Tag Archives: Cole Hamels

The Pundit feels empty inside – Finding ways to replace the high of the Phillies

I used to love the summer breaks from college, especially before I moved into Philadelphia on a permanent basis. You get like 4 friggin’ months off, for God’s sake. And it always offers the possibility of one of the truly great scenarios in life: the Summer Fling.

You normally know your Summer Fling from high school, and the two of you always kind of had chemistry, but for whatever reason, nothing ever came to fruition. During this particular summer, however, the pieces fell into place, and you’re each on the same page. A couple of months, no long-term commitment, and a whole lot of fun.  Once you go back to school, all bets are off, because, honestly, who wants to start a serious relationship and then move hours apart from the person after a few months? It makes no sense.

The Summer Fling is right up there with Friends With Benefits, though that almost always becomes Friends With Relationship, which can dangerously stray into Ex-Friends With Hang-Ups.  The Summer Fling, if done correctly, offers all of the comforts and pleasures of a relationship, without any of that unwanted commitment.

Unless, of course, you get hooked.

Unless you realize that your Summer Fling is a friggin’ awesome person, and even though you weren’t ever planning on any form of committment with the person, and you were looking forward to going back and casting your line into the College pool of honeys, you are suddenly totally crazy for this person. Shoot, you even start to do the “God, I don’t want the summer to end because I won’t see so-and-so any longer.” Which makes you think that maybe you could deal with a long-term relationship, which makes you realize that you are going to be waaaaaaayyyyyyy off your game back at school. Not a good position to be in…not at all.

So, uh, Mr. Pundit, what in God’s name does this have to do with sports?

Right. See, this is how I am feeling right now, except my Summer Fling was with the Phillies, and all of the other sports teams suddenly aren’t cutting it anymore. I’m not really excited to see them, or get to know them, which is odd, because the Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers are all potential playoff teams, and Penn State has a very good chance of playing for the National Championship. I’ve known the Phillies for years, but something fell into place this year, and now, I just can’t imagine being committed to another team like I was with them. Normally, I would have my Summer Fling with the Phils, Eagles training camp would open, Penn State would get rolling, and I’d be playing the field once more. But this year, those damn, sexy Phillies sunk their teeth right into me and I can’t shake this fever. (Editor’s note: Ok, that just got weird and pretty disturbing on a number of levels).

They ruined me.

Alright, alright, so that’s a bit dramatic. (Editor’s note: A bit? That’s like saying Oprah was a bit excited after Barack Obama got elected, or that the white dude she was leaning on during his entire speech was a bit curious as to how he became a piece of human furniture for the Daytime Diva). But, for the past week, all I have wanted to do was to watch some baseball, and I have been far more interested this week in listening to trade talks for next season than getting hyped for an absolutely gigantic game against the Giants on Sunday.

The Phillies high was just so damn good, and I’ve crashed back to earth. Without that high, I’ve become disinterested, fairly unmotivated, and, if you haven’t picked up on it already, ridiculously bleak. Now, an Eagles win this Sunday night would go wonders to getting me back to my old self. Still, I’m not taking any chances. Below I’ve listed several ways I am going to attempt to rediscover my Phillies high, ways to get that loving feeling back.

1. Actively watch the games. Don’t just sit in front of your tube and watch – get out and do something while you are watching. Tailgate. Go to a bar with a bunch of your friends. Actually get tickets for Flyers and Sixers game. Start looking up hotel prices for Miami, like my buddy Jacobs has been doing, just in case Penn State gets a bid to the Big Game. Don’t be a passive viewer, people – make it an experience.

2. Play some damn sports your damn self. This weekend, I am organizing a big kickball game with some of my friends. Physical activity clears my head, and excercising always helps reduce hangovers and lessens the effects of withdrawl.

3. Change up your routine. If you normally listen to WIP, listen to ESPN Radio. If you normally read the Inquirer’s sports section, check out the Daily News. If you always went to Beerleaguer, go over to the 700 Level or any of the other quality Philly Blogs out there. (Editor’s note: And obviously, always come to The Pattison Pundit. Seriously. He needs the readership). Mindless routine is the fertilizer of depression – change it up, man!

4. Take chances. Make a big fantasy football trade. Buy a Sixers or Flyers ticket package without first referencing your bank account. That’ll keep you on your toes. Bet a tad too much money on the Eagles. Every week. That’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. See if you can watch an entire episode of Daily News Live without falling asleep. Actually, do anything but that. Anything at all.

5. Give yourself some time to be okay again. Hey, listen – you’ll have days when you just miss the Phillies. You’ll just wonder how they are doing, you know? You’ll just want to see a Chase Utley swing again, or another Brad Lidge slider, or Cole Hamel’s hair whipping in an October breeze. (Editor’s note: Dude, you’re freakin’ me out, Pundit.) And yeah, you’re going to miss those crazy nights at the bar with your friends, watching the Phils make history. You’ll miss the camraderie you had with total strangers, and the chants that encapsulated every fucking inch of the bar. Hey, I know how hard it is – I had to go outside and smoke a cigarette in the middle of this post, because the flashbacks were getting pretty intense.

But you’re going to be okay.

It’s going to get easier. You’ll get that life-or-death feel back every time the Eagles are in a close game. You’ll start watching all of the other top contenders in College Football, to see if Penn State can get to that National Championship game. You’ll get into the ebb and flow of the basketball and hockey seasons. March Madness will blow your mind, like it does every year. And before you know it, Spring Training will be here once again. Baseballs will whip around the diamond once more. Charlie Manuel will resume his waddle to the mound.

Ah, the Summer Fling. You know you shouldn’t, but you’ll always go back – there’s just never enough of a good thing, is there?

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To win, you gotta have chin

On Saturday night, I met up with Jacobs and Hoffman, two contributors to the site, at Fox and Hound to catch the Penn State game. I was fairly surprised by what I saw when I arrived – Penn State was trailing Michigan 17-7 at the 12 minute mark of the second quarter.

“What the hell is going on here?” I asked.

Jacobs didn’t hesitate to answer my question. “Fucking Michigan is running up and down on us. Let’s get the hell out of here, go to a different bar. I can’t stand all of these damn Michigan fans. Look at all of them over there! Where do they come from?”

Sure enough, an entire section of the bar was entirely decked in blue and maize. Disgusting. Apparently, they had been hooting and hollering for the entire game; in fact, one delightfully obnoxious bar patron had even brought his cowbell, and was whacking that thing unmercifully every time Michigan did anything positive. (Editor’s note: Yeah, I’m just gonna stay away from that one). It was too much for Jacobs, a diehard State fan and a rather passionate dude. But I wasn’t about to be phased by some stupid cowbell.

“Dude, trust me – when Penn State comes back and wins this game, it will be awesome to watch all of these Michigan fans leave the bar dejected and distraught,” I said. “You’ll see – when Appalachian State beat Michigan last year, I was at this bar. Watching all of the Michigan fans sadly stream out of here, dreams broken, while all the fans of other teams heckled them, was truly priceless. As annoying as it now, it will be sooooo worth it later.”

Now, I know how harsh, and unbelievably cruel, that sounds. But there was a deeper point I was trying to make – a real winner always has to take the best punch his/her opponent can throw, get back up, and punch back harder. To win, you gotta have chin.

Chin has been all over the MLB playoffs. In game one, the Dodgers jumped on Cole Hamels early, scoring two runs and quieting the uproarious Philadelphia crowd. But the Phillies calmed down, shook out the cobwebs from the Dodger haymaker, and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell each hit home runs to seal the Philly win. Game 4 was another example – for most of the game, no matter what the Phils did, the Dodgers had an answer. They led 5-3, and you could sense that series momentum was shifting in their favor. But the Phillies weren’t done fighting yet, and when Shane Victorino tied the game with his rope to right, the Dodgers started to sway. And then Matt Stairs hit them with a left that they never saw coming, and they dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. No matter how much, or how hard the Dodgers swung, they couldn’t knock the Phils down, and they certainly couldn’t handle the counter punch. It was of little surprise that the Phillies sealed the deal in game 5 – the Dodgers were sporting a glass jaw.

To win, you gotta have chin.

The ALCS was a dissertation on chin. The Rays had the Red Sox down for the count, leading them 7-0 in the seventh inning in game 5, with a 3-1 series lead, after pasting them in the two games before. Honestly, the Red Sox looked unconcious before they hit the mat. And yet, somehow, someway, the came back to win that game. Uh-oh. And when they won game 6, you couldn’t help but wonder if the Red Sox had absorbed the very best punch that the Rays had (and, truthfully, it was one hell of a punch), and were going to win this series. And yet, the Rays had one last trick up their sleeve (Matt Garza), and were able to take a few crushing blows of their own, pulling out the game 7 win. That the Rays were able to regroup after seemingly losing all of the momentum in the series that they had signed, sealed and delivered, they showed me something. Resiliance. Fight. Chin.

To win, you gotta have chin.

It’s the reason that Rocky is Philly’s favorite sports hero: the man never gave up. He never stayed down. He not only took your best shot, he wanted it. He wanted you to give him all you had, and then he wanted to give you just a bit more. He wasn’t the most talented or hyped fighter, but he could take anything you had in your arsenal, and fight on. Rocky wasn’t real, but the spirit and essence of his character most certainly is, and its what the Phillies are going to have to rely on against a dangerous Rays team.

To win, you gotta have chin.

Oh, I almost forgot: Penn State ended up beating Michigan, 46-17. Since my arrival at the bar, Penn State scored 39 unanswered points. Apparently, your Pundit is good luck. (Editor’s note: Doesn’t change the fact that he never gets lucky – ZING!). After every touchdown, following the traditional “WE ARE – PENN STATE!” chant, a chorus of us would ask one other question.

“CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME MORE COWBELL?”

Nobody on the Michigan side ever answered our pleas. They knew they were defeated. They knew that to win, you gotta have chin.

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A Game Four For the Ages

There isn’t much I can say to really do last night justice: it was tormenting, it was exhilarating, it was exhausting, and it most certainly was awesome. Here are some of my notes from the game that certainly will always be remembered by Phillies’ fans:

– Manny Ramirez is absolutely unbelievable. Seriously, the best postseason hitter I have ever seen. Big Papi’s curse-crushing performance was superb, but Manny is better. You can’t pitch to him. It’s ridiculous.

– While neither bullpen was very good, the boys in the pen for the Phils did just enough to close this one out. I have to be honest, I didn’t agree with using Lidge for the four-out save, though it worked. I was worried that he was going to give up a hit against Manny (which he did), and possibly either get shaken or throw a lot of pitches in the eighth and have a less effective arm in the ninth. Plus, I think there is something about coming out for the ninth inning that is lost when you go into the dugout after the eighth – you come running out, adrenaline pumping, knowing you’ve got three to go and the game is over. Sitting in the dugout, you’re hanging around, you’ve already thrown a bit, the adrenaline decreases. But what do I know? Lidge did his job, and we all leave happy. Charlie Manuel, the visionary.

– How perfect was it that Shane Victorino tied the game? “Sugar Shane,” “The Flying Hawaiian,” “Hit Me In The Ribs Victorino” had to be the one guy that LA fans absolutely didn’t want to see do something positive; his rope into the bullpen must have broken their hearts.

– Matt Stairs, that home run was one of the most majestic, beautiful, wonderful, surreal home runs I have ever witnessed. Take away the context of the shot, and it was still the perfect swing. As soon as his bat struck the ball, I swear a bolt of electricity shot through the city of Philadelphia, because I was on my feet well before the camera showed the ball landing squarely in the shattered hopes and dreams of Dodgers fan everywhere. We were going absolutely nuts at the Pundit Palace. Matt Stairs has hit a fair share of home runs in the fair share of years he has played this game, but I promise you, he has never hit a home run like that. A spectacular moment.

– This team is just special. You simply can’t quit on them – every time I’ve been a bit down on them this year, or I felt momentum slipping from their grasp, they do something that leaves me speechless. They just know that they’re going to somehow pull it off. In Philly, I’ve been saying that there’s something in the air. Well, in LA, the only thing up in the air is the smog and probably the acting careers of half of the waiters and waitresses in the city, so the Phillies had to bring their own magic. And when Chase Utley made his diving double play, and when Shane roped a homer into right, and when Carlos Ruiz hit what seemed to be an innocent little single, and when Matt Stairs enthralled a city 3000 miles away with a swing that I’ve watched about 25 times today and will never forget, that magic made itself known.

– This is the game we have been waiting to see Cole Hamels pitch. He’s been filthy in his first two postseason starts – game five is his opportunity to not only firmly entrench himself as our stopper, but to establish himself as a big-game pitcher on the national scene. I’m confident he’ll deliver.

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From the Nosebleeds – The Philthy Phillies

As you may or may not know, From the Nosebleeds is a new feature to The Pundit, where anyone with the itch to write their take on the sports scene has their forum. Again, please feel free to email me with any material you may have. I will do some editing, and add my own take from time to time, but the floor will be yours.

By Hoffman

It’s been well documented over the years that in the city of Brotherly Love, “we” (Editor’s note: We really do lump ourselves together with the teams and a whole slew of people we don’t even know, as though “we” are connected through the force, or something along such mystical lines) have been without a world championship among the four major sports. For the time being we will forget about pseudo-championship won by the Philadelphia Soul, the arena football team. (Editor’s note: Who?). I tend to think they won not because of great coaching, solid players, and the execution of a good game plan, but rather raucous shouting of Ron “JAWS” Jaworski and the flowing locks of owner, Bon Jovi. I would like to make something extremely clear: I have a strong dislike for Bon Jovi, and I would appreciate if he would find another town to crap in. (Editor’s note: Clearly, Mr. Hoffman wants Bon Jovi out of this town – dead or alive!)

So, going back to my original thought, that being the lack of winning in Philadelphia, I believe that could very well change in the coming weeks. (Editor’s note: People, knock on any wood you have near you, immediately. If you jinx us Mr. Hoffman, I swear to all that is sacred, I’ll get you. Believe that!). After watching a rather lackluster performance by the Eagles this Sunday, I was warmed by thought of the Phillies hosting Game 1 of the NLCS. Oh, and by the way, I’ll be attending, ignoring the burning $200 hole in my pocket. (Editor’s note: You can’t put a price on love, people).

For about the past few seasons, the Phillies have been on the cusp of greatness, or at least a playoff berth, dragging true Philly fans along until the last day of the season. Last year they ended a 14-year playoff drought, ending the Atlanta Braves division dominance, all while the Mets stumbled to the finish line (HAHA!!!). I believe last year at this time the Phillies were just happy to make the playoffs. It was a huge hurdle to jump. Obviously, we know how last year ended. The Phillies got in the way of a locomotive, in the form of the Colorado Rockies. (Editor’s note: Ok, I don’t know if it was intended, but I instantly thought about those stupid Coors Light commercials, where the train rolls through the hot areas, making everybody cool, which, if the metaphor was intended, was precisely what the Rockies did to us last year). How torrid they were, winning 14 of 15, and 11 in a row to close the season. They then went on to sweep us in 3, the D-Backs in 4, only to get swept themselves in the Fall Classic against the Red Sox. (Editor’s note: They cooled off. The mountains turned blue. Mmmmmm…beer).

For the last couple years the Phillies have been picked to be very competitive within the very competitive NL East (Braves, Marlins, Nationals, The Mess. Wait, sorry, I meant the Mets). The Phillies can hit and have three legitimate MVP candidates in J-Roll, Utley, and Howard. Everyone knows we can hit, though they haven’t as consistently as I, the fans, and even they would like. Conversely, the pitching has always been thought of as average at best. A group of decent pitchers that give up a lot of hits is something I have become way too accustomed to. But as the Phillies seemingly displaced the wild card winning Brewers with some amount of ease, and the most overwhelming part of the four game series was the quality of the Phillies pitching. It was vital, and dare I say, borderline brilliant.

Cole Hamels has been given the title of staff “ace,” which is a term used much to often around the league these days. When I think of what makes an “ace”, I think of a pitcher who is around the Cy Young Award discussion from the beginning of Spring Training to the first pitch in the autumn air. To be completely honest, Cole isn’t quite there yet. He has all the qualities and attributes to have a great career in this league. Being just 24 years old, his future looks extremely bright. But for now lets leave the “ace” talk for those who truly deserve it, i.e. Brandon Webb. (Editor’s note: I tend to disagree here – I think if Cole Hamels had been given more run support, and thereby gotten more wins, his name would have surfaced more in the Cy Young discussion. He was second in the NL in innings pitched with 227.1, was sixth in ERA at 3.09, was sixth in strikeouts with 196, was fourth in strike out to walk ratio with 3.70 K’s per walk, and was fourth in hits per 9 innings with 7.64. He’s an ace). Cole in game 1 was absolutely stunning. It was an amazing performance, by a guy with seemingly sparse big game experience. That start will propel him throughout the playoffs and probably the next several seasons as he continues to mature.

Brett Myers looks like his old self, or rather a new, better self. Throughout his career in Philly, Brett has had all of the talent, passion, and fire to be great pitcher. But it always seemed like something was getting in the way. And then I figured it out. He couldn’t get out of his own way. His emotion seemed to get the best of him more often than not. His first half of the season, he looked very bad. He couldn’t spot his fastball or even throw it with any sort of velocity. His curveball, which made him a dominant closer in the 2007 season, was non-existent. After coming back from the minors (with the good ol’ Iron Pigs”), Myers has been fantastic, making pitches, throwing with authority and fight, and most importantly, keeping those volatile emotions in check. There have been a few battles between him and manager Charlie Manuel in the past several months regarding Charlie pulling Brett out of the game, but his heart is in the right place.

Game 2 with the Brewers was the pivotal game of the series. Myers was pitching against arguably the best pitcher in the second half of the season, if not the league. CC Sabathia has been pitching out of his mind, posting an 11-2 record with a 1.65 ERA, throwing seven complete games and three shutouts since joining the Brew Crew (show him the money!). But coming off of his fourth straight start on 3 days rest, he was noticeably fatigued. The Phillies bats took advantage of that fatigue, getting out to an early lead with Victorino’s grand salami. They were even able to score runs without help from the glove of Rickie Weeks or Mike Cameron (see Game 1 highlights, or lowlights for the Milwaukee More Taste League).

I’ll quickly touch upon Game 3, as it was a fairly disappointing game, one I missed some due to a little bit of camping. From what I heard and saw as far as highlights, it was not a pretty game. All I have to say is that we need Jamie Moyer (Souderton Graduate in 1981) for the playoffs. We really need him to do well. It would be great if he could throw three consecutive no-hitters, like he did in high school. I mean, seriously…that would be sweeeeeeet!

Joe Blanton has been a great addition to this pitching staff. (Editor’s note: Well, I don’t think I’d go that far). While his midseason numbers were less that spectacular, he did have some playoff experience, which he gained during this days in Oakland. If he can be the pitcher he is capable of being, the Phillies can go a long way this postseason.

I’ll be honest; the Dodgers kind of scare me. They are playing really well, as good as anyone in baseball. They have one of the best modern-day postseason pitchers in Derek Lowe, in my opinion the best hitter, especially in the postseason, and worst left fielder I have ever seen, in Manny Ramirez, and one of the best postseason managers of all-time, in Joe Torre. That is quite a scary combination, but one I am looking forward to face this Thursday. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’ll be at the game, and you probably won’t. (Editor’s note: Jerk). With everything I have mentioned above, I still just have a feeling about this group of players, a feeling that winning is not just a destination, but also a journey, a journey that will hopefully end dancing down Broad Street.

I hope to be a regular or irregular contributor to this publication. I can only hope my writing can quench the large thirst of the Pundit. (Editor’s note: To do that, you’ll probably need to bring over a case of beer next time you’re around, Mr. Hoffman).

Long Live the Pundit of Pattison! (Editor’s note: I swear to God, I didn’t add that myself. Seriously. All his doing).

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The Week in Review (9/15/08 – 9/21/08)

No-Show/s of the Week

So, he’s been the ace for the second-half of the season. That makes this harder. But Brett Myers, you can’t give up 10 runs in 4 innings of work against the Marlins. I know, the Marlins have been hot, and you were due to get hit hard one of these games, but this is a bit much. Everyone has off days, I am privy to that; but you can’t be this off, especially when every game is so valuable. The offense scored 8 runs, which should almost always be enough to win. Hopefully, Brett will take it for what it was – one bad start – and focus on the next one. I truly believe that, if Brett maintains his dominance, Cole Hamels keeps finding ways to win, and Jamie Moyer continues to be the ageless blessing he’s been all season, this team could legitimately make a run to the Series.

Stud/s of the Week

The entire Eagles defense and Jim Johnson. 9 sacks, a safety and 3 turnovers against the Steelers will get you Stud recognition every week. We’ll just ignore the fact that technically Monday night’s game against the Cowboys falls within the dates I listed in the title; they more than made up for it this week. The front four generated a rush on its own; Big Ben never knew where the blitz was coming from; Dawkins was soaring through the air and causing mayhem; Asante Samuel made a beautiful interception; Willie Parker had 20 rushing yards. 20! And they didn’t allow a touchdown. As dominating a performance, against a good team, as I have seen from this unit in a while. They were solid across the board, and will need to be again next week, as a game against the Bears, potentially without Brian Westbrook, will probably be another defensive struggle.

My All-Encompassing Thought of the Week

This isn’t about Philly, but bears mentioning – last night was the last game ever played at Yankee Stadium. Now, you may not like the Yankees; God knows I don’t. But it is still sad for me to think that a place that fielded the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, and yes, we’ll someday say Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, will no longer be hosting MLB games. Yankee Stadium is our Colosseum, though it wasn’t a place where warriors were beloved for defying death and committing acts of violence. (Editor’s note: That sounds more like a description of the Vet and its fans). No, Yankee Stadium was a place where perhaps otherwise ordinary men captured the imaginations of people everywhere while playing a child’s game. Where Babe Ruth, a man who looked more akin to the chubby guy on the corner playing cards than a great athlete, represented an American love of excess and just having a good time. For every home run, there was a beer, a woman, and a hot dog to go along with it. Yet the measure of his power, especially when compared to his peers, will likely never be duplicated. Babe Ruth often hit more homers in a season than some teams did, and did so without ever missing a good time. A deity amongst mere mortals. Contrast him to Lou Gehrig, who’s work ethic and consistency perfectly mirrored the blue-collar lifestyle of so many Americans. Fittingly, Gehrig was vastly underrated, and remains so, though I believe him to be one of the five greatest hitters ever. Than there was the tragic figure of Mickey Mantle, whose Herculean abilities were only stymied by his constant injuries and habits. Yet, if you ask anybody who ever saw him play to describe the experience, they will remember it with a certain degree of awe and reverence that is rarely reserved for athletes. Certainly, we all admire the athletic prowess of our favorite sports figures, but to hear someone talk of Mantle is to hear them describe something more than simply a ball player; he was Superman, a man lacking weakness on the diamond. And yet, he was also the protagonist in his own tale of Greek mythology, befallen by tragic flaws but an important reminder that even the most spectacular of us is simply human. Joltin’ Joe dated Marilyn Monroe and hit in 56 straight game; Yogi Berra was always a quip away from profundity.

The Yankees, and how they’re received outside of New York, are strangely representative of America itself. Many people don’t like them, but they win more than they lose, and many of the most important accomplishments in baseball history have come from their players. They’re the big spenders, the guys with money, the team that’s got it made. And yet, much as they are despised, they have traditionally set the bar for success in baseball. The best players in baseball want to play for them. Any true fan of a team from another city will tell you that they despise the Yankees; what they won’t mention is how much they respect them, at least their legacy. Farewell to Yankee Stadium; you may now take your place next to all of the greats you hosted, firmly entrenched in both baseball and American history, and perhaps more fittingly, forever etched in our imaginations.

My Painfully Specific Thought of the Week

It doesn’t bother me one bit that the Yankees will miss the playoffs this year.

Moment of the Week

Yesterday was awesome, and frightening, but mostly awesome. The Eagles D looked great, but seeing both Westbrook and McNabb leave the field with potential injuries was horrifying. The Phillies won, but Lidge sure made it more exciting than it needed to be. So, after three games, the Eagles look like, if they stay healthy, one of the NFC’s top teams, and the Phillies, with 6 games left and leads of 1 1/2 in the division and 3 over the Brewers for the wildcard, look as though they’re headed to the postseason (Editor’s note: Somebody knock on some frickin’ wood, for God’s sake!). I mean, the following things happened yesterday: Big Ben was hit so many times by Eagles defenders, he had to leave the game; we beat the pesky Marlins and don’t have to play them again until next year; the Mets’ bullpen blew another game. A beautiful Sunday, and though it most certainly is not always sunny in Philadelphia, it sure as hell is today.

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The Pundit is just living the life…of Reilly

So, during my nightly stroll about the Interweb, I came upon what seemed to be an interesting article from Rick Reilly: Which franchise rules your city? I know the answer. I was both intrigued by the idea of the article, and mildly taken by the raw confidence displayed by Mr. Reilly (Editor’s note: Yeah, that second part kind of weirded me out). Should you not be a Reilly fan, I’ll save you the trouble of reading the entire article and post his section on Philadelphia below.

PHILADELPHIA Used to be Eagles, now it’s Phillies. This is partly because of the Phils’ young stars and partly because the Iggles owner has handed it to them. Jeffrey Lurie is a Boston guy who’s made $800 million so far on his Eagles purchase but not many friends. You always get the feeling that his jet bound for his beloved Beantown is double-parked.

Okay, where to begin? First of all, this is absurd. This is very much an Eagles town. Think for just a second about the game and the environment on Sunday: how many people do you know who didn’t watch the game? People who I know aren’t into sports at all watch the Eagles. I can have a conversation with just about any guy on the street about players on the Birds, but change that to the Phillies, and the conversation probably ends. That, and think about how many of those ridiculously tacky pink Eagles jerseys you see on a Sunday.  It’s a strange phenomenon, especially because the Phillies really deserve our attention right now – they’re in the midst of a playoff push! Yet, the attention has shifted in Philly to the Eagles. On Monday over at The Sports Complex, James Beale was pondering why exactly this was the case, and seems to be every year.

But let’s get back to E$PN O’Reilly. He makes two points here supporting his claim: The Phillies have a lot of young stars, and Jeffrey Lurie is a Boston guy who’s made a bunch of money off of the Eagles but doesn’t really love us. Hmmmm. Let’s take a look at these more closely.

Oh, how we love our young stars. Nevermind that Ryan Howard was getting booed earlier in the year. Or the Frontrunning Rollins debacle. Yes, this team has some great young starts, namely Chase Utley, Howard and Cole Hamels. Burrell isn’t young, Rollins had one starstruck year, and though I love Shane Victorino, he alone isn’t selling any tickets. Hell, the best player this year for the team has been Brad Lidge, who has salvaged his career here after almost going batty at the expense of Albert Pujols’ bat. There are no guarantees that Howard and Hamels will even remain with the team in the future. Don’t get me wrong – I love these guys. But if I was going to claim that the Phillies were the franchise that ruled Philadelphia, I’d go a different route.

How about the tragic nature of the Phillies that keeps fans coming back year after year? Their almost innate ability to get soooo close to the playoffs or World Series and somehow lose it in the end. The fact that, despite being the franchise in professional sports with the most losses ever, we still come back to them, from one painful season to the next. The Phillies, and the culture of being a Phillies fan, has seemed to be passed down from generation to generation in a different way than the other teams. And not in some hokey, “lovable losers” bullshit excuse for fandom. We don’t glean some strange and backward sense of pride from the fact that the Phillies always break our hearts. It pisses us off. Sure, we take pride in being loyal, but we wish the experience was a whole lot less excruciating. This is a baseball town, and we do love our Phillies. Just not quite as much as we love our Eagles.

Is Jeffrey Lurie really the devil? Um, no. Do I care that he’s a Boston guy at heart? Not really. If that’s where he came from, I should hope he would retain some friggin’ loyalty – I respect that. As for him not making many friends, um…Why do I care? (Editor’s note: Ohmigosh, did you hear that Rick Reilly is calling Jeffrey Lurie unpopular? Scaaaaandulous!) Fact is, the man has paid for a winner more seasons since he took over in 1994 than not. We’ve seen players like Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, Duce Staley, and Jon Runyan come into town during his years. He put Andy Reid in charge, who has been the most successful coach in Eagles history. He pushed for the Link. All things considered, he’s been a pretty good owner. He just needs to get the big one, and his place in Philadelphia lure will be secure. (Editor’s note: My god, did he just avoid the potential play on words between lure and Lurie? Ladies and gentlemen, maybe The Pundit is finally growing up.)

No, there is a different reason why Philly is an Eagles’ town. Part of it is that football has become America’s game, and none of the other sports can really come close to making that claim. Football as a game is very similar to Philadelphia fans: it is passionate, intense, emotional, rough, gritty and demanding. Football is almost meant to be watched while drinking and getting rowdy. Not that Phillies games haven’t become frat parties of their own, because they certainly have. But that only seems to happen when the Phillies are doing well; an Eagles game is always a guaranteed tailgating fest, and a place to be very afraid if you’re wearing the wrong jersey. People can get together and watch the games on Sundays, the Birds becoming a part of every fans weekly routine; the Phillies play almost every night, and the season is long and takes a different level of engagement. Plus, football is naturally a more exciting game – it will always have an advantage over baseball in the “casual fan” demographic. Finally (and this one is my sleeper but a heavy hitter), the Eagles have better rivalries, and Philly fans loooooove hating other teams. What one rivalry do the Phillies have that consistently mirrors the intensity and hatred that the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys all regularly evoke? Perhaps the Mets in the past couple of years, but not traditionally.

I appreciate what you are trying to do Mr. Reilly, and I can’t hate on you for it. It’s an interesting conversation piece, and in that regard, well played. That being said, it would be a better article if you were actually correct. I’m sure other cities will make their arguments as well. Stick to the whole “human side of sports” bit, it suits you better.

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The Week in Review

No-show(s) of the Week

Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton, come on down! Let’s combine the stats Blanton and Kendrick offered up against the Nationals this week: 8 innings pitched, 14 hits, 10 runs allowed, 6 walks, 3 K’s. And guess what? The Phillies lost both games. To the Nationals. Not cool. The Phillies have been getting quality, quality starts from Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer. Hell, call Myers the Second-half Messiah, ‘cuz he resurrected, baby! (Editor’s note: Now hold your horses – that’s just sacrilegious). The Phillies can’t afford such a drop in performance from Kendrick and Blanton; I’m not asking them to suddenly channel Nolan Ryan, but 10 runs allowed in 8 combined innings is a surefire formula for failure 2 out of every 5 games. It puts an incredible amount of strain on the bullpen and a lot of pressure on the offense. You are, as they say, only as strong as your weakest link(s).

Stud of the Week

I don’t care if it was against the Rams, though it certainly helped: Donovan McNabb looked sharp. 21-33 for 361 yards and 3 TD’s. Yeah, that’s a damn good start. He made smart decisions, was accurate when he had guys open, and showed solid pocket presence. That, and he’s my starting fantasy quarterback. I don’t think I need to say much more than that, do I? Oh, and a quick shout-out to the Eagles receiving corps and L.J. Smith – a job well done, gentlemen. Doesn’t mean I’m retracting on my Anquan Boldin stance, because the Rams secondary was, um…well, were they even on the field? (Editor’s note: They were there in spirit, I think). But, a nice job turned in by all. Bring on the Cowbitches.

My All-encompassing Thought of the Week

God, its awesome to have football back. Does any sport cater to a gathering quite like football? Wings, veggies, dip, chips, some brews, a bunch of good people, and good ol’ Eagles football. It’s heaven, just pure bliss. Football has something for everyone, even the most casual fans. Big hits, graceful catches, ridiculous runs, bone-crunching hits. Yup, I love football. (Editor’s note: Understatement much?) I don’t think I’m going to have anything else to say about that, mostly because I’m recovering from a few too many cold ones and a bunch of greasy food. And that’s just the way I like it.

My Painfully Specific Thought of the Week

Yeah, Pat Burrell is AWOL. I didn’t want to No-show him again this week, especially because Kendrick and Blanton were far too detrimental to the Phillies against the Nationals, but the Fightins could really use his production right now. Burrell had an absolutely horrendous August: he hit .181 with an OPS of .618 and 29 K’s, the worst numbers he put up in those categories all year. To his credit, Burrell was huge early in the year, along with Chase Utley. But for the Phillies to really make their push, they’ll need Burrell to wake up. Charlie has been trying to compensate for his lack of production, mostly moving Jayson Werth all over the lineup. If Burrell starts hitting like he was early in the year, and the Phillies keep their bats hot, they’ll swing their way back into the postseason. They may do so anyway, but Burrell is a very important part of this lineup, especially hitting after Howard, When he’s swinging well, teams aren’t as likely to pitch around Ryan Howard. But if he can’t get it going again, Howard will see less pitches to drive, and the juggling lineup routine will continue.

Moment of the Week

The Red Bull Soapbox Race was an absolute blast. The fact that it was pouring all day actually made the event even more fun, in no small part because of the hordes of beautiful women walking around in wet t-shirts. It was a sloppy, wet, drunken mess of humanity (Editor’s note: Reminds me of all that was good about college) that booed when the racers didn’t crash at the end of the course and cheered when they did. The group I was with managed to find the perfect vantage point, perching on top of a small utility garage right behind the finish line. It was certainly better than standing ground level, where you were lucky to see past all of people crowding around the guard rail. That, and truly motivated drinkers requesting showers of beer made for a great downtime activity. While all of the above was classic, the highlight of the day had to be the Michael Jackson Car. The car itself was simple, with Michael Jackson hunched over on a small platform attached to the back of the soapbox. The car rocketed down the course, crossing the finish line without breaking. As the car neared the emergency hay bales, the crowd started hollering, hoping and praying that Michael Jackson was going to go balls-out in his game of chicken with the hay. We were not to be disappointed; the Jackson car rammed into the the bales head first at roughly 30 MPH, as the crowd exploded with excitement. That explosion, however, was not nearly as epic as the soapbox’s, which flipped both itself and its two inhabitants clear of the sizable stack of hay. It was a glorious collage of arms and legs and wheels and hay decorating the rain splotched sky. Michael Jackson probably got a good 8 feet of air as he somersaulted toward the pavement. It was horrifying and spectacular and utterly ballsy and one of the craziest things I have seen in a good while. (Editor’s note: Does anybody else get the impression that the Michael Jackson car was some sort of religious experience for The Pundit?) The entire day was a testament to human ingenuity, enthusiastic, drenched and drunken Philadelphians, and some good old-fashioned soapbox racing fun. Lucy and I termed it the Carcrash Downpour Derby. Thank you Red Bull for a truly fun day – we hope you will come back soon.

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Filed under Eagles, MLB, NFL, Phillies, The Week in Review