Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Derek Lowe Face

Now that the Braves have signed Derek Lowe to pitch in 2009, I think it's important that I educate the rest of Atlanta on the sad phenomenon that is the Derek Lowe Face. It is my sincere hope that you never see it, but you should know the warning signs of what to look for.

The Derek Lowe Face was first coined by ESPN.com's Bill Simmons (aka the Sports Guy) back in the 2001 Red Sox season when Lowe was the team's beleaguered closer. He introduced the concept thusly:

You can have your faulty field-goal kickers, your up-and-down goalies, your point guards who never seem to make that clutch 15-footer ... but for my money, nothing is worse than a shaky baseball closer. You become paralyzed by this constant feeling of dread; even when you're winning in the late innings, you can't enjoy the lead because you're too busy thinking to yourself, "Oh God, he's coming in."

In Lowe's case, you spend the ninth inning rooting for things to go smoothly for him ... and then something happens (a single or a walk), and you start searching for signs that he's OK, and he is OK, but maybe something else happens (a stolen base, a walk) and then ... BOOM!

He makes the face.

My buddy J-Bug calls it The Derek Lowe Face, a distant cousin to The Troy Aikman Face. Remember when Aikman would suffer a concussion, and TV cameras would catch him on the sidelines -- glassy-eyed, totally shellshocked -- and the Dallas trainers would literally shove 10 pounds of smelling salts in front of his nose, as Aikman stared out onto the field, undaunted, looking like he just saw Milton Berle naked? That was The Aikman Face.

The Derek Lowe Face is a little different. It's a frozen expression like The Aikman Face, only it's more anguished and tortured (imagine someone taking a dump and suddenly realizing that there's no toilet paper in the bathroom). And as soon as Lowe starts making that face, the umpires should halt the game and award it to whomever the Red Sox are playing. I have to admit, I'm haunted by The Derek Lowe Face.

I spend every one of his appearances saying to the TV, "Don't make it, don't make the face, stay cool, come on, stay with us, hang tough, kiddo." It never ends.

Or, as the Sons of Sam Horn Red Sox wiki puts it far more succinctly:

Perhaps unfairly, Derek Lowe has also gained recognition for the Derek Lowe Face (illustrated above). Displayed after some unfortunate pitching event, this show of pain and disgust is thought, by detractors, to presage some further bad pitching in the next few minutes.

If you are still unclear after the two descriptions above and the photograph I posted earlier, here is the best example of the Derek Lowe face I have ever seen:

Sadly, this phenomenon did not disappear after Lowe left the pressure-cooker of Boston. The Derek Lowe face has been spotted in Dodger stadium as well:

Of course, the good news is that even in a year when he frequently made the Derek Lowe face, Lowe also got to make this face:

...after he pitched lights out in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series to give the Red Sox the curse-breaking victory. So, perhaps this signing will bring good fortune to the hometown team. But you must always be vigilantly on the lookout for signs of the Derek Lowe Face. You never know when it may strike.

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