Tag Archives: Philadelphia

The Pressure is on the Phillies in Game Five

A few months ago I posted about the “Beauty of a Game Seven.”  Most underdogs can either steal or over-achieve in two games which improve the quality of a seven-game series because it allows the best team to win. But, game fives don’t have the same magic.  The lesser of the teams CAN win a series because the margin of error is so small.  A team only needs three wins to advance to the next round instead of four. On paper, the difference is only one more win, but there are still two teams.  A 2-2 series compared to a 3-3 series is TWO more games which, in the scope of baseball (only sport with five-game series), is at least 18 more innings, one less chance to use the team’s Ace on full rest, and creates a “hot-team” complex that can be argued doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t have the same grueling drama or bravado that a seven game series has.  Game five is game seven’s little, more annoying brother who just wants to know, “Why can’t I go to movies with you?!” Which big brother would reply, “Because you’re just not old enough, now SCRAM!”  Game five is the reason that the pressure is on the Phillies to win on Friday.

The St. Louis Cardinals have stolen two games from the Phillies.  Two blown leads by the “Phightins” have given hope to a more inadequate pitching staff and an above-average lineup that didn’t come alive until September.  They also have Tony La Russa, the all-knowing baseball prophet, who decided to pitch Jaime Garcia, his second-best starter, in game three because of his home record and La Russa had confidence that they would split the first two games. (The worst part, that idiot was right) Playoff stud Cliff Lee pitched like the opposite of Playoff stud Cliff Lee and surrendered a four run lead in game two that tied the series at 1-1.   Regardless, the pitching for the Phillies has been solid.  Albert Pujols, his generation’s best hitter who is batting .412 in the series, only has 1 RBI and has been getting misleading base hits.  The bases are usually empty or the outfielders for the Phillies are able to get the ball in fast enough to stop any base runners from advancing.  But, the Phillies problem is guys like Ryan Theriot and David Freese who are batting .600 and have five RBIs in the series, respectively.  

The contrary can be said about the Phillies’ bats who still are susceptible to a team-wide slump can’t win scoring 3 runs a game, even with that pitching staff.  Ryan Howard is continuing his trend of disappearing in the playoffs and is batting a dismal .133 with six of his 15 outs being strikeouts. The rest of the offense has stalled to averaging three runs a game after putting up 11 in game one.  In game four, Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino went a combined 0-12 in a loss that sent it to game five. The offense only needs to come alive a little bit because, unlike the Cardinals, Phillies have their Ace of the Aces, Roy Halladay, going in game five.  Halladay, who in a conference said “I’m here to bury Caesar not to praise him,” is the video-game player you’d want for an elimination game.  There’s not much more I can say on it that doesn’t require actually watching the Machine pitch.  He’s so fierce and so competitive and his focus is so strong it’s like he took three Adderall with a 24 oz. can of Red Bull. The man could pass a polygraph test his demeanor is so calm.  If I was to use a cliché I’d say that, “he doesn’t have blood in his veins, but ice.”  At an early 2-1 favorite, Halladay will be the reason the Phillies advance.

But because it is a game five and “anything” can happen, I thought of the two cause and effects that can potentially happen after Friday’s game.

Cause: Roy Halladay does his thing, shuts down the Cardinals offense, and gets the and win

Effect: The Phillies won’t get much hype for pulling off a game five win because that’s not how the media looks at favorites.  The Phillies were SUPPOSED to win this series and all they did was keep within the hype. But, because it wasn’t a sweep, the questions John Buccigross will ask Chris Singleton are along the lines of “The Phillies waited until game five to put a lesser team away, is there cause for concern in Philly?”  The baseball pundits won’t agree and say that the Cardinals were a hot team and “people forget how much talent St. Louis really has.”  It’ll be followed by Halladay being recognized again as arguably the game’s most dominant pitcher with the Phillies players saying that they’re looking at it as just another win and are looking forward to the next series. 

The fans of Philly will be calm, but with shades of doubt.  The Brewers-Diamondbacks series has been display after display of offense as each team is averaging more than five runs a game.  They’ll set pitching matchups, seeing when Zack Greinke will pitch against Halladay or Lee. They’ll call Mike Missanelli nervously asking, “With how good the bats from the Milwaukee/Arizona are looking and our offense doesn’t look like it can compete?” To which Mikey Miss will reply, “In the playoffs good pitching beats good hitting. I don’t see how anyone could doubt the Phillies with that pitching staff. They’re the best team in the National League.”

Cause: The Phillies offense stagnates and the Cardinals do just enough to win

Effect: Turmoil in the streets of South Philadelphia. The end of Philly as a city will commence.  Car pileups, fires, looting, riots, destruction of the streets, and chaos infect one of the oldest cities in America (yes, you can argue that this happened in 2008 when the Phillies win the World Series).  Mayor Nutter has taken refuge in city hall as the citizens of Philly demand for his head because no one can grasp what happened.  Signs littered throughout the city would read “Missing Person: Ruben Amaro Jr.”

Although the above was said tongue-and-cheek, it’s not that far from the truth.  ESPN will brutalize the Phillies as badly as the Eagles.  With Cliff Lee picking Philadelphia for less money and creating arguably the best starting rotation in the history of baseball, anything short of making the World Series is a bust.  The Phillies already used their “get-out-free” card with a loss in the 2010 NLCS to the inferior San Francisco Giants.  ESPN would blast headlines like “What a Mis-steak!” or “Four Aces Can’t Beat St. Louis’ Straight Flush” (those are actually pretty good) and the 2011 Phillies would be considered one of the most blown seasons ever; especially since they lost a team who needed 18 wins just to MAKE the playoffs. (Regardless if the Cardinals are considered the “hot team” there’s no such thing baseball.  Yes, they’re “hot” at the end of the regular season, but the playoffs are a different monster.)  Don’t be surprised if they do a timeline of all the signings the Phillies and Eagles made throughout the past year while the national sports fan begins to look at Philly as a Choke City.

I really hope for the former.

Why Sports are So Important

On Saturday night, I attended a wedding between two good friends of mine. It was a nice ceremony and I cut a rug for the majority of the time.  I ran into my friend Shawn and immediately said, “Yeah, I’m gonna miss the [Eagles] game Sunday because I have work all day.”  His response, “Dude me too.” Then both of our minds clicked and we said at the same time, “We should just record the game and watch it later.” We devised an entire plan. With a time window from 9-11 pm I would patiently wait for Shawn to walk into my house and tell me he’s done work.  We would then wait for our friend, Steve (who also had work), to call us so we could all watch the game. My phone and laptop would be off all day and I wouldn’t turn it on until the next day.  To help reinforce our plan I set up signs at work outside of my area that read in bold blue ink, “NO Talk About the Eagles Game” “I DVR-d It.”  I didn’t talk to my boy BC because we argue football every time we see each other and I couldn’t risk it. (He yelled to me that the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl and Tony Romo would win the MVP. I honestly was left speechless because it was so irrational my brain couldn’t grasp it, I had to sit down.)    I put my Ipod on shuffle and trudged through my nine hour shift.

When I left at 9:00 I came home and immediately yelled as quickly as I could, “Don’t tell me anything about the game. I know nothing, justleavemealoneanddon’ttellmeanything!” Shawn arrived around 9:30 and I said was to meet him in 10 minutes at his house.  The plan became such a mission that we didn’t watch the Phillies because they might reveal the score of the Eagles game which happened a few hours earlier.  I didn’t put on my Michael Vick jersey because we were getting food and I didn’t want someone saying, “So how about that game today?” To say we were paranoid, determined, anxious, and excited would all be appropriate and it made me think, “Is there anything else that evokes this much emotion?”

Look at it this way.  Does anyone record the State of the Union address or America’s Got Talent or American Idol or any other event with that much vigor and determination to have it viewed without any biased or prior knowledge?  I tried making a list or at least an idea on why sports are such an integral part of our lives and why we go to the ends of the Earth or to the brink of insanity to keep the purity of something that only last a few hours.

It is a representation of your region- If you think about it; it’s the least logical, but strongest reason for why sports are so important to us.  Does the fact that Milwaukee has a good baseball team make it a good city? No, I visited that city in August and it was fun, if you enjoy empty streets by 11 and empty bars that have drunken Brewers fans talking about how much better Yovani Gallardo is than Roy Halladay (it really was fun though).  But sports fans don’t take it that way.  If your team is bad, then you have a self-conscious perception of yourself that the entire world judges you as a part of that team. If the Phillies blow it against the St. Louis Cardinals then people nationally will call people from Philadelphia “choke artists” because sports are the microscope that American cities are looked through. It makes us invested in the game because if the team is the best, then the CITY is the best.  Do you know anything about people from Seattle? No, but you know that the Seahawks stink so why would visiting Seattle be on your list of “West Coast Cities I’d Like to Visit?” It’s the reason that BOSTON got its own issue of ESPN the Magazine; not just the Patriots or Celtics or Bruins or Red Sox.

It’s a loooooooong season- Every sports season has a range of about four months.  Exposure to something over four months a year eventually leads to a liking if not a respect for whatever the viewer is seeing. For example, I listened to “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” for about nine months every morning from 10-12. I hated Colin Cowherd. I couldn’t stand him.  From his stupid rant on John Wall (who he called J-Wow) to his whiny and high pitched voice I couldn’t understand why he had a radio show.  But hearing him every day I started to calm down and out of sheer saturation and exposure he started to grow on me.  I started to strive away from what I didn’t like and began to focus on what I DID like.  It took a long time, but I have respect for Cowherd and I don’t think he’s that bad.  He actually makes some good points and his analogies are creative and solid.  He’s educated and keen to what goes on around the world.  It’s the same with sports franchises.  The Phillies play from April-October which is more than enough time to “expose” a non-fan to the sport, to the players, to the front-office, and to the fans.  For example, the Four Aces being on the Phillies gave the team so much publicity that people now enter their own little “Four Aces Cliques” based off which one of the four they like they most.  The long season allows for the ability of gradual exposure making it simpler to ease into fandom instead of it being thrust down your throat. 

Winning is an addicting feeling- I grew up in a dismal time in Philadelphia sports. The Sixers stunk (except 2001), the Eagles stunk (up until 1999 when the Andy Reid era started), and the Phillies stunk (up until 2007). The Flyers were good but in the hierarchy of the Philadelphia sports market they’re fourth by a large margin.  Regardless, up until about 10 years ago, all Philly knew was losing.  All my generation knew was bad team after bad team after bad team.  But Philly’s new generation got its first taste of winning in 2001 when Allen Iverson led the Sixers to the Finals.  Dubbed the worst Finals team in NBA history, Iverson scored 30 of his game-high 48 in the first half and the Sixers stole game one from the Lakers. Although the Sixers lost the series 4-1 (it was the only game the Lakers lost in the playoffs that year), Philadelphia was hooked on a drug called Winning. And around the same time the Eagles became contenders with the Phillies following suit. Soon enough, Philadelphia was a winning sports town. 

But why is it so addicting? Because it’s so simple. In a world where nothing is clear-cut or simplistic, sports are.  You either win or you lose.  That’s it. There is no “well we lost out on our mutual fund, but our Sirius satellite stocks are doing well!” You either won 28-27, get to celebrate with a parade, or you lost 28-27 and you get to think about what could’ve been for the next six months.  Winning equates to accomplishment and succeeding at a task is a coveted emotion.

It’s our childhoods- Every kid grew up playing a sport. Whether it was baseball, basketball, football, hockey, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling, or track and field, we all personally had a stake in a sport.  The knowledge of the game and thrill of the competition stays with us for our entire lives.   Turn on sports talk radio and listen to how many callers say, “I used to play college baseball” or “I’ve coached football for years.” It represents the best times of our childhoods. It represents a time of purity when all you had to look forward to on Fridays and Saturdays was your next football or baseball game.   They were games that could be played with minimum resources.  All that’s needed to play basketball is a ball and a net, football needs a ball, baseball needs a bat, a ball, and a glove. All of which could be found for more than affordable prices. Today, kids spend the majority of their time playing video games which cost 300$ for the system alone. And unless they create some professional video game league, they’ll miss out on an important aspect of being kids; and that’s going outside and playing.

It’s about companionship- Some of the longest stints of my social life come during a sporting event.  I’ll go the bar during playoff basketball or a UFC title fight more often than I do just to get some drinks.  It’s a guaranteed conversation topic and it allows for people to gather for a single reason.  Without sports the bar would be a metaphorical wasteland of socialite drifters trying to find common ground with other socialite drifters that they’ve never met nor are they likely to ever see again.  With sports it creates an identity and sense of being a part of something.  Regular people now become fans and now have a common ground to start conversations.  “Hey my name is John,” becomes “So what do the Phillies do in the bottom of the inning here? Do you keep Halladay in?” I’ll be at a bar sitting next to a stranger.  Now on a regular night I wouldn’t really say anything to the stranger because there’s nothing to say.  But if I look up at the screen and Vick throws a dart to Desean Jackson I can look at him and say, “Did you ever think Michael Vick would be able to throw a pass like that?” And then take off from there.  It’s the reason that at parties, when all the guys meet in the corner, they don’t talk about the drapes that they just bought, but did Halladay pick up his 20th win or did the Eagles beat the Cowboys.  Regardless if the person is wearing a rival team’s jersey, a little hazing and heated conversation makes for a time that you can’t achieve if you’re talking about Democrats and Republicans.

After we got food and arrived at Shawn’s house it was 11:00.  I thought to myself, “I’m about 15 minutes away from seeing this game.”  At the same time, Shawn’s little brother, Mikey, walked past us.  Shawn and I both got out and yelled, “Don’t say anything, DON’T SAY ANYTHING!”  He said, “Dude…the Eagles are terrible.” My world crashed. He later told us that he thought we didn’t want to talk about it because they lost to the 49ers.  It was eleven hours and a great amount of energy for nothing.  I turned on my phone and saw that the Eagles blew a 20-3 lead and lost 24-23.

Coming Next Week

  This was a busy week, I’d like to say thank you to Coach Black for making my interview and everything easy.  I also would like to thank everyone who viewed my web log this past week, I haven’t had greater volume since I started.  Thank you to everyone who commented me on my “How Sports Made a Friendship Beautiful” column and I appreciate everyon who said they enjoyed it.  However, next week it will be back to business. I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this and I expect everything from me to be better and more enjoyable.

Expect a full analysis of what I felt about the Philadelphia Phillies opening day for the new baseball season and a new edition of “Shoutouts.”

Have a good weekend.

New York on Philadelphia

 Doug Gausepohl (pronounced Gospel) comes from North Jersey, about 45 miles outside of New York City from a town call Byram.  He’s 21 years old and a journalism student at Rowan University.  Since his major sports city is New York, I asked him what it’s like for the people during game day and how they feel about Philadelphia.
  

Most New Yorkers are Mets, Jets, Nets or Yankess, Knicks, Giants.  Which one do you fall under? Neither! I’m actually Mets, Jets, and Knicks. I could never really get interested in the Nets when I was younger, and my brother was a Knicks fan, which helped convince me to become a Knicks fan.
Describe New York on game day. Depends on the stadium. For example, parking at Citi Field for Mets games is one gigantic parking lot, so there’s a lot of tailgating. Yankee Stadium has a lot of parking garages, so that cuts down on the tailgates. Depending on the game, the pre-game analysis is always a huge talking point in New York. I remember hearing talk about the Eagles-Giants game (where DeSean Jackson ran the ball back for a touchdown as time expired) two weeks before the day of the game.
Who is your favorite athlete? Baseball- Jeff Francoeur and Nate Robinson. I know it sounds crazy, but they both played for my teams at one point, and I loved their character. I think having guys like that on your team are extremely important, no matter what their numbers may be.
You’ve been in southern New Jersey for a few months now, what was it like the first time you talked sports with a Philadelphia fan? It’s interesting, because every time I’ve talked to a Philadelphia fan in New York, it’s usually been at a game where they’re going insane. Talking to a Philadelphia sports fan in class or around campus is pretty normal, because everyone likes to talk sports. I was actually pleasantly surprised about how easy-going about it everyone’s been, considering my past experiences with Philadelphia fans at the stadiums.
It’s widely known Philadelphians hate New York, myself included, why do you think that is? I was never really sure, until I was watching a documentary on the rivalry between the Mets and the Phillies, when some writer brought up a really good point, which is that Philadelphia has always had to look up to New York. New York is the sports mecca of the East Coast, and I think that makes Philadelphia a little jealous. Philadelphia’s a great city, but they’ve always played second fiddle to New York. I think the fans of Philadelphia want to show everyone that they’re just as passionate about sports as New York fans are, and to be honest I think over the past four years or so, they’ve been more supportive of their teams as a whole than New York has.

 What is the perception of Philadelphia in the eyes of New Yorkers? Classless drunks. Sorry, but it’s true. I’ve heard horror stories about Giants fans going to Eagles games and getting jumped the minute they walk in the stadium. I’ve heard about Devils fans getting beer poured on them by Flyers fans for just wearing a Devils jersey. Sports are very important, but they aren’t a matter of life and death. It’s pretty much common ground among New York fans that if you go to a Philadelphia stadium, you: 1. Travel in numbers. 2. Don’t bring your girlfriend. 3. Bring a trustworthy Philadelphia fan with you that will have your back if anyone tries to start sh** with you. (It’s depressing to read that.  It’s amazing what the tiniest minority does to the majority.)
How much of that do you believe is true? I’m not sure. I’ve been to a couple of games at Citizens Bank Park wearing my Mets gear, and no one has said anything to me. Most of the horror stories I’ve heard have been from Eagles games and Flyers games. So from personal experience, I can say that Phillies fans have been fair. Judging that most of the fights at sporting events happen at hockey and football games, I’d believe most of what I hear happens at these other games.

 What would you say separates New York from the rest of the country? The passion and the history. They’re the only city to have at least two teams for each sport. They’re the first city to have a 24-hour sports radio channel. Countless sports channels like YES, SNY, MSG, etc. Dynasty teams like the 90’s Yankees and the 80’s Islanders. There’s no city like it in the country when it comes to sports.
Anyone you want to say hi to? Shane Victorino. I hate you

Melo and Deron Williams Finish Power Shift, Thanks to…LeBron?

I thought about the NBA’s current situation and came up with this, LeBron James is responsible for the NBA power shift from the Western Conference to the Eastern.  Before you criticize, think about it.  Who were the most active teams during LeBron James’s free agency? (Before he took “his talents to South Beach.” You know what he should’ve done was make an hour program preceding his choice of who he’d like to play for and donate all the proceeds to the “Boys and Girls Club of America”…wait.) They were the Knicks, Nets, Heat, and (because I have to mention them) the Cavaliers.  They each spent years basically throwing seasons and trading away contracts in order to prepare for the ultimate 2010 free agency goal: LeBron James.  Well, only the Heat got him and while the Cavs burned his jersey (Note: Cleveland can burn jerseys and cause mayhem without consequences but if Philadelphia did it, then Skip Bayless would be calling us rude and crude), the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets went to their fall back plans.  Enter Carmelo Anthony (who was plan C behind Amar’e Stoudemire) and Deron Williams (to the Nets, who wasn’t plan A or B, but is a very good plan C)

First, I want to introduce you to Bryant Collins (BC).  To paint a picture of him, think of a Mos Def look-alike, with the vernacular of T.I.  Starting off every sentence with “Let me tell you something about (insert player/team name)…” he has no problem expressing his opinion in a series of big rants and I love it. BC is probably the biggest basketball fan I know so  when I told him the news about Carmelo Anthony getting traded to the New York Knicks (which dooms the 76ers for a most likely 7th seed and a first round playoff matchup against the Miami Heat) his first response was “Whaaaaaaaaat, Chazz you serious?”  He left for a few minutes, getting briefed on the trade and came back with a good argument. Continue reading

Canceled NFL Union Meeting is Not a Good Sign

We’ve all been thinking it.  What if there is no NFL season in 2011-12?  How will Sundays be spent?   How will this impact the markets where professional football dominates?    Will we have to resort to Fantasy “College” Football where all you need to do is draft players from the SEC?  What the hell does a lockout even mean?  (And my honorable mention, how dumb is Andrew Luck still?)

Unfortunately, the owners haven’t been thinking about those (except Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers who has the worst…Luck, corny I know).  Their only question, How can I make more money? It’s so stern that they walked out of a Union meeting yesterday and canceled a hearing today after hearing a 50-50 split proposal in all revenue by the players’ association (NFLPA) for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).   The amount alotted to the players by the owners is called total revenue. Under the current CBA reports say that the total revenue is a 9 billion dollar gross that automatically subtracts 1 billion for owners (estimated).  The players then get 60% of that while the owners get the remaining 40%.  To break it down (these are estimates): Continue reading

Blunt Sports Trauma – The Introduction

As with everyone who starts one of these, I say this one has a chance to be big.  I’m from Southern New Jersey (South Jersey from here on out) about six miles outside of Philadelphia.  Yeah, the same Philadelphia where we throw snowballs at Santa (because I haven’t heard that 1000 times already) and where we hit minors who run on the field with tasers. It’s also the same city who has sold out 136 straight Phillies games and finished 3rd in NFL attendance.

Now this web log (I don’t like blog) is going to involve a wide spectrum and how it relates to Philly.  Think of it in terms of what Bill Simmons does, national stories with a Boston bias. That’s what I’m going for.  A focus on sports and how it affects fans from a certain part of the country. So why not the unanimous worst city in sports? Expect stories that range from the Divison race in the AL East to the Philadelphia Eagles hiring an Offensive line coach as their defensive coordinator.

by the way,

I’m Chazz Scogna