Thursday, October 3, 2013

'TIS THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE


No athletes celebrate playoff victories like baseball players. It's a time when all the little boy
comes out of grown men and champagne is the most popular drink in the room but hardly ever
consumed. It pops, it flows, and it's sprayed all over each other. It's a moment of jockularity
between a bunch of millionaires who've spent virtually every day of the last seven moments
together. It's a way to let off the stress and steam that comes with playing a grueling schedule
in a pressure cooker.


Victory celebrations are also a time when every baseball player is happy and that alone can be
reason to celebrate for the media gang who covers them day in and day out and have to deal with
a lot of arrogant, petulant, and entitled athletes, and believe me, baseball players are the worst
to be around when things are going good, much less when they are fighting a slump and sports
talk radio is slamming them.


However, as soon as that cork is popped, all is forgotten. Watching Wednesday night's celebration
in the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse brought back memories of an unforgettable moment for me.
I was there when this downtrodden franchise won the division for the first time back in 2008.
You talk about releasing pent up frustration?! Wow. The Rays celebrated like it was 1999, 2009,
and 2029. They practically blew the top of their visiting clubhouse with a celebration that was
unlike any other I had been around.


No athlete ever says no to an interview whether you're from a network from some po-dunk
television station in market 170. They love everybody at that moment. I was working for
MLB.com when I covered the Rays clinched their first-ever trip to the post-season and I
had a moment that was downright funny as hell.

I was interviewing Evan Longoria, then, a rising superstar and face of the franchise. Longoria
was already a bit liquored up when I started to interview him and he was certainly enjoying
the moment, especially when a few of his teammates ambushed me while I was trying to
conduct the interview.

James Shields, the ace of the staff at the time, started pouring beer down the back of my neck.
It wasn't just any old beer, but beer that was as cold as it could get before freezing. As the song
says, "What's colder than cold? Ice cold!" And it was. You know that feeling you get when you
eat ice cream too fast and you get a brain freeze? Think of that times 1,000.

The interview wasn't live so I could've stopped at any time, but that would've just killed the
moment, which was classic, pure classic. Longoria couldn't keep a straight face as his teammates
continued to drown me in beer and try to throw me off my game. Couldn't do it, though. As
much fun as I was having and as much pain as I was in, I couldn't lose my composure. I wanted
to scream out, "WTF?!!!!!!!" But didn't. It was one of those moments when the joy of what
you were doing overcame the searing pain that was on your brain, thanks to a bunch of players
who were trying to freeze you cryogenically.

It was a hilarious and the video I have of it, will live on long after I've done my final interview
in the business. This is a great time for Major League Baseball. It's a time when grown men
can act like little kids and we can enjoy the game for what it truly is: fun.

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