Of sports and men

Back in 1989 I was in… a school. No need to date myself more than that. Anyway, one of my teachers was really into NCAA basketball so he asked us each to pick a team that would win it all. Still in my full on nerd shell I had no idea what teams were even involved with such a sport, so naturally I asked my dad. He suggested Michigan. Actually he suggested a few schools, but Michigan was the first. And they were the ones with the Wolverine mascot. That’s right, a team named for the coolest comic book character (listen, I can retcon that history if I want). So naturally I picked them.

And they won.

Continue reading “Of sports and men”

Historic Halladay

I know, not only am I writing about sports but doing so at least a day late. Lame. Regardless of my lameosity and the fact that Lineu… Luncem… that kid from San Fran pitched an almost equally amazing game last night, I just had to point out how awesome Halladay’s performance for my Phillies on Wednesday was. In case you shudder at the notion that people still follow baseball or hide your head in the sand whenever sports in general are mentioned, let me break it down for you:

After spending 12 years going no where with the mediocre Blue Jays, Roy Halladay requested to be traded to the Phils so that he might finally get to feel what it was like to pitch in October. Over the course of the season he dominates just about everybody and ends up at or near the top of every major pitching statistic while helping to lead his new team to their third straight division title en route to an almost guaranteed second Cy Young for himself. Oh, he also managed to pitch the 20th perfect game in Major League history, too. Finally the time comes for him to make his postseason debut and what does he do?

Throws the second no hitter in postseason history.


If you have some time and even a passing interest in the game, do yourself a favor and watch the highlights and listen to the former players break down his pitching. Hearing their attempts to even describe what he was doing shows just how masterful and beautiful it was. Check out Ruiz’s heads up play from behind the plate that saved it all and the celebration that followed.

The Woman can confirm just how nuts I went – looking forward to more Scotch-worthy moments in the coming weeks. One down, ten to go!

Congratulations are still in order

I’ve more or less been avoiding sports pages and what not since the game ended last night. To be honest, this one doesn’t really hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m bummed about the loss. But the reality is that repeating as World Series Champions is darn difficult – heck, just getting the opportunity to try it is rare. The Phillies are only the third National League team to do it since the introduction of the divisional round. More importantly, this was the first Phillies team to ever return.

So certainly there’s a somewhat bittersweet taste to another successful season. But I look at it this way: over the course of more than 2 decades I only ever saw the Phillies go to the playoffs once; and in the last 3 seaons I’ve seen them win 3 consecutive NL East titles, 2 consecutive NL pennants, and 1 World Series championship. That’s quite a successful run by any standard. And it doesn’t appear to be over.

So congratulations to the Phillies (and… I guess… the Yankees, too) for another great season. At least now there’s less reason for me to stay up past my bedtime… wait a sec… what am I still doing up?

Is this what winning feels like?

Wow… seriously… wow. I’m not sure where to even begin with this one. There’s a celebration going on. A big parade will be involved. And it’s in Philadelphia. Do you understand what I’m saying? Philadelphia, my home town, which has suffered through some of the worst moments in sports history, gets to throw a ticker tape parade for one of the oldest franchises in professional sports. The Philadelphia Phillies have broken the “Curse of Billy Penn” and become the 2008 World Series Champions.

Brad Lidge and Carlos Ruiz celebrate winning it all after the end of the ninth inning.
Brad Lidge and Carlos Ruiz celebrate winning it all after the end of the ninth inning.

I’ve had a post about life as a Philly fan planned for awhile. Maybe I’ll still write it to give you guys some perspective. People will still try to convince me they understand the pain because one team they follow hasn’t done well in a while. But that’s nothing compared to growing up with an expectation that championships are for other teams and other towns because they never involve you. Suddenly that image has been shattered thanks to a rather unorthodox game that took over 48 hours to complete.

I’m serious about it being shattered. You want to know what 25 years of misery disappearing in an instant looks like? Watch this video from the Phillies club in Hoboken during the final pitch (courtesy of Furey):

Yeah, wish I could have at least been there. Immediately following the game there was a whirlwind of phone calls between myself, my mom, my dad, my friend Mark, and my sister Kathleen, who lives farthest from home of all of the siblings. While I may be a frustrating 2 hours away from the big celebration, the 15-20 hour drive from Alabama (depending on whose directions you take) is a far greater challenge for her. And thus we both lamented being away from the city at a time like this. The idea of taking off work tomorrow to drive down for the parade has been beaten back several times today.

At least I can revel in all of the highlights playing nonstop for the next few days, including this tremendous video of the great Harry Kalas finally getting to call that last out in a World Series victory (the MLB wouldn’t allow local announcers back in 1980):

Yeah, it’s totally lame that I haven’t posted in over a month and the first sign of life is some ramblings about sports (why don’t I just throw in some political discourse while I’m at it), but this post has been a quarter century in the waiting. And while I’m one of the first people to complain about the ridiculous salaries of ball players and the disconnect from the fans, this team was just filled with great stories to get behind (and watching them celebrate makes it hard to believe they don’t feel it, too):

  • Charlie Manuel managing his team to the championship while dealing with the loss of his mother.
  • 45 year-old Jamie Moyer finally making it to the World Series with the team he cheered on as a kid (he was even at the parade in ’80).
  • On the opposite end, Cole Hamels absolutely dominating the playoffs (and winning 2 MVP awards) for a team that last won it all 3 years before he was born.
  • Brad Lidge achieving true perfection while clinching the championship and shook the monkey that was the 2005 playoffs off his back.
  • Ruiz’s infield RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against a stacked infield to win game 3.
  • Journeyman Matt Stairs with his pinch hit homer to win game 4 of the NLDS.
  • Memorable plate appearances by pitcher Brett Meyers in the NLDS and NLCS followed up by Joe Blanton home run in the WS.
  • Burrell doubling to start the bottom of the 8th in game 5 after not having a hit all series. That turned into the winning run.
  • Utley’s clutch throw to home in the top of the 8th to preserve the 3-3 tie.

Guys like Howard, Werth, Utley, Burrell, Feliz, Ruiz, etc. all took turns being the hero, it’s hard to mention everybody and I’m no sportwriter. Thankfully there’s guys like Phil Sheridan and Bill Lyon, writers who guided me through sports as a youngster, to put into far more eloquent words the thoughts and feelings I’m bumbling through. Then again, maybe it’s the simpler words of Lidge that sum it up best: “This is our time right now, and I don’t give a crap about all the rest.”

So yeah, I’m riding a bit of a high today because, for the first time since I became a sports fan, it’s my team.

P.S. Along with all of the furious Wikipedia edits that were made last night, the most important update was also made: the clock has been reset!

You have no idea

My attempt to reclaim a social life has once again been thwarted by fatherhood. Alright, that’s a lie. It was thwarted by the state of New Jersey – specifically Hoboken. In case you haven’t noticed, football season is upon us. And for those of you with short-term memories, I’m a crazy-ass Eagles fan (I know, is there any other kind?).

Being of that persuasion up here in North Jersey is not exactly a fun experience – especially with the results of last year’s Super Bowl (which even forced me to root for the enemy). Thus we cling to each other in small groups, usually at whatever bar will take us. In Hoboken the place to be for Eagles fans on Sundays is Mulligan’s – who has kindly played host to us for the past two seasons. Unfortunately, no matter how much I looked forward to meeting up with a few friends I haven’t seen in months, the craptacular parking and traffic situation in Hoboken finally pushed my to the edge 20 FREAKIN’ MINUTES AFTER THE GAME WAS SUPPOSED TO START. I turned the car around and headed home. Hey, I’d rather spend the first game with my baby girl anyway. And apparently she’d rather spend it with me, too.

The newest Eagles fan

That photo isn’t even close to the biggest smile she had while “wearing” my jersey. I asked what jersey she wanted for herself and she seemed most interested in DeSean Jackson. I explained that it’s never a good idea to go with a rookie, because you never know if they really are going to be as good as promised even after a full game and we shouldn’t get our hopes up. That didn’t seem to phase her. Honestly, there’s just no reasoning with this kid…

Thanks to the magic of DVR I didn’t even miss any of the awesome opener (a total destruction of St. Louis 38-3) and got to spend most of it with my beautiful baby girl smiling at me from my lap. She actually seemed to thoroughly enjoy watching my reactions to the game – maybe even more than when I try to interact with her directly. Thank god, because she has no idea the kind of fandom she was born into. This is a fandom of bad luck and depression that somehow keeps us coming back for more. Now I’ve got another generation to force it upon – at last, the circle is complete!

A second generation of arrogant depression in the making

At least for her first real football action there was something to cheer about. Let’s see just how long that can last…


Do you understand how painful this is for me? Do you realize that I had to cheer for a hated rival just to restore my faith in football? I was moments from giving up on the NFL for letting a band of cheaters win a fourth Super Bowl this decade when David Tyree made the most ridiculous catch since my beloved Eagles’ very own 4th and 26. And when Manning hit Burress for the go-ahead touchdown, I actually celebrated. The cheating Patriots had gone from debates about whether they were the greatest ever to whether it was the greatest choke ever. For a little while I could even smile…

And now I’m right back to where I was before: 11 Super Bowls in the NFC East – none for the Eagles. Sigh…

New Yorkers will never understand. They have no concept at all of what it’s like to have a true drought in sports. Sure, some teams go through dry spells, but someone else always picks up the slack. Since I’ve been following sports (the mid-80s) this city has seen the Mets win a World Series, the Yankees win 4, the Giants win 3 Super Bowls, and the Rangers win a Stanley Cup. For the folks out here in Jersey they’ve even got the Devils and their 3 Stanley Cups. That’s 13 championships in the 25 years since the last one in Philly.

Back in the late 80s when I really started to get into sports I never even believed it was possible for a Philly team to win it all. Somewhere along the lines, I started to believe it – even came to expect it. As of Sunday night, I no longer believe.