Because I went to college in Braves territory, I hadn’t watched a Phillies playoff game in the company of other Phillies fans since I was six years old–in short, since I was too young to realize the gravity of what Joe Carter had done–until Game 3 of this year’s NLDS.
I didn’t even get to watch the first two games of this year’s playoffs at all. The first I had to follow online because I was in class, and Game 2 I listened to on the radio as I drove to see the GF in Ohio. Mercifully I lost the signal about an hour outside of Baltimore in the bottom of the 7th. I have to pretend that there are things in life I care more about than baseball. There really aren’t, but we all have to keep up appearances, right?
But when Game 3 got snowed out, I altered my travel schedule, leaving Columbus at about 1:30 in the afternoon, hoping to reach the signal radius of 1210 for the first pitch. Well, I did one better. Thanks to following a one pit stop strategy (With an extra bathroom stop halfway between Baltimore and the Delaware border), I covered about 550 miles in 8 hours and 4 minutes, making it back to the bar with time to spare.
So a group of about 5 or 6 of us watched every nail-sawing moment of Game 3, and when it ended around 2 a.m., the bartender just started giving us free drinks. I had to get up for work at 7 the next morning, and I had spent all day alone in the car, but what the hell, right?
I went to sleep at 4:15 in the morning, woke up 3 hours later, managed actually to spend a productive 9 hours at work the next day, and went straight back for Game 4. I was so tired it didn’t occur to me that wearing a purple shirt would be a bad idea.
Which was even worse. This was the Kingda Ka of emotional roller coasters. Sort of like watching the last 20 minutes of The Departed if you cared about Bostonians shooting each other up.
So when the Phillies lost the lead, I was upset, but when they came back to tie on Howard’s double, I leapt into the air, screamed, and hugged everyone in sight. Then, with the game tied, 4-4 in the top of the 9th, I sat down, felt a twinge in my stomach, and didn’t move or say a word for the rest of the game. I was spent. Just four games into the playoffs and I had nothing left to offer.
Until now, the only team that ever got me really worked up was the Eagles, which is strange, because after the Andy Reid era and four years of being proven that college football is better entertainment than pro football, I don’t really care a whole lot about the Eagles anymore. But they still have a unique ability to maniuplate my emotions.
Even so, when they do this (like clockwork, every December and January), I have a week between games to recover from the battle of rising and falling expectations. Not so with this Phillies team. Last year, it was a cakewalk. We really only had about 2 or 3 nail biters the entire postseason last year. This year, we started with a comfortable win, then every single other game has been in doubt until the final pitch. We go through a traumatic period of stress every night, get home late, sleep 5 hours, go to work, and then do it all again the next day.
At least Paul has been smart enough to watch these games at home, for the most part. All three of the playoff games I’ve seen this year have been at bars, where, unlike Paul, I have to suffer the indignity of the public watching me squeal like a girl at every semi-deep fly ball, causing a record-scratch moment by yelling four of Carlin’s seven dirty words at random points in the game, or hugging complete strangers as Choochtober continues. No one’s been this twitchy in a baseball-related setting since Jim Eisenreich. (what, too soon?)
I posited a question to the friends I was watching last night’s game with: does this Phillies team pose more of a heart attack risk than smoking? I say it does. I say if you (“you” being a relatively healthy young man) sat down this afternoon, and between the hours of 4 and 8 smoked a pack of Marlboro Reds, ate a bowl of fettucine Alfredo, and watched this Phillies team, you’d keel over dead right then and there. I’m having chest pains just imagining it. No, seriously, I am.
But I’ll go back night after night, continue to neglect my homework, my family, and sleep, and indulge this coke habit of a baseball team. And by November, I’ll have consumed an Olympic-sized swimming pool of Yuengling and frayed whatever neurons are still firing, but, God willing, it will be worth it.
Before we go, a few quick-hitting thoughts:
- Did anyone else flash back to 2001 Rick Ankiel when Kershaw threw those 3 wild pitches in the 5th? I did. I really hope that doesn’t happen to Kershaw; he’s my favorite young pitcher to come up since Brandon Webb, with that big yakker of his.
- Chan Ho Park is doing everything he can not to pull a Marian Hossa (ooh, I just dropped some hockey knowledge…sheeeeeeeit)
- The clubhouse leader for the “His Father is the District Attorney!” Memorial Award for commercial oversaturation during a sporting event is: Lopez Tonight! Past winners include Skin (the inaugural winner, 2003 playoffs), House (2004 playoffs), Frank TV (2007 playoffs), and My Own Worst Enemy (2008 Summer Olympics). It’s interesting to note that the only show to win this award and go on to be worth a crap (House) and that Olivia Wilde, for some reason, keeps showing up in these shows. Which is fine by me. I’m just saying.
- Carlos Ruiz’s postseason excellence reminds me of a story I heard once about Shawn McEachern. In 1993, I think, when he was playing for the Kings, McEachern took a nasty open-ice hit and got knocked out. A teammate skated back to the bench to let the coach know that McEachern couldn’t remember his name, a sure sign that he had a concussion. The coach, nonplussed, responded, “Good. Tell him he’s Wayne Gretzky.” Do you think that every September 30, Charlie Manuel and Chase Utley hit Chooch in the head with a bat and tell him he’s Mickey Mantle when he wakes up?
- I think that for Randy Wolf’s start in Philly next week, we ought to give him a good old-fashioned Wolf Pack strikeout call. I know he’s the enemy, but he always seemed like a nice guy and he was a very good pitcher in Philly. He deserves a warm welcome.
- I blame Cole Hamels’ postseason travails on that wet blanket of a wife of his. Get some advice from Brett Myers, Cole, while he’s still around.
- I saw that double off Bastardo coming a mile away. A couple pitches before, Ethier fouled one off and tossed his bat in frustration. You could tell he was keyed-up against Bastardo. He’s also dropped a .529/.579/1.176 through the playoffs thus far.
- I like the Phillies in Game 2, because I don’t care how long it’s been since Pedro pitched, and how many shutout innings Vicente Padilla threw last week. Call me naive, but I just refuse to believe that a world could exist where Vicente Padilla could be favored against Pedro Martinez, particularly when they pitch for relatively evenly-matched teams.
So sit back and try to relax.