Bear Down and Get Some Runs, best-of: January 23, 2005

January 23, 2005

It’s Sunday night, and that means dinner. Every Sunday night my family gets together with my grandmother, with us either having her over for dinner or the five of us going out to eat. Tonight we’re bringing food in, getting Carson’s ribs for the four of us, as my brother is in Kansas at school. Growing up, my parents would not let us watch TV while eating dinner, though we were allowed to make exceptions for certain special events, namely sports games. Tonight is one of those nights, as today is the day of the Conference Championships in the NFL. The first game was the NFC Championship, with the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons. It was Philly’s fourth straight NFC title game, and if sports journalism is often one big cliché, then I find no shame in saying that Philly came into this game with a Ruthian-sized chip on their collective shoulders: three straight NFC title games, three straight losses. Fortunately for the Eagles, and even more fortunately for their fans, Donovan McNabb and co. finally got over the hump, beating the Falcons 27-10. But more on that later…

…because right now it’s dinner time. I picked up Nana at her house, and then we picked up the ribs. Carson’s is a popular place, and with so many people having made the same plans that we did—carry out ribs and watch football at home—the traffic in the parking lot is busy, the carryout entrance is packed tight with large coats and boots, and everything, the traffic, the football, the walking from car to restaurant, everything is complicated by the snow, deep snow that dictates life to the people who wish to live it. I pull the car up to the entrance, Nana gets out, gets the food, and then motions me with her head to move the car back a bit so that she can get past the snow.

We drive home to my house, listening to the AFC Championship on the radio.

“So, how was your day?”

“It was good. Just hung out with Meghan and watched football. You?”

“Oh, I had the game on in the background while paying bills.” While we are talking, Rodney Harrison intercepts a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returns it 87 yards for a score. Nana’s ears perk up at the “Touchdown!” at the end of the play. “Who’s this playing now?”

“New England and Pittsburgh.”

“And who is that who scored?”

“New England. On an interception.”

“Who are we rooting for here?”

“I don’t know. Probably New England, because I dig what they’re about. But I’ve got nothing against Pittsburgh. But probably New England. Plus Mom had that friend Ben Greene who was a big Patriots fan, so she’s always happy when they do well. Plus the whole ’85 angle…I never really feel threatened by them.”

I’ve lost her.

“That first game wasn’t very exciting,” she says.

“No. Not really.”

When we get to my house, there are big hugs and hellos, and then there is work to be done. Not hard work by any means—just setting up dinner—but work that must get done, none the less. Everyone knows their job. Mom unpacks the ribs out of the two big cardboard boxes that they come in, and puts them in the stove to keep warm while we get set up. Nana sits down to rest her feet and talk to my mom, Dad and I set the table, and I get drinks, except for Nana’s scotch with water which my mom has already taken care of. The table is set, the food is served, the back-up napkins that always accompany barbeque are placed in the middle of the table, and everyone sits down and digs in. The Patriots are in control of the game, and since we have no strong vested interest in the outcome, we leave the volume low while eating.

Mom starts.

“How was your day, Jack?”

“Good. Not much happening. Hung out with Meghan, watched the afternoon game, did some writing. Oh, I spoke to MJ today.”

“How’s he?”

“Good. I asked if Meghan and I could visit him at Kansas for the Super Bowl, and he said that would be great, so that’s settled.”

“Oh great!” Mom says excitedly. “That should be fun.”

“Yeah. I’m pumped.”

Dad, having heard this plan from me earlier in the day, clearly has something else on his mind, and as soon as the conversation breaks so that we can eat a few more ribs, he jumps in.

“So, how long until the Cubs move Sosa?”

“Don’t know if they will.”

At that, Nana’s face turns sour.

“How could they not get rid of him after the way he’s been behaving? So selfish…”

“Well, yeah, he’s been a jerk,” I say while tearing some meat off the bone. “Of course, this is all just an apology away from being settled. If Sammy sees that they can’t move him, then once he gets to spring training he’ll probably make some big public apology in a Sammy sort of way and be done with it. He’ll come bombing out of the dugout on Opening Day faster than ever, everybody at the park will go nuts and give him a big standing ‘O’ on his first at-bat, he’ll have a good season, the Cubs’ll have a good season, and people will forget about it.”

Dad stacks another bone on the bone plate, and then cuts off another rib. “But he’s old, and he was lousy last year. What did he hit? .260? .270? Somewhere in there, right?”

“Worse. .253.”

“.253. I could probably hit close to that. And I wouldn’t even ask for much money.”

“Yeah, he was bad. But he still had 35 homers and 80 RBI in a down year.”

“Well, OK, even if he does come back, we still need another outfielder.”

“Yeah. Hopefully we’ll sign Mags.”

Dad and I look at each other with giant scheming smiles, and laugh.

“That wouldn’t make Luke very happy.”

“It wouldn’t make any Sox fan happy. They’d all go insane. It’d be hilarious. They’d probably burn down Comiskey or something.”

Shortly after, the conversation turns away from sports. Mom asks me how Luke is doing, and then Nana mentions something about her friend Ruthie Katz and how Ruthie’s son’s family is moving back to Chicago because he’s taking a new job, and then Mom says that Ruthie should be really excited about that, and then Deion Branch breaks away for a score on a double reverse to put New England up 41-20 with 2:35 to go sending the Patriots back to the Super Bowl for the third time in fourth years. Once dinner is done, we take care of our responsibilities. The table is cleared, the dishes are done, the garbage is taken out. Mom drives Nana home, Dad sits down on the couch to read, and I head out to meet Meghan at her house. The night is over, another Sunday dinner done.

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