Paul Greenberg

BOSTON - Contrary to what they taught us in journalism school, let's mention the unimportant thing first: the score. It was the Boston Red Sox 8, Chicago White Sox 5 in the last game of their series here at Fenway Park.

There, that's out of the way. The score is the game about as much as the map is the road, that is, not very much. You might as well look at a man's net worth at is death and try to decide whether his life was a success. The cliche turns out to be right: It's really not about whether you won or lost but how you played the game, Vince Lombardi and rabid fans to the contrary.

The antique scoreboard at Fenway, this cathedral of major league baseball,showed the home team with a comfortable lead throughout today's game. It couldn't show how the White Sox, typical of Chicago's gritty but jinxed South Side, never gave up - but could never could get it right, either.

The score can't transmit the suspense that began to mount when Chicago managed four runs in the top of the seventh and Boston had to call on one of its aces, Hideki Okajima, to quench the rally.

The score can't show the crowd of 36,000 rising to its feet in the top of the ninth as Boston's other star reliever, Jonathan Papelbon, was called inn ext. He proceeded to load the bases with none out in the ninth - some reliever! - and found himself behind in the count (2 balls, no strikes)against White Sox power hitter Jim Thome.

Only then did Papelbon get himself out of the fix he'd gotten himself into by striking out Thome (his fastball was clocked at 96 mph) and getting Paul Konerko, who's always a threat, to ground into a game-ending double play.The crowd's reaction was as much relief as jubilation. Once again the redoubtable Papelbon had saved the day, this time from himself.

Pa-pel-bon! Pa-pel-bon! the crowd chants when its hero takes the mound to put out the fire. This time it's one he started before heroically putting it out. You wouldn't be able to deduce any of that, or feel the pressure, from just the final score.

Just when does Red Sox fever strike you? When you come out of the T at Kenmore station to join the flowing mass headed for the intersection of Yawkey Way and History? No, that's just the general air of anticipation whenever the timeless clock of baseball is being wound up before a game. Not until the game itself begins, and outs and innings replace minutes and hours, will time have melted like one of Salvador Dali's clocks.

You're still in the mundane old dimension as you pass the street vendors,ticket scalpers, and program sellers. When a guard inspects my daughter's bag on the way in, it's the last reminder of the world and war outside. Then we're through the turnstiles and into the vortex.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.