Get home from work. Long day. Hot. Stinking hot. Head to roof to unwind, take in view of city. Still hot. Come back inside, catch up on the Philly sports reading for the day. Seriously considering nap. Thought interrupted by knock on door.
“You want to go to the Phillies game tonight?”
Well, this was a brilliant and marvelous idea and I was out of my chair and on the subway in the blink of an eye. I mean, it was absolutely the perfect evening for a ballgame. Plus, Cole Hamels was pitching, and I had the inkling that this was the night he was going to really get back into form. Double plus, it was Charlie Manuel Bobble-Head Night.
Even though Charlie Manuel Bobble-Belly Night would have been much, much funnier.
So, $19 tickets in hand, my two comrades and I ventured first to acquire some Schmitters and beer, perhaps the quintessential pairing for a Phillies game. Delicious. Plus, the World Series Trophy, aka The Holy Grail, was located right next to the food line. It’s gold shimmered in the eyes of the Phillies Faithfuls like a beacon of truth, hope, and happiness. I wanted to hold it, to cradle it in my arms and serenade it with lullabies before putting it to rest on my mantle, but the thought of being madly chased by 1,000 screaming Philadelphians quickly brought me to my senses.
Supplies in hand, it was off to the heights of the 400 level, nestled in the peaks of Citizens Bank Park. Now, the problem with the 400 level is simple – you never know who will be sitting up there. Surely, you will get the diehards who follow the game closely and are simply trying to save some bucks. And the vantage point isn’t all that bad – strikes and balls are indiscernible, but beside that, you get a nice, bird’s eye view of the park.
What you also get is the annoying casual fans who often end up being slightly bored by the fifth inning.
Ugghhh. This often leaves you exasperated by mind-numbing conversation, for one thing. (“Ohmigod, did I tell you that I saw Ben O’Random at the Gap yesterday? You know Ben, the guy that worked in the restaurant we liked when we lived in Obseleteville? No, no, you’re thinking of Jerry – he worked at the Cardboard Eatery. You don’t remember Ben, the guy with all the flair? Aw, Ben was such a sweetie – you really don’t remember him? He was dating Suzy McHavinganaffairbehindhisback. Yeah, I don’t know how she ever remembered to spell her last name, either…they were so adorable together, though.”)
That’s annoying, but you learn to tune that out/gouge out your eardrums. What you can’t avoid is the two-beer-and-smeared frat boy who keeps trying to start the wave. Every single inning. To no avail. This makes him surly, forcing him to unleash a hailstorm of curses toward people halfway across the stadium, punctuating every slurred insult with “bro.”
“Hey section 409 – why don’t you stand up and do the wave, bro? Your mom has hairy armpits, bro!”
Then you get the fans who – though they aren’t consciously aware of it – are simply there to boo something. Anything at all. We encountered this fan after Cole Hamels tragically got himself in a knot fielding a bunt, twisting his ankle and causing him to leave the game.
“BOOOOOOOO! YOU’RE A WUSS, HAMELS! I can’t believe this guy – he’s always getting hurt. TRADE HIM!”
Are you friggin’ kidding me? I had to retaliate, at least verbally.
“Dude – he was the WORLD SERIES M-V-P! I mean, he was a wacky rain-delay away from potentially winning the most postseason starts in baseball history. Cut him some slack.”
“TRADE THAT WUSS ALREADY!”
There simply is no reasoning with some people.
Of course, this segments the fan base between the people agreeing with the idiot, and the people annoyed by his blatant disregard for common sense. Typically, this is the moment that sparks an ill-conceived fight. Though this night remained violence free – probably because the Phillies were winning and a breeze had kicked in – it made me realize that some people simply need some way to channel negative energy. The Phillies are winning? Randomly boo somebody, or, even better, boo the person unjustly booing a Phillie. (Editor’s note: Or write a blog post about them!)
You can take the fan out of the 700 level…
Of course, there is always the possibility that you will get the hormone-charged group of teenagers sitting in front of you. If you are especially lucky, you may even be seated behind one lovesick lass in the middle of a full-blown argument with her jilted lover, which might last for six innings or so, culminating in a flurry of broken yells into her phone, a violent hang-up, and a teary face and sagging head burrowed into the confused shoulder of a nearby friend.
There’s no crying in baseball.
Young love sucks, we all know that. Now, I don’t want to seem like a totally cynical, out-of-touch jerk. (Editor’s note: Though that’s exactly what he is). Fact of the matter was, I didn’t know how she could maintain the fight amidst two Utley home runs, a Pedro Feliz screamer and a Raul Ibanez blast. I mean, to maintain focus on the fight while so many things were happening around her was pretty impressive, to be honest with you.
Hell hath no fury…
Apparently, even wildlife, from time to time, will make its way to the 400 level. That’s right, I said wildlife. In a particularly shocking chain of events, a squirrel meandered all the way up to the 400 level, was either scared out of its mind by all of the fans or simply wearied from a tumultuous life, and ran right through the railing and off to what must have been its certain death. I mean, we were three rows away from the top of the stadium – pretty sure it was just a drop-off after that.
Nature can be so unforgiving.
After a brief prayer circle led by the Phillies Chaplain, and more then a few tears, we all – reluctantly, mind you – turned our attention back to the game. What led that squirrel to end its life at the Phillies game I will never know, but my prayers go out to its family and friends.
As for the game itself, it was pretty friggin’ awesome, save the Cole Hamels scare. Chase Utley is looking pretty Most Valuable, Raul Ibanez is everyone’s new best friend, and the entire lineup is starting to really hit. Chad Durbin did a solid job in relief, save one gargantuan home run given up to Adam Dunn, who hit the ball so hard it landed in the second deck a pile of laces and mush. And Cole was cruising before John Lannan – who if you recall was the pitcher who broke Utley’s hand in 2007 – laid down his fateful bunt.
Damn you, John Lannan!
The bats – at least it appears as of right now – have warmed up far earlier then they did last year. It’s the pitching that still remains a cause for concern. That will come around (hopefully). I know its early, but this team has “the look.” Not because they are winning right now, but because of how they have been doing so. Comeback victories, late-inning heroics, clutch at-bats. So many things can happen in the course of a 162-game season that have the potential to wipe away “the look” – injuries, slumps, the loss of confidence by key performers – but a team with heart and grit and resolve will normally overcome them.
Hopefully, they continue to do so. And may they roll the teams that they are supposed to, like the Nationals.
Gives you the oppurtunity to notice so many other things.