antipope Clement XV vs. Founder of UPenn

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

Jose fears that his hearing is now what it used to be. Or is it his listening? Either way.

Jose walked past Fenway last night at about nine o’clock after finishing an excellent meal at Brown Sugar Café (note: perhaps the best restaurant relative to price in Boston) and was strolling back to the North End with three friends, one of whom was in town from Baton Rouge. As we walked by the ballpark a cheer went up. Jose paused for a moment and assessed the cacophony. Then he declared “That was a good sign, those were not the sarcastic cheers of fans whose team is way behind. Those were honest, enthusiastic cheers. The Sox are either way ahead, or the game is close.”

When Jose walked a block further his best hopes were confirmed, the scoreboard showed Kelly Shoppach on the Jumbotron. Surely, his insertion into the game proved that the Sox were way ahead.

Then things started to unravel. Jose started thinking that the Sox were only two hours in to the game, and they couldn’t possibly have inserted Shoppach with Wakefield still in the game. Maybe the Sox weren’t up after all? Maybe it wasn’t even close. Then as Jose walked past the bars of Boylston Street, he saw the silhouette of Sidney Ponson’s portly frame on a dozen television screens.

Jose’s concern became denial. As Jose reached Berkley Street and entered a bar, he got his first glimpse of a scoreboard. Boston 3, Baltimore 0. They are ahead! But not by much. Then reality triumphed over hope. Jose’s eyes focused more sharply and a stream of white pixels formed a violent scratch across the zero next to Baltimore. As the zero became a heartbreaking eight, the cold, unpleasant truth of the moment slapped Jose across the face like A-Rod swatting a first baseman’s mitt.

“Eight” thought Jose! “Eight? Chinese lucky number Jose’s *ss.”

And now Jose does not know what to believe. His ears deceived him; his eyes deceived him. But perhaps, Jose is not losing his senses, perhaps the world was just senseless last night. As Jose read the paper the next day, he learned that they were heartfelt cheers that he heard, that the Sox were making a serious push to win the game. And Kelly Shoppach? Shoppach’s appearance was an odd anomaly, the act of a manager who yielded too soon.

No, it was the world that had gone mad, not Jose.

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