As a day well-spent brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death. – Leonardo da Vinci
First things first: my utmost commendations to the Phillies organization for a wonderful, touching, and heart-wrenching service for Harry Kalas on Saturday afternoon. Unless you are an alien from a planet renowned for its lack of emotion, you probably watched most of the procession through misty eyes. Lord knows this Pundit did.
I think the moment that will always stand out for me from the day, a moment that was just so beautiful and emotional, was watching Harry’s friends, family and members of the Phillies pass his casket down the line, as “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” played over the PA system. A proper send-off to a beloved man.
We’ll always love you, Harry. Do me a favor – ask Whitey if he can smell the rain coming up there in heaven, would you?
One final footnote to the procession – people around the country can say what they want about Philadelphia fans, conjuring up embellished stories of the day we murdered Santa Claus, or whatever the hell it was we did. But they can never say that this city does not love its own with a passion rarely found elsewhere. The key to that sentence, of course, is “its own.” Philly won’t call you its own just because you live here, or work here, or play here. Philly will call you its own if you bust your butt off, displaying a love for what you do and the people you do it with…if you’re good at what you do but never arrogant…if you give everything you have; and if that isn’t enough, you make no excuses, just give a little bit more next time…if you understand that we will ride you when you aren’t performing up to your capabilities, but we will embrace you wholeheartedly when you do…that our energy and excitement will propel you to victory if you put yourself in a position to win.
Harry understood that, embraced it, and embodied it. That fact, as much as his golden pipes, made him one of the most treasured figures this city has ever known.
Because, at the end of the day, this town isn’t for everybody. Let all of those who don’t understand grit, hard work, undying passion, despair in defeat, and unadulterated joy in victory live somewhere else. We will continue to live and die with every pitch, pass and shot. We will continue to heckle the slackers, praise the scrappers, and love our teams through thick and thin, even if that means the boos rain down in a stifling display of tough love.
This is Philadelphia – this is the place for those with a thick skin, a workmanlike attitude, and a heart almost too big for the chest it beats in.
This is our city. And Harry fit right in. You will not be forgotten, HK.
Now to the events on the diamond, ice and court.
– Where in the hell did this San Diego Fathers team come from? On Friday, they break our hearts, erasing a 7-1 deficit before winning. On Saturday, they break our hearts by ending Brad Lidge’s saves streak. What in the hell is that all about? I mean, the Padres?
– Notes from Sunday’s game: Ryan Howard for, ahem, the Rawlings Gold Glove at first base? Talk about a revelation – he made three superb plays on Sunday, and has been impressive thus far this season. That, and he’s been pretty solid at the plate. Not generating the power we expect quite yet, but he’s putting the ball in play. I’m very happy with the Ryan Howard that has opened this season. Chase Utley remains hot – if he stays healthy all season, he’s going to end up in the MVP discussion, though at this point in his career, that kind of goes without saying, huh? Charlie Manuel continues to perfectly monitor the pulse of this team. He decides to give Jimmy a day off so he can get some extra time in the cage, and what happens? Jimmy comes in to pinch hit in the bottom of the eighth and drills a home run. Charlie is a sage. Um, no disrespect to Pat Burrell here, but I’m getting very close to Man Crush territory with Raul Ibanez. I mean, this guy has been awesome. The Phillies really needed that walk-off home run so badly; after an emotional weekend, one that saw this team’s pitching collapse, some late-game heroics were just what the doctor ordered. Speaking of the pitching – I’m feeling a bit uneasy right now. Not worried yet, but uneasy. I think Cole will be back to form soon, and as long as Lidge gets a bit more control over his fastball, I think he’ll be fine. That, and we have to remember that this bullpen will get a major lift when we get J.C. Romero back after 50 games. But with everyone else, I remain uneasy.
– On to the Flyers. Tough, tough loss on Friday night in overtime, but damn did they look better on Sunday. Beautiful first goal by Jeff Carter – such a smooth player, and getting on the board first was so important for keeping the energy level of the team and crowd high. They looked like they fell asleep at the end of the first period and the beginning of the second, but Claude Giroux sure woke them up. I love this guy – the play he made on the penalty kill, circling behind the net and locating Gagne, was absolutely beautiful. And how about that pass from Briere to Giroux to set up the goal before that? Spectacular, well-controlled spin while keeping control of the puck, pinpoint pass, wide-open net. Mike Richards is really turning into an inspiring leader for this hockey team. Thought the referees were making some soft penalties, though I suspect that they did so in order to keep the game in control, as thinks were quite testy throughout. And it sure got chippy – I think we have ourselves a real war developing. I look forward to game four, one I fully expect the Flyers to win.
– Holy Hannah, the Sixers won game one against the Magic! Be honest – did you really think that would happen? I didn’t. They looked done in the third quarter, trailing by 18, but somehow, someway, they stormed back. And that shot by Iguodala to give them the lead with two seconds left – as Bill Raftery would say, “ONIONS!” When he missed his two free-throws with a minute left, I really thought the Sixers had blown their chance to win the game. Iggy proved me wrong. Donyell Marshall came up big, his 11 points on 3-4 shooting from downtown looming very large down the stretch. I worry about Dwight Howard completely taking over this series, as I do with the fact that the Magic will probably outshoot the Sixers from the perimeter for the remainder of the series. That, and I don’t expect to get 18 from Lou Williams every night. But I’m going to enjoy this one for now.
– Welcome to Philadelphia, Jason Peters. There has been a lot of talk about whether Peters is as good as advertised, or whether making the move to bring him into the fold was better then grabbing a Boldin or Edwards at wideout. I can’t say whether he is as good as advertised – I haven’t seen him play a whole lot, and truth be told, analyzing the play of hte offensive line is not my forte. But I will say that I feel comforted knowing two things: one, that the Eagles have a true left tackle, and two, that they had a plan in place to make a big move this offseason. Solidifying the lines isn’t the most glamourous philosophy, but it is a wise one. I still think this team needs more playmakers; who doesn’t want that? Strong line play is probably the difference between teams competing in the playoffs, and teams watching from home. But playmakers can take a playoff team and make them a Super Bowl contender, as evidenced by TO’s stay in Philly.
That being said, I think you can all but kiss Boldin or Edwards goodbye – can’t see the Eagles throwing that many draft picks around. Despite the fact that the chances of winning with their offensive pillars – McNabb and Westbrook – are dwindling. You’ve only got so much time left with these two – why not go for broke before they break down? See if you can get Edwards for a second and a fifth. Mortgage your future ever so slightly and give up the first and third for Boldin, take a running back with your second pick, acknowledging the fact that your team is already pretty young, but withveterans in place that can lead you to a Super Bowl if given a bit more help, specifically on offense. Damnit Eagles, roll the dice, just this once – if it doesn’t work out, I’ll never question you again. At least under this regime. Sometimes, you just gotta take the dive.