So we were supposed to talk to Mike O'Malley about a lawnmower race in the CBS sitcom "Yes, Dear," featuring O'Malley's character, Jimmy, and NASCAR star Greg Biffle. You also know O'Malley as "The Rick," the obsessive Boston sports fan from the ESPN ads. And since the real O'Malley is also a die-hard Red Sox fan, we waited until the Sox had clinched a playoff berth before calling him yesterday in California, where he was watching the end of Boston's 10-1 win over the Yankees. Anyhow, the "Yes, Dear" episode in question airs Wednesday at 8:30, and O'Malley didn't actually race the souped-up mower. A stuntman did.

So what was the weekend like?

It was great. I love watching baseball and I love watching the Red Sox win. And they beat the Yankees two out of three, and they're in the playoffs. I'm pretty fired up.

Did you lose faith at all last week?

Never. Nope. One of the things that's very interesting about being a sports fan is if you had tickets to a Springsteen concert or tickets to a great Broadway show, you know how it's going to turn out. Springsteen's not gonna lose his voice, Meryl Streep's not going to stink in a Chekhov play, but the outcome of a sporting event is not going to necessarily go your way. . . . But one of the things that's happened with the Red Sox and the Patriots over the last few years, they've just changed the psychology of the Boston sports fan.

What's the philosophy now?

We're going to win.

So were there any fist pumps when the Indians lost?

Oh there were high-fives among all the grown men here; my cousin and three other friends. The thing was, we sort of backed into the playoffs. Though we are in the playoffs, it won't mean anything unless we get farther.

What's the best symbol of your fandom?

The fact that I'm a 39-year-old man whose main hobby is living vicariously through the athletic achievements of others. I have a hobby where even if my team wins 60 percent of the time, four out of 10 times there's a negative result. What kind of hobby is that? People who go surfing don't have four out of 10 bad days. People who play the guitar don't have four out of 10 practice sessions where they're absolutely miserable afterwards.

What would you have done with yourself if they hadn't made the playoffs?

I would have rooted for whatever team was playing against the Yankees. Look, I take my baseball very seriously, I take the Red Sox very seriously, it's not lighthearted at all. For whatever reason, baseball got in my blood when I was a little kid. And the watching and paying attention and being on the precipice and then losing so often -- you take it very seriously.

"The Rick," is that really you or is the character totally made up?

I was cast into that character. We share a likeness in terms of our rooting interest for Boston teams, but "The Rick" still lives in his mother's attic and collects worthless memorabilia, is unmarried without kids. I have two children, a lovely wife and I live in California. But we do share the same shirt size.

-- Dan Steinberg

O'MALLEY