Thanks in large part to the good folks at SportsCenter, where hyperbole is an anchor's best friend, every modestly noteworthy achievement in the modern world of athletics must be classified as "historic" or "making history."
Brett Favre throws his 500th touchdown pass. Historic!
Atlanta's Brooks Conrad commits three errors in a single game. Historic!
Bucknell quarterback Brandon Wesley becomes the first right-handed Plano, Texas, native who once bowled a 300 game and has a sibling named Akilah to twice be named Patriot League Rookie of the Week. Historic!
Truth is, sports don't actually lend themselves to history, in that the confines of the games are extremely limited. Baseball, for example, has a bat, a ball, a bunch of gloves and some grass and dirt. In terms of pure uniqueness, there's only so much a fellow can do.
That being said, when something different and (dare we say) historic actually takes place, it's hard not to stand up and cheer. Sports, after all, thrive upon consistency and regimentation. For many, the beauty of attending a ballgame is knowing what to expect. The sounds, the smells, the sights -- they're comfortable. Familiar. Embracing.
Two nights ago, the Texas Rangers made history.
After beating the Tampa Bay Rays to advance to the American League Championship Series, members of the team retreated to the clubhouse for the customary champagne celebration. Instead of immediately whipping out the bubbly, however, Ranger players -- sensitive to the needs of Josh Hamilton, their star outfielder/recovering addict -- held the first-ever Canada Dry ginger ale Mega Party. With the presumptive AL Most Valuable Player standing in the middle of the room, Hamilton's teammates lathered his brown hair in Canada Dry. The liquid goodness (technically, carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium benzoate [preservative] caramel color) flowed down his face, over his neck and onto his tattooed arms. A smile as wide as Pete Incaviglia crossed his face.
"It was amazing, just to get a taste of what a celebration is actually like," a grateful Hamilton said moments later, standing in a hallway as the Rangers remained inside and enjoyed the good stuff. "They didn't bring alcohol in for 10 minutes. The guys doused me good, gave me a lot of hugs and congratulations. It says a lot about my teammates about not wanting to send the wrong message."
Indeed, it does. Baseball is, by nature, a selfish game. We in the media like to talk team-team-team; to ask X Player what it's like sharing a clubhouse with Y Player when, in truth, X Player and Y Player have exchanged all of 12 words the entire season. Generally speaking, baseball teams aren't families, so much as they are business relationships. Your teammates are your co-workers; your manager is your boss; your GM is your CEO.
Hence, it's no surprise that the Rangers -- boasting a true family-like collegiality -- have made it this far. What Hamilton's teammates did for him is, indeed, historic, in that it dispels assumptions (Athletes are selfish jerks; athletes look out only for themselves; etc. ...) and oozes of unparalleled goodness.
In my career as a sportswriter, I have witnessed my fair share of playoff celebrations. The clubhouse guys break out the plastic wrap, coating the entire room. They wheel in cases of alcohol, dole out commemorative T-shirts and hats, prepare for the onslaught of reporters and TV cameras. Upon leaving such an affair, one feels like roadkill and smells like the floor of the Stone Balloon. If I never cover another one, I'll be a happy man.
That said, I wish I were there for the Canada Dry.