Yes, Curt Schilling changed my life

By Mike Szwaja

I wish I could have watched Curt Schilling’s ALCS Game 6 masterpiece with my dad. He’s probably the only one who could have understood how enthralled I was with Schilling’s performance.

For so many of us passionate sports fans, our fathers serve as our favorite gossip partners. One of the toughest things about going off to college for me was living with people whose lives weren’t deeply affected by, say, the inability of the Bulls front office to rebuild the team into a winner.

Conversations about those types of things have always been the building blocks of my relationship with my dad. It’s just what we do. Some of my fondest adolescent memories will be our discussions on how overrated Scottie Pippen was.

“Why is it that people look the other way when Pippen has those four point, two rebound, one assist nights? He just disappears at times, Michael,” he used to say to me.

Yeah, that’s my dad and I love him for it, but he said something to me a while back that really made me think about my direction in life. I don’t remember how it came up, and I doubt he remembers saying it, but he calmly suggested my love for sports could have been the reason I couldn’t find a steady girlfriend.

That sounds weird now, but the way he said it made it sound plausible. It also made me sound like I was a pathetic and desperate soul in need of some mental help. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it sure made me think about it.

And after deliberating, I realized there was probably some truth to his suggestion, but it didn’t have any dramatic effect on me. I still have faith I’ll find someone out there someday. But I’ll never curb my sports enthusiasm, because whether I like it or not, that’s just who I am.

Just because I’ve missed only a few minutes here and there of the Bulls’ first three preseason games doesn’t bother me.

What it is about sports that completely consumes me is hard to pinpoint, but watching Curt Schilling work his way through seven innings of one run, four-hit baseball on Wednesday night was one of those moments that reminded me why I love to watch grown men compete in little boys’ games.

Game 6. Yankees up 3-2. Yanks were up 3-0. Series back in New York. Eighty-six year curse surging. Schilling to start. Severely damaged tendons in Schilling’s ankle. Schilling forced to wear special boot before game, special shoe during Game Six. Schilling shelled by Bronx Bombers in Game 2. Schilling and the Bo Sox finished, right?

They should have been, but Schilling made Jordan’s flu-ridden performances of the past look like cupcakes. As Schilling headed to the mound inning after inning, a blood spot began appearing on his right sock thanks to the cortisone shots prior to the game.

His windup looked flawless. His pitch speed was solid as ever. And the only time we noticed the effects of the injury was when Schilling had to gimp his way over to cover first. He never grimaced, and we never felt his pain – except when the camera cut to the red badge of courage on Schilling’s sock.

The performance was courtesy of a man who made $12 million this season, a man who has all he ever wanted – beautiful family, storied career, World Series ring. But he knew the Boston Red Sox and all the Red Sox faithful didn’t have all they ever wanted. They wanted their own rings and the end of a haunting curse.

Schilling could have taken one step on his ankle and realized he had no business being on the mound, everything considered – the money, the ring he won in Arizona, the curse. But Schilling made a promise to the fans when he arrived in Boston – that he was there to help end the stupid curse.

And he didn’t back down. He posted on Internet message boards, promising fans he would deliver. He called local radio shows and defended his team. He promised the fans he wouldn’t let them down for the second time in the series.

And he kept that promise.

The Red Sox spanked their hated rivals one night later and became the first team to win a series after being down 3-0 in the history of baseball. Without Schilling, I doubt the Red Sox would’ve won the ALCS series.

In my mind, watching Schilling was better than reading a great book or watching the best movie you’ve ever seen. It was inspirational. Watching Schilling pitch on Wednesday changed my life.

No, it’s not going to shape some new, profound outlook on my life as a whole. I’m not talking about anything monumental here, but I did learn a little about ignoring the past and focusing on the job at hand.

Some might laugh. Some might find that pathetic, but sports can be more than just fun and games.

Mike Szwaja is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]