On a normal morning, any one of those things -- accounts of each were written by Steven Krasner -- would be headline news. This time around? Take your pick.
Safe to say that on a night the Celtics and Lakers were across town, playing the opening game of the NBA Finals, the Red Sox and Rays did everything they could -- and then some -- to shift the spotlight away from the North End and back to the Fens.
The brawl, of course, is what's on everybody mind, and if we'd been paying attention -- actually, most of us were, so we did see it coming -- we'd have know what was in store after Wednesday night. Coco Crisp was defiantly unapologetic about his eighth-inning rumble into second base, claiming his actions were justified by the knee block of Tampa Bay shortstop Justin Bartlett in the sixth . . . something the Rays felt just as strongly was unworthy of Crisp's over-the-top reaction. The lack of any pregame conciliatory words from either corner -- when asked directly by Joe Castiglione if his team was "moving on," Rays manager Joe Maddon gave a non-answer that would have done a politician proud -- indicated that trouble was brewing.
It arrived in the second inning, when Rays starter James Shields plunked Crisp in the thigh with his second pitch. Crisp, who obviously came into this game loaded for bear, charged the mound, ducked a Shields punch, took one of his own (above), and we were off. Bob Breidenbach captured much of it in a series of photos.
Crisp absolutely got the worst of it, pinned by catcher Dioner Navarro, pummeled by a piling-on Jonny Gomes and punched, pinched and scratched at various points by Carl Crawford and Akinori Iwamura (among others; they were the ones we saw). He finally emerged with a cut on his cheek, bruises on his face and cheers in his ears, as the Fenway Park crowd reacted the way most fans do to these demonstrations of tribal solidarity: With great affection for their combatants and hateful contempt for the enemy. (Boston Herald) Ian Bethune's essential Sox & Dawgs has video of both the fight and of Crisp's postgame comments, in which he didn't exactly turn down the heat; he claimed the Rays fought "like a bunch of girls."
(So far, this is the only amateur video I've seen of the fight:)
Good question. As a Red Sox partisan, that's a deal I do every time it's offered.
What was most interesting, to me, was what the Red Sox had to say -- and not say -- about Crisp's actions, both Wednesday and Thursday. Terry Francona, who normally stands shoulder to shoulder with all his players, couldn't back away fast enough Wednesday night, deflecting all questions by saying he was "in the bathroom" (he even mentioned something about his zipper) when the shouting match between Maddon and Crisp erupted. And he was just as vague when asked about the fight last night; the only thing close to pro-Red Sox/anti-Rays commentary out of him was when he mentioned that Crawford seemed a little overenthusiastic in the midst of it all. Both times, he tried to deflect attention off the topic by making some sort of joke about Brad Mills.
It's always dangerous to interpret people's words without really knowing what they think, but, hey, when has that ever stopped me? My take: It's not hard to conclude that the Red Sox actually agree with the Rays that Crisp shouldn't have done what he did, on either night, but can't say it -- and have to back him -- for obvious, team-related reasons. Take it for what it's worth.