The boy made of Clay


The most remarkable thing I’ve witnessed as a sports’ fan in the past decade was not a walk-off home run in extra-innings, a Hail Mary reception as the clock ran out or a buzzer-beater of any kind.

The most remarkable thing I’ve witnessed as a sports’ fan in the past decade happened in a Bruins’ playoff game last season against Pittsburgh when center Gregory Campell defended his own zone—and even swiped his stick, attempting to clear the puck—for almost a minute with a broken leg.

The man’s leg was broken and he still competed.

On grit and determination alone, this is a stark example of what makes an athlete an exceptional athlete: the desire to compete despite physical ailments, minor or—in Campell’s case—profound.

Now, admittedly, comparing a baseball player with a hockey player in an unfair analogy; the games and the composition of its players are vastly different. Hockey is faster and more physical, but with baseball and a 162-game season, there is a physical grind on all of these players. When they compete almost every night from April through October, the players are naturally going to have bumps and bruises that they play through to help the team win.

For example, as I’m writing this article, Dustin Pedroia has played all but one game at second base this season with a broken hand. But he’s an athlete, and athletes, especially at the professional level, compete. It is what they do. It is what makes them great.

Unless, of course, your name happens to be Clay Buchholz.

Modern baseball players have an ignoble reputation—justified or not—for being pansies and divas who are more concerned about getting their own big contracts than the fate of their respective teams. And no player represents the coddled and contemptible contemporary athlete better than Buchholz.

Buchholz started the season on a tear with a 9-0 record and a stunning 1.71 ERA, earning him a spot on the AL All-Star team. However, Clay couldn’t play (this is starting to feel like a Dr. Seuss book). In fact, Clay hasn’t pitched since June 8, due to a befuddling combination of a sore neck, a sore arm, a tummy ache, an itchy ass and menstrual cramps that has left the Sox ace at a mere 90 percent healthy.

Got that? Buchholz told reporters that he is 90 percent healthy. He also told reporters that if it was September and the team was in a tight pennant race—which they are—he would be available to pitch. But right now, he is not at 100 percent, so he has decided to take his sweet time coming back.

The obvious question to Buchholz might be: Who is ever at 100 percent? Granted, I am not an athlete, but I don’t think there has been a day in my adult life where I’ve felt 100 percent. When I sat down to write this piece, I was at, say, 70 percent due to lack of sleep and perhaps a few too many suds while watching the baseball game last night. But I wrote this article anyway.

Maybe Buchholz should ask his teammates, especially the position players, if they’re at 100 percent and feeling the sunbeams coming out their bums as we enter the dog days of August. My guess is that most the Red Sox players are playing through injuries of some sort right now.

But not Clay. No way. He’ll wait.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus was said to make mankind out of clay. In this case, the Titan should’ve kept Buchholz in the kiln a little longer because this Clay is still soft.

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