Friday, September 29, 2006

To my imaginary shrink: Thanks for not charging me

My first memory is of blowing out the candles on my third birthday cake. My first two recurring series of memories are of: 1) wearing lots of plaid flannel, and 2) telling my entire family, who loved the Philadelphia Phillies, that I was a Padres fan. I loved the name, maybe because it was Spanish and I was practicing to become a stuffy Romance-language aficionado in later years.

But that phase ended fast, and I sprouted during some of the Phillies' crappiest years, though Mike Schmidt and Juan Samuel were fun to watch and Steve Jeltz was fun to make fun of.

When I hit my stride as a baseball-obsessed awkwardness poster boy at age 7, a late-30s Mike Schmidt was winning the Most Valuable Player award for a brilliant offensive season (for a team that finished in second place by 20 games, but never mind that). It was also around that time in the mid-80s that Schmidt hit his 500th home run, which was once an elite-pantheon total. I started to pick up the way that one great player could sucker you into rooting for a team forever, hoping he'd be reincarnated each generation and give the team a fighting chance.

A half-hour ago, a handful of people saw the Phillies' season effectively end with a rain-delayed loss to a last-place team unburdened by possibilities. It's the third time in four seasons that the Phillies have very nearly reached the postseason, but it remains a goal that's eluded them since 1993.

I'm just rambling in writing because it's part of the healing process. I have a problem. I grew up watching sports success come so rarely that when a good team finally comes along, I become way too wrapped up in it.

When Maryland football seemed on the verge of escaping mediocrity my junior year, I attended a game with one of my best friends, a far more even-tempered cat. Maryland's pep band kept playing loudly when Maryland was on offense, and this drove me crazy because I figured it would screw up the signal-calling at the line. It kept happening and I went totally on tilt, swearing at my own team's pep band. I don't even have to close my eyes to picture the hurt, confused and angry looks on some of their faces and the startled, embarrassed look of my friend. I wrote the band director an apologetic letter after the game, but the damage was done in my head. I didn't think I was capable of such ridiculous behavior. I was That Guy who people roll their eyes at until they clap slowly and grin when the bouncer hauls him off into the alley.

Ever since then, I've thought about that day whenever I'm faced with bitter sports-related disappointment, and I keep in mind that it's sports, for crying out loud. It's dudes who don't know me playing a game without me. At some point, it's OK not to give a rat's ass which of them are good at it and which are bad on a given day.

Oh yeah, the Terps lost to frigging Duke football that day, on their way to a 5-6 season that ended when a guy I went to high school with threw a TD pass for the Cavs at the end of the last game, knocking Maryland out of a bowl berth.

The fact that I still remember all that and can't remember the final play of Maryland's national championship game tells you something about the sports-fan psychosis.

What in the world was the point of all this? Who cares. Wait 'til next year.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


That glimmer of an idea I had about Jeff Conine taking all the rest of Pat Burrell's at-bats in these last few games? Yeah, 0-for-7 with 392 LOB by Conine puts that glimmer of an idea to bed.

But nice win, Phillies, though a horribly played game throughout. Bravo, Chris Coste, bravo, Michael Bourn, bravo, Jimmy Rollins, and bravo, Clay Condrey. The rest of ya, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. And yes, Rollins made two costly errors, but if he effectively wins the game with a two-run triple, I can't hold those against him.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Seething, seething, seething

Pat Burrell, I'm trying my damnedest not to be mean, and I understand you're a sensitive cat, but: What the hell has HAPPENED to you? You have become an utter liability in the most important month of your career. I don't foresee you being a Phillie next year, but if you are, it better be in a platoon with David Dellucci or something.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Nervous breakdown, come hither

Dude, I think this playoff race is going to cost me my sanity.

A half-game. That's the Phillies' lead in the wild card race, with seven games left for them to play. They lead by four and a half innings.

Every single game is going to be agonizing this entire week. Monday to Sunday, seven days, seven games.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ten-game season. Go!

ALRIGHT! For the first time since they were 0-0, the Phillies are in (tied w/ LA for) the wild-card lead.

The Pirates made me sweat by throwing Salomon Torres in relief for about 934 pitches in two innings, but they beat the Dodgers several hours after Brett Myers shut down the Cubs with authority in a complete game.

Padres lost, too, and have only a half-game division lead over LA.

Ehhhhhhh pennant-race anxiety.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

One down with 11 to go

If the Phillies overtake the Trolley Dodgers for the wild card, I will never ask for another present from Santa Claus ever again.

Games remaining: One against Chicago, three against Florida, one against Houston, three at Washington, three at Florida.

I think they have to win two of three in each series, as well as both singleton games, to assure winning the spot. That'd be an 8-3 finish for a 86-76 record, and a hope that the Dodgers do no better than 7-4.

Ugh. But hey, I'm having fun.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My teams

Today is a bad day not to be rich. If I had quite a bit more money, I could afford comprehensive cable packages for baseball and football and thus be able to watch a Phillies pennant race game and an Eagles divisional matchup on TV, instead of listening to the Internet radio feed for the Eagles and the Internet TV feed for the Phillies.

Oh well. GO GO GO!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I spent a little time tonight at a dinner party with two species I've spent virtually no time with in years: dogs and babies.

This doctor has four golden retrievers and only one slobbery tennis ball, so lots of hijinks ensued. The baby was one of Holly's med school colleague's, and lots of cooing ensued. Not from me -- I only coo if I'm trying to lure a pigeon. And by "trying to lure a pigeon", I mean "shitfaced".

Monday, September 04, 2006

I'm not surrey. I'm not surrey at all.

Great weekend. My sister, brother-in-law and prospective niece/nephew were in town, so the four/five of us took the opportunity to train for the Beijing Olympics, now that the 10,000-meter double surrey has been added as a medal event.

Also had a few good meals, played board games and bocce, and witnessed our final Louisville Bats game of the season, complete with a screaming foul line drive that ripped uncomfortably close to us and cracked some poor woman smack-dab on the left clavicle. Do you feel that, reader?

She smiled weakly for about 10 seconds before bursting into tears, lasting 9 or 10 seconds longer than anyone in our party would have, I feel confident in saying.

Ryan the Ridiculous

The man hit his 53rd home run today in a tight ballgame. His partner in superstardom, Chase "Checkmate" Utley, sent everyone -- including Ma and Pa Bluegrass -- home with a walk-off solo shot.

Rare is the baseball player whose every at-bat is a legitimate "event". Today, the entire mix might account for the fingers on one hand.

Since I was born in 1979, I can recall three other Phillies who were so compelling: Mike Schmidt, Lenny Dykstra and Jim Thome.

In his second major-league season, Ryan Howard has joined A. Pujols and D. Ortiz as must-see TV. This is the same guy who was nearly traded for Kip Wells barely a year ago.

Utley is on the plateau just below, with less pop but better wheels than the guy hitting behind him.

In a town where the smallest wrong move by a general manager can turn fans against him in droves, Howard and Utley threaten to make life easy for Pat Gillick where they're concerned. There's no danger of them being part of a bad trade, because they are 100% untradeable.

That's a lot of words just to convey the idea that Utley and Howard are awesome and fun to watch, which almost anyone reading this blog knows already.

As far as Howard chasing Maris and his 61 home runs -- the best home run mark untainted by the rumor of illegal performance-enhancing drugs -- I don't really care about him breaking that mark and becoming the "clean" home-run king. Let's get rid of steroids everywhere else in the game before we care about the history books.

What I do hope is that Howard keeps hitting home runs to improve the club's reputation, its appeal to fans and free agents, and its chances to succeed in the playoffs. And of course, I hope it makes him baseball's biggest star.

As long as we can still afford his contract for the next 12 years.