Discovering that our closer loves playing Scrabble was one of the strangest realizations of this past Red Sox season. (You know, other than the one about how the Yankees were a whole lot better than the Red Sox.) This certainly bodes well for the future. How many teams have a flame-throwing Scrabble-playing closer on their staff? Correct that. How many teams have a flame-throwing Scrabble-playing closer, who spent part of the season sporting a Mohawk, on their staff?
It all started when Papelbon wore a microphone during a Fox baseball game in July. Now, usually, listening to player conversations is one of the most useless moments in television. The good stuff can never get past the censors, and so we wind up hearing the pitching coach telling the starting pitcher to "hang in there," followed by five minutes of analysis from Tim McCarver on the manner in which the pitching coach told the starting pitcher to "hang in there."
This time, though, something oddly interesting happened. We heard Jonathan Papelbon threaten his fellow relievers with this: "Don't make me bring the Scrabble board to the locker room. I will bring it." Yes, apparently, Jonathan Papelbon likes to play Scrabble against his teammates. On some slow nights in the bullpen, he could probably even play Scrabble during the game itself. After all, there's only so much gardening one can do out there while waiting for a pitching change.
For an occasional Scrabble addict such as myself, it was an exciting moment, marred only slightly by the fact that Tim McCarver later felt compelled to exclaim, "In Scrabble, W's are worth 4 points. S's are only worth 1 point. But as far as Papelbon is concerned, S's are worth a lot more than W's." "Shuddup" incidentally isn't a word in Scrabble, but if it were one, it would be worth 14 points, Tim.
Things became even more interesting a month later when the Red Sox held a charity auction at their Picnic in the Park event. One of the items up for auction was -- you guessed it -- a Scrabble showdown against Jonathan and Ashley Papelbon. In fact, this was just one of many interesting items on the block. That's the great thing about auctions like this. You get a revealing look at the interests of the players. Sometimes, it turns out there's more to baseball players than just baseball.
In addition to Scrabble with the Papelbons, you could have bid on one of the following:
• A custom-designed personalized piece of jewelry from David Ortiz. One gets the feeling that with a few more phenomenal seasons from him, even the most stodgy baseball fans in New England will start wearing flashy jewelry just like Big Papi.
• A vacation stay at a Wyoming ranch, courtesy of Hillary and Mark Loretta. Presumably, the Lorettas will not be home that weekend, although you never know.
• A video game session with Trot Nixon. Frankly, this one scares me. I've seen the intensity with which Trot Nixon plays baseball. I don't really want to experience the intensity with which he plays Madden '07.
• A hunting trip with Mike Timlin and Doug Mirabelli. I'd normally make a joke here, but apparently they've got guns.
• A 30-minute pitching lesson from Curt Schilling. Okay, sometimes, maybe there isn't more to baseball players than just baseball. While this sounds fun, frankly my fastball needs a lot more than 30-minutes with Schilling.
• One month, plus the postseason, of David Wells pitching for your baseball club. Oh, sorry, wrong auction.
All these items are interesting, but it's still the Scrabble game that excites me the most. It's not often that you get the opportunity to face off against a competitive athlete on relatively even ground. Mr. Papelbon, if you're reading, I'm serious about that Scrabble challenge. I'm sure you were hoping to do something else this October, but why not a game of Scrabble instead? The first one to put "Sox" down on the board gets 50 bonus points.