Every so often, something somewhere in the world of sports makes me giggle. Yep, I admit it, I burst into a giggle. I can’t control it.
It usually has something to do with somebody somehow doing something special that makes it instantly apparent that he’s playing a different game from everyone else. It is my first reaction to seeing something I’ve never seen before, kind of like one of those “spit takes” you see in the movies.
Barry Bonds did it for me just about every time he played from 2001 through 2004. He’d turn on a fastball that would have overpowered the ordinary hitter and he’d hit a ball like nobody I’d ever seen before.
My giggling is a response that says, “The other guy has no chance.”
Jerry Rice once made a catch — while with the Raiders, when he was far from his best — in an exhibition game, on a play halted by a false-start penalty, that had me giggling.
Watching Reggie Bush play college football made me giggle.
A couple of weeks ago, Tiger Woods made a putt that made me giggle. He’s done it about a hundred times over the years, but he was facing a 60-foot, side-hill sloper that Mark Calcavecchia putted off the green and into a pond next to the green.
Woods was a couple of shots up with a couple of holes to play. And as he surveyed his predicament the television announcers were declaring him in danger of losing his lead. Tiger left the putt three inches from the hole. I giggled out loud.
Earlier this season, watching Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time made me giggle. He skates with speed, stickhandles with deftness that all comes together in a way that makes it obvious, “The other guy has no chance.”
My latest burst of giggling came while watching Daisuke Matsuzaka make his regular-season debut for the Boston Red Sox.
I had followed the story,watching the Red Sox pay $52 million simply for the right to negotiate with him, then tell him — and his agent Scott Boras — that $51 million was all they’d pay him. And he took it. Then, the Japanese media and the hoopla. Every turn more interesting than the previous. If there was ever a guy set up to fail by the hype it was Matsuzaka.
And then he pitched. I don’t care that he pitched in spring training. That never matters and is never remembered. On Thursday, in frigid Kansas City, the man they’ve nicknamed Dice-K faced major-league hitters for the first time with statistics and records hanging in the balance.
And all I could do was giggle. He can throw a baseball that sometimes bends like a Frisbee, other times sails like a paper plane. And as if that weren’t enough, he can throw a baseball fast past ’em, too. Like a BB.
My favorite moment in Thursday’s story — which ended on the mound with Dice-K having pitched seven innings, holding the Royals to a single run, while striking out 10 men — came when Red Sox manager Terry Francona met Matsuzaka in the dugout afterward.
Francona told Matsuzaka that his night was over, that a reliever was taking the mound the following inning and Matsuzaka nodded his acceptance just like Bill Murray on “Saturday Night Live” used to do in those “cheeseburger, cheeseburger” skits.
And the genuine smiles all around that followed after the game were precious. This guy is a barrel full of charisma and charm. Catch him if you can find him on the satellites. It will be a show that might just make you giggle, too.
» I’m still getting used to all the good feelings that I have regarding the 49ers. The long-term deal they gave Frank Gore was just another move in a series of moves that ring true. I feel like I’m watching an organization that knows what it is doing. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win, but it does mean Mike Nolan has restored the team’s respectability.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.