Judge Erich Asperschlager loves it when you call him Big Papi.
"For those of us who are devout members of Red Sox Nation, 2004 was the experience of a lifetime, for these legends of the Fall had reversed the fortunes of a franchise and filled us with a joy we had never known. Three years later the task was somewhat different, but the hopes were still the same…"—Matt Damon, narrating
In New England, life began anew in 2004 with the first Red Sox World Series victory in 86 years. Now, all history is rightly measured as having happened B.C. (Before the Championship) or after. Gone forever are the Yankee fan chants of "nine-teen-eight-teen"—swept, like the St. Louis Cardinals, into a magical October night. And what of those New York fans since the embarrassing Decline and Fall of the Evil Empire? Though they're quick to haul out a dusty box filled with 26 World Series rings, the gaping hole waiting for number 27 somehow makes the chanting a little harder to hear.
Nothing can compare to the feeling that followed the improbable Sox comeback. Not even their '07 repeat over the Colorado Rockies. Pundits and blog-jockeys will gladly tell you that the Sox, with their winning ways, are the becoming the new Jerks…er…Yanks (and, heck, maybe they've got a point). Has New England lost something crucial, some vital part of its stoic identity—ever loyal and able to endure, despite the hardships of frigid winters and championship droughts? Sorry, could you repeat the question? I couldn't hear you over the bubbling champagne fountain.
The 2007 season had its fair share of excitement, for both the Sox and the Rocks. Despite Boston's leading New York in the AL East for most of the season, the team's division win didn't happen till the final week (ending with a luscious 10th-inning Yankee loss in Baltimore). For being, at one point, more than 10 games ahead, things got a lot more nerve-wracking than they should have.
The Rockies' season, meanwhile, ended with a different kind of drama. In mid-September, 14 ½ games out with 13 left to play, they won a mind-blowing 13 out of 14 to force a tie-breaker wild card playoff game against San Diego (win number 14). Seven games and seven wins later, it was "see ya" Phillies and Diamondbacks, hello World Series. All they had to do was sit back and wait for an opponent.
The Red Sox had a slightly tougher time of it in the postseason: Though they swept the Angels in three and took the first game against the Indians in the ALCS, they still had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit—and battle they did, outscoring Cleveland 30-5 in the final three games of the ALCS to move on to their second World Series in four seasons.
The 2007 World Series Highlights: Colorado Rockies vs. Boston Red Sox DVD tells the story of these two teams from the playoffs through the World Series. Unfortunately for Colorado fans, the hour-and-a-quarter-long feature spends a lot more time focusing on the champion Red Sox than the second place Rockies. Narrated by card-carrying Sox fan Matt Damon, this whirlwind postseason tour is the very definition of "fan service." Glossing completely over Boston's problem areas—lack of a solid five starter, Dice-K's trouble adapting to a less-generous American strike zone, and the disastrous performance of high-profile acquisition Eric Gagne—Damon tells Red Sox Nation a rose-colored bedtime story made all the warmer by knowing the ending in advance.
As Sox fans are more than happy to tell you, and Rockies fans are eager to forget, Boston swept Colorado in four games, making for a great result to a mediocre series. Though part of me was relieved to be able to start going to bed before midnight again, it's hard to wring too much excitement out of any sweep Series—even the Red Sox win in 2004 felt like mere formality after the instant classic Sox-Yankees ALCS.
This disc contains the Series' big Boston highlights: the home run rookie Dustin Pedroia hit to lead off the Series; closer Jonathan Papelbon's first base pick-off of Matt Holliday to end the eighth inning in a close Game 2; Dice-K's first Major League hit (a two-run-scoring single); the amazing four hits outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (whose Major League debut I got to see at Fenway Park back in June) got in Game 3; and, well, pretty much everything third baseman and Series MVP Mike Lowell did at the plate or on the field.
The sweeping orchestral score will sound familiar to anyone who's seen one of these professionally produced sports documentaries before. (Personally, I'm a sucker for those 30-minute NFL Super Bowl wrap-ups they run on EPSN Classic the week before the big game.) Presented in widescreen format, the film footage looks better than it did on TV, and the overall structure takes full manipulative advantage of baseball's inherent drama. The experts at Major League Baseball know what they're doing, even if they've massaged the facts to tell the story they think fans want. And lest you forget who owns this stuff, there's a "helpful" MLB logo watermark in the upper right corner throughout the feature.
The bonus material consists mainly of expanded Boston highlights from the end of the season through the World Series, beginning with the night Boston clinched the AL East: After watching their team beat Minnesota, a stadium full of Sox fans stuck around to see the Orioles beat the Yankees on the Fenway JumboTron. Other extras include the ALDS final out, J.D. Drew's ALCS Game 6 grand slam, the ALCS final outs (capped by Coco Crisp's body-slamming catch against the bullpen wall), pitcher Josh Beckett's three-strikeout first inning in Game 1, the final three outs of the Series, and the clubhouse celebration. By far the worst of the extras are the stiff and formal trophy presentations, featuring perhaps my all-time least favorite sports commentator, Fox's Jeanne Zelasko. The extras look basically the same as they did when they were first broadcast (the exception being the final Series outs and celebration, which were filmed and nicely edited), but that's okay—it's part of reliving the experience.
The only non-baseball extra is a music video for the Dropkick Murphys song "State Of Massachusetts." The Murphys are a Boston-area Irish punk band probably best known for their song "Shipping Up To Boston," which played over the opening credits of the Martin Scorcese film The Departed. "Shipping" also has the distinction of being closer Jonathan Papelbon's theme song—the one he "riverdanced" to at the end of each postseason series. While "Massachusetts" is an okay song, it would have made more sense to include either "Shipping Up To Boston" or their '04 Red Sox anthem "Tessie," and would have provided the perfect excuse to include Papelbon's famously ridiculous dancing.
These highlight DVDs certainly aren't for everyone. In fact, I'm not really sure who they're for. I guess they're aimed at fans, but with all they gloss over, and the amount of interesting material left out by virtue of mushing 21 games into an hour or so, the overall experience is pretty superficial.
I'm sure there's a cross-section of casual Red Sox fans who'll appreciate this abbreviated look at an amazing season. Considering how few twists and turns there were during the lopsided World Series, mild kudos are due MLB for making the story as dramatic as they have. Even I have to admit to tearing up a bit seeing Papelbon once again blow a fastball by Seth Smith for the Series' final out.
If you've got a Boston fan on your holiday list this year with a particularly red stocking to fill, you might want to consider giving them this chance to see their team win it all, all over again. If not, I'd hold off. After all, Spring Training is only two months away.
How can I find them guilty? Go Sox!
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