Friday, October 31, 2008

The end of the baseball season.

Today was parade day in Philadelphia. The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies boarded flatbed trucks and made the slow trip down Broad Street to the ballpark, where 40,000 fans waited to see them. The parade started at 12:20 and they didn't get to the ballpark until well after 4:00, two hours behind schedule. How they could make a schedule is anyone's guess, since most of the 2 or 3 million people who came to Philly would wind up on Broad Street. There were a few glitches in the area of public transit, but if you came from New Jersey it mostly involved waiting in long lines to get on the train.

This is the inside of the Lindenwold station of the PATCO Hi-Speed line at 9:20am. We had to wait in line 45 minutes just to get to the ticket machine. Thankfully, a train left every 6 minutes and, since this is the start of the line the train was empty when we got in. Three stops later, however, it was clogged full of people to the extent that the conductor was telling people that there was another train coming. I felt badly for people who had to use the train to go to work. If they didn't get on in Lindenwold, they weren't getting there. At the Woodcrest station we could see the line wrapped around the parking lot about 500 feet just to get to the building. Little did they know that when they got there the train would be filled.
We came out of the train at Broad Street near Locust, a few blocks from City Hall. It's over 2 hours from the start of the parade and the sidewalks were nearly clogged. They started showing up at dawn. Parts of Broad Street were jammed so badly that we wound up walking down 15th Street until we got further away from Center City. I found it odd that so many people congregated in such a small area, and further down the street there were places to stand - at least for a little while. The parade was the same at the start as it was at the end. I guess Center City was "the place to be?"
Broad Street at 10:30am. The crowd is assembling in front of the Union League building. Local sports talk station WIP was perched on the balcony. I thought I'd be able to see them, but I needed to be on the other side of the street - and that wasn't happening.
The original plan was to take the Broad Street subway down to the stadiums, but we used our experience with PATCO to convince us to walk the length of the nearly 4 miles. It turned out to be a genius move, since later in the day the crush of passengers would cause SEPTA to suspend train service.
Finally ... After the nearly 4 mile walk through the morass of people ... the Ballpark at noon. The lucky 40,000 or so of us who had a ticket to the ceremony got to go inside. As it turned out, there was plenty of parking down by the ballpark. SEPTA and the city pleaded with people to take the train, then they dropped the ball by leaving several thousand people without train service. As it was with my walk back from the game on Sunday, I was rewarded by the scene on the street before the parade. Oceans of people dressed in red, screaming like maniacs.
The final stretch of the parade route came off Broad Street (top) and down Citizen's Bank Way, outside the ballpark. This is the view from the ramp. They went from here to Lincoln Financial Field (where the Eagles play) where a crowd awaited them. They did a quick walking lap around the field before heading back to the ballpark where the real ceremony would take place.

Me and my friend Carol, who made the train ride and long walk with me. She is now forever in my debt. Her boyfriend met us down there and gave us a ride back, so we didn't have to bother with any more congested train rides.
Me and "The Bull", Greg Luzinski, left fielder on the last Phillies championship team in 1980. He runs a Bar-B-Que place inside the ballpark. He signed my hat.

Phillies. 2008 World Series Champions. Just rolls off the tongue. I'm pretty sure they'll take the sign down before the first game next April.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins and the strange disembodied hand. Photos were hard to come by, with rally towels waving and people moving around. We had prime seats though, in the fifth row of section 131, behind the visitor's dugout. I have no idea how I wound up with them, other than the fact that I jumped on the Phillies e-mail offer quickly.
Outfielder Geoff Jenkins. His double started the second half of game 5 and set the tone. The players entered through the right field gate and circled the field in Toyota convertibles.
Action News broadcasters Gary Papa (left) and Jim Gardner were part of the local TV coverage, from behind the visitor's dugout.

Pitcher Jamie Moyer. He grew up in Souderton, PA and attended the 1980 parade. He's the sentimental favorite on the team, partly because he's the oldest player in the majors (45) and partly because he's a great pitcher who almost always finds himself pitching big games.

NLCS and World Series Most Valuable Player, pitcher Cole Hamels. The girls like him.

Left fielder Pat Burrell. Most believe this was his final ballpark appearance as a Phillie. I hope not.

Right fielder Jason Werth. I'm pretty sure that's not his real hand.

After they made the rounds in the cars, the players made their way to a stage at second base where 9 players and manager Charlie Manuel spoke to the crowd. I had some weird boom camera device clogging my view, so most of my photos have a crane in them. This is shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Daytime fireworks. Can't beat 'em!

The World Series flag flying aside the U.S. flag. It was a long day with a lot of walking and waiting around for stuff. But I had good company and we didn't encounter a single rude person or any trouble of any kind. I had that tiny grip of fear when I decided to go, because I felt like I was leaning into a punch, with almost 3 million people in a small part of the city, but in the end, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Those were the photographic highlights of our day, but this was by far the greatest moment of the day. It's Phillies second baseman Chase Utley in front of 40,000 fans and live television. You'll hear all about it soon, I'm sure...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How Anthony eats a Reese's

A beautiful new Reese's cup, ripe off the vine. They grow on vines.

He eats around the outside, taking the chocolate and leaving the delicious peanut butter center.

Then ... poof! It's gone. All the delicious peanut buttery goodness in one big bite.
Now, say a a little silent prayer for me as tomorrow I venture to Broad Street for the big Phillies World Series parade. I will also be at Citizen's Bank Ballpark with a primo seat 5 rows behind the visitor's dugout. Photos and text to follow.

Today, all f-words begin with Ph.

A special greeting to those of you who stopped by here between 11:00pm last night and early this morning expecting to see some cheery baseball talk, but instead found a half-naked woman and an essay about sex.
This isn't a baseball blog.
Now, the people of this city can stop talking nonsense about curses, statues of William Penn and other superstitions. They can stop thinking about how it will never happen in their lifetimes and how all the teams do here is lose.
Even the functional moron who runs Major League baseball couldn't screw it up. Last night's movie-length baseball [quote] game [unquote] was a made-for-TV spectacular that started in prime time and ended early enough for the local news to send their reporters to the street to try to interview people who mostly screamed and waved their arms in joy.
For some reason, among the jumping players and screaming fans after Brad Lidge's final pitch, I found time to focus on the people from Major League Baseball who ran out with those grey T-shirts and hats for the players to wear so that they could sell them to us. I probably need a brain scan to find out why I see things like that amid the crowd.
Anyway, there's a huge parade planned for Friday. The guy who runs the schools in Philadelphia put out an announcement that the schools would be open and that students are expected to come to class. I guess he figures that the parents who aren't going to work are going to supervise the kids who aren't going to school? I think they should just close the school and get it over with. What are they possibly going to learn on Friday that is more important than taking a day to enjoy your life?
As for me, I picked a fine day to come down with a head cold - the remnants of the Sunday festivities and the after-midnight stroll down Broad Street.
I'm not a psychologist, so I can't tell you what this does for people in the larger sense. What it does, I know, is take that stink of loser out of our nose. It's been a long time since a team here has won a championship. The Sixers won in 1983. Since then, some have been closer than others, but their seasons always ended with a loss.
Fans from other cities would chide us with, "Where's your championship?" and we had nothing to say. Of course, it doesn't define who we are, but you can't argue psychology with a Red Sox or Patriots fan who points at you and yells.
So, last night marked the first time in 25 years a Philadelphia sports team ended a season with a win.
Let the selling 'o the crap begin.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The easy road.

We're always out for the quick buck. However we can do it. Whether it's selling Phillies paraphernalia or trying to sell some junk on TV that people watching TV are convinced they want. What we're about is the buck.
The easiest way, and the way most people won't talk about is the sex way. It takes several forms. One is the Sarah Palin form. The form that says that the electorate (you and I) will fall for the pretty face, and the prettiest face we can trot out there will balance with the old guy, thereby guaranteeing our vote. We are witnessing the destruction of that idea I hope.
The tried and true idea is that sex sells. It sells in the generic sense at least. In politics we want a little more than sex, but in real life we'll settle for sex. Sex is an easy road because men will almost always fall for form over substance, and the sex angle falls right in.
It's easy to sell sex to guys, especially on the Internet, and the forum has made it especially easy to sell videos and other such content to horny guys (all of us) for as little as $20 a month, or so I hear.
It strikes me as lazy. The proverbial drowning man's life preserver. The low-hanging fruit (so to speak) and it's so easy that almost anyone can do it - and if they don't think you're interested they'll sell you pills to make you interested.
The lazy part comes when you strip away morality. The people selling you sex do it as easily as the corner store sells you a newspaper - and with about the same enthusiasm. I realized this one day while laying on a massage table. For an extra few bucks I could get the full treatment. The money was all she was interested in. The act had no meaning to her. It was like adding Carnauba wax to your auto wash. Just push another button.
I suppose I think too much and thinking takes the emotion out of things, but it's pretty easy to see how much the world has changed over the past 30 years and how much more explicit sex is in our lives - whether real or imagined. The Internet has opened up a whole new world to us. That's nothing new, and it's a little sad that we take it for granted.
Any fetish, act or sexual deviation has a web site. If you don't believe me, type two random words into a web search and see how many page hits you get. Piss drinkers. Animal fuckers. Toe suckers ... you get the point. It's out there and it's too easy to find and way too easy to pay for.
Just yesterday I heard an ad on the radio (regular radio, not the satellite) for a web site that blatantly advertises that their intent is to provide a sexual affair for people who are bored with their current partner. Their home page proclaims, "Life is short, have an affair." Advertised right there on morning drive-time radio. Parents are taking their kids to school. Right before the Cialis ad. They even issue a guarantee. They claim to have 36,654 local members online right now. I suppose that if you couldn't find a sex partner with such great odds you'd probably need your $249 back so you could afford the bullets to blow your brains out.
Just cough up some money and push another button.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day two - Baseball fans held hostage.

Phillies fan and climatologist extraordinary Joe Bastardi had fired off an angry 6:30 p.m. update to his blog on AccuWeather's professional site under the headline: "Cancel the Game Tonight."
At 6:30 p.m., rain was falling without a break from the Carolinas through Central Pennsylvania at an intensity and coverage that was rapidly expanding.
And why did a crew of umpires that has performed at a rookie-league level throughout the Series wait until the Rays tied it, 2-2, in the top of the sixth to order the ground crew to cover the partially submerged infield?
- Bill Conlin, Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2008
Tuesday night in October. The 45-degree temperature matches the wind speed. We're stuck in some sort of sports time machine where games take days to play and the complaining lasts longer. There is snow in the forecast for Wednesday and the paranoia for the local baseball team is so thick you could cut it with Bud Selig's rule book.
Welcome to Philadelphia.
We have spent the past 23 hours whining about the suspension of a World Series game that probably shouldn't have started to begin with. They're telling us that it is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:37pm, but those of us with active brain cells see that as a preposterous notion fueled by television.
Like Joe Bastardi, I too was watching the radar prior to the game, figuring that the misty rain that was falling on my home across the river was also falling on the ballpark. Starting the game was a monstrous mistake in the face of a green wave of rainfall that looked like a boiling lime Jell-O mold rising up to meet Philadelphia.
Tomorrow's game-time forecast is 40 degrees and 11-mile per hour winds (which optimists would say is an improvement) but a 30% chance of showers, which will probably make television's mistress Bud Selig delay the start until either the field dries out or we pass out from exhaustion, whichever comes first.
When professional sports sells itself out to big-time television, strange things happen. Strange things like made-up rules about suspended games and rain delays that take more than 24 hours. Such is the state of big-time sports in America.
Whether or not you think game 5 should have been played or even started at all - I am on the side of not playing it at all, and said as much prior to John Oates' Anthem - you have to admit to being dumbfounded by the extent to which Major League Baseball (I use the term loosely) went to try to keep the field dry and stretch the proceedings out until the artificial 11pm end of what we call Prime Time here on the East Coast.
Conspiracy theories abound. There are at least a half dozen of them, from the speculation that Selig was intoxicated to the speculation that they played Monday night's game so that Fox could have a clear path to show a new episode of House on Tuesday. Any and all could be correct and substantiated.
It remains to be seen whether game 5 will be concluded on Wednesday or Thursday, but either way, it is a cheap and anti-climactic way to win, if that's what it comes to for the Phillies. At this point the game is a three-inning playoff that amounts to little more than a glorified T-ball game. At $150 a ticket.
As usual, it's the fans that get the screwgy. Some forked over four-digit dollars from ticket brokers - partnered by Major League baseball - and if you turned down big bucks for your game 5 tickets you have to be feeling a lot like a schmuck right now. A couple of mortgage payments were a nice trade for being, as one fan put it, "put in a freezer and squirted with a hose."
Thanks Bud. Once again, when thrust into the spotlight you came up short. He has again made a mockery of baseball and as one unnamed player said, “I wouldn’t let him supervise one of my (bowel movements). He has no clue. Not one (expletive deleted) clue.”
At least I could give you a pretty good idea of when my next bowel movement is. I think Bud would have a hard time telling me when the next game is.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some thoughts on yesterday.

I went to evening classes at Widener for 8 years, and for the greater part of that time I had a class on Monday night. The biggest issue was when the Eagles were on Monday Night Football. Some students would cut-out at 8:15 (or during our first break) to get home to see the game. I always thought it was short-sighted, since the education was the thing. Tonight, I'm sure there is a class going on and I'm wondering if the profs have a heart and just cancelled class, figuring that nothing is going to be accomplished anyway.
Yesterday, before I left, one of the local stations was running the original NBC broadcast of the Phillies' 1980 World Series game 6. The thing that always strikes me about those old broadcasts is how simple the broadcast is. There isn't the constant barrage of junk on the screen, the graphics are simple and they don't replay every play. Now, there are replays of balls and strikes, baserunning and tons of shots of the dugout and the fans. In 1980, pretty much all you saw was the game and one replay of a close play or big hit. The game was the thing. Now, it's more of a TV show. Not surprising, really.
During my interesting conversation with the FedEx pilot at the sports bar yesterday, we started talking about their competition and what a bargain the USPS is since, for 42 cents you can send a letter across the country. Not a bad deal. UPS is more of a trucking company and doesn't have the airplanes that FedEx has, but what I found out was that your Express Mail packages that the Post Office sends out go on FedEx planes. Come to think of it, I've never seen a US Postal Service airplane. They have some kind of deal with FedEx. I find that kind of inside stuff fascinating, but I'm funny that way.
I think my buddy and I got screwed out of a souvenir last night. When we sat down, the guy next to us showed us a commemorative coin that he said he was given when he walked in. Usually, they just hand out those white rally towels, and I have enough of those to open a spa. But the coin is a nice item that commemorates the Series and I don't know how we missed out on that deal.
I guess I was in some kind of zone, (or really drunk) because I completely missed the National Anthem. It doesn't bother me, because I really can't stand Patti LaBelle, and I understand she butchered the song. When I got home, Big Daddy Graham, the overnight guy on WIP was talking about it. I'm assuming she turned it into some kind of gospel thing with that caterwauling style of hers. Not singing as much as it is wailing. She is from Philadelphia and winds up killing most big sporting events here with her screaming.
From the seats, it looked like Jimmy Rollins evaded Evan Longoria's tag at third base in that rundown in the first inning (photo above). When I saw the replay at home today, Longoria practically gave Rollins a rectal exam with his glove, and the umpire was standing three feet from the play and completely missed it. Sometimes you have to get a break. Mostly, the umpiring in this series has been horrible. Not just balls and strikes, but missed calls on the bases and general incompetence. It's clouded an otherwise nice event. At least the Rays can take solace in the fact that it wasn't the reason they lost the game.
I guess we got lucky with the game choice. Season ticket holders are randomly given playoff tickets. We skillfully avoided the rain-delayed game 3 and tonight's cold, windy and rainy game 5 - even though it's possibly the clincher - for a nice autumn evening and a blow-out win. There is, however, a 100% chance of rain at 8pm, and I'd hate to think they'd keep us up until 2am again. I took the day off work today, but I have to go in tomorrow.
I looked it up on Yahoo Maps. The walk I made from the ballpark to the PATCO station was 3.42 miles. Point "A to Point "B". I've done a lot of walking in that city over the years, but I think that's the topper. I had every opportunity to hop on the Broad Street subway, but reneged in order to enjoy the car horns, screaming fans and the occasional high-five. I suppose if you stop to think about it (which is a waste of time) you wouldn't volunteer to walk through a major city after midnight without a weapon, but the feeling was electric and it seemed like a waste to sit in a subway car.
Game 5 starts in about two hours, weather permitting. I've been waiting for years to get a subscription to Sports Illustrated. They offer a special discounted rate and a commemorative edition and some other junk whenever a major sports team wins something. I guess people in the Boston area are good for the next ten years by now. Their subscription base in Philly will probably quadruple over the next week.
I'm going to go watch the game now. Talk amongst yourselves.

Three down, one to go.

It's 2:25am and I'm just now waddling in from the Phillies game.
It was a long day, of sorts.
It started at The Field House, a sports bar in Philadelphia, where I watched the Eagles game with a random acquaintance who happened to be a pilot for FedEx. So, of course, I had to ask the necessary questions about "Cast Away" and all that.
As it turns out, the general opinion of the FedEx pilots of the film isn't all that positive, especially the scene where the navigator comes washing on shore. That wasn't taken very well at the Memphis hub. Generally speaking, no FedEx plane could go down in any area without the FedEx people knowing where it is, so that much we know is bullshit - but the film is a hundred years old by now, so I guess I'm nitpicking.
The Phillies slaughtered the Tampa Bay Rays 10-2, and even after an afternoon of Eagles football and drinking, I could appreciate the effort.
It was an evening of high-fiving friends and strangers, hugging people I didn't know and generally reveling in the accomplishments of a baseball team whose efforts are somehow tied into our lives as regular people.
I made the walk from the stadium complex to Broad and Locust Streets to the PATCO train accompanied by the blaring car horns and mid-street high-five of people in cars who were blaring their horns over something that hasn't happened yet - a World Series championship. I can only imagine the celebration that will take place when the baseball team actually wins something. The city was going nuts now and they're only up 3 games to 1.
So, here it is, 2:30am and the only reason I'm writing this is because I can't sleep. Needless to say, I've phoned-in a vacation day for Monday, so I may have a fresh perspective a few hours from now.
Nevertheless, at 8:30 tonight, the Phillies will attempt something that hasn't been done in 28 years - they will try to make millions of people happy.
One thing I won't tolerate is the national media talking about what horrible fans we are. We were there tonight and I can't imagine any city in the United States being more excited about a sports championship. If they say we aren't great fans they don't know what they're talking about.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Who, what, why and when.

As faithful readers with good memories know, I'm headed off to game 4 of the World Series today. Since there is a The Who concert at the Wachovia Center at 7:30pm and an Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field at at 1:00pm, the sports complex will be a quagmire [a difficult, precarious or entrapping position]. Giggity giggity goo.
Because of that (or in spite of it) I am going out of my way to take two trains to the ballpark. In the meantime, I'll be stopping at a local pubbery to watch the Eagles game before hitting the second train to the ballpark for the real event of the day. It sounds like an inconvenience, but it may actually wind up being a good day. Go figure.
The official word is that the city wants Eagles fans to vacate the premises immediately after the game, but they like to tailgate and hang around to wait for the traffic to thin out.
Question: If everyone waits for traffic to thin out, does it ever thin out?
I'm thinking that the police will have to go down there banging trash can lids to get them to disperse. Between that and the thousands of AARP members attending the The Who show, I'll buddy-up to some sweaty fans on the train and leave the car in Jersey where it belongs. Driving over there will be like leaning into a punch.
For the record, The Who these days is Daltrey and Townshend. Ringo's kid plays the drums now and they have a bass player that you probably couldn't pick out of a police lineup. But hey, God bless them (did I just say that?) for milking aging rock fans out of another Franklin to see them do "Won't Get Fooled Again" for the twelve-thousandth time. Is that the definition of irony?
I'll no doubt be around on Monday to update you on the proceedings because, really - what else do I have going on?
Answer: Not that much.

For the uninitiated, this is the "sports complex." In the center is Citizens Bank Ballpark (Phillies), at the bottom is Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles) and to the left of that is the Wachovia Center (The Who). It looks like a lot of parking, but ...