I’ve developed this cynicism from my varied experiences with sports. In both Little League baseball and youth soccer, my team made it to the championship game but never won. Growing up in Miami as a Dolphins fan, I watched the greatest quarterback of all time retire without a Super Bowl ring. And as a sportswriter for The Harvard Crimson, I’ve seen my fair share of important missed field goals on the gridiron and improbable basketball shots that have caused heartbreak on the hardcourt.
As a participant, spectator and reporter, disappointment in sports is nothing new. So when I went online Sunday night and saw that Mike Mussina was taking a perfect game into the seventh inning, I barely flinched. After all, what were the chances that he could actually pull it off? The jaded part of me told me it wasn’t worth the worry. So I didn’t.
Maybe in the halcyon days of my youth I would have bolted for the nearest television and watched Mussina with baited breath, secretly rooting for him to do the improbable in a room full of Red Sox fans. But that night, I had more important things to attend to—fantasy football rankings and AOL Instant Messenger.
I admit, though, that the wide-eyed sports fan in me kept mercilessly nagging at the cynic to check the progress of the game online. And slowly, as Mussina kept motoring his way to baseball immortality, my curiosity and idealism began to get the better of me. When I saw online that The Moose had survived the heart of the Boston lineup in the bottom of the eighth and was still perfect heading to the ninth, I couldn’t sit still. To be honest, I bolted to the nearest TV.
My feet took me to The Crimson, where I had seen some great sports moments like Hideo Nomo’s no-hitter earlier this season. Contrary to my cynical instincts, I was genuinely excited at the prospect of watching the conclusion to a perfect game.
I arrived in time to watch the Yankees capitalize on a Lou Merloni error in the top half of the ninth and finally score against a former teammate and the last person to pitch a perfect game, David Cone. With a one-run lead, Mussina took to the mound three outs away from the 15th perfect game in modern baseball history, the fourth in Yankee history, and the first in the 89-year history of Fenway Park.
The tension was palpable through the television screen in the conference room. ESPN’s cameras showed Mussina’s stoic determination, the crowd was on its feet in awe of the moment, and the Yankee dugout was quietly waiting to celebrate another historic triumph. It was shaping up to be the perfect ending to your typical baseball movie.