Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reality Check, Philly Style


Jinxed. Snake bitten. Star-crossed. Ill-fated. Hapless. Inauspicious. Unpropitious.

Doomed.

When’s it gonna happen? C’mon. You know what I’m talking about: The Collapse. The Fall. Black Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Friday. Take your pick. And don’t give me that claptrap about the easy schedule. Nothing is easy in Philly, or at least it seems that way. Go ask Mike Schmidt.

“I don't know if there's something in the air or something about their upbringing or they have too many hoagies, too much cream cheese, too much W. C. Fields. I don't know what it is. But they're always so pessimistic."

That’s what our Hall of Fame third baseman had to say during the team’s 1989 spring training. Just for the record, it was not a vintage season for which he was preparing. The team went 67-95 and finished in last place. He retired after 42 games. Some have opined he quit too soon; I have it on good authority Von Hayes made sexual advances on good ole Michael Jack after watching his trademark ass wiggle too closely. Whatever the reason, Schmidt could never put his finger on why Philadelphians are so skeptical on success. He still can’t.

You don’t know why? Let me offer a few reasons. I’m about as qualified as they come – I was born on Broad Street in the middle of the 1963 season and was issued an encoded birth certificate dictating the terms of my Phillies fandom. The strictures are severe.

For one, I was barely able to walk and do not remember the infamous 1964 Collapse – but every adult I grew up around did. So as I was becoming a sentient human, the utter disaster of ’64 was fresh on everyone’s minds and lips for years, a catastrophe endemic to a city where the times were changing. People were fleeing Philly fearing civil unrest, what with all those dope-smokin’ hippies in Center City and agitated Uptown black folk. And that would be the ruination of good neighborhoods like Kensington. Hell, even the Mafia in Bella Vista wasn’t the same anymore, and Pat’s was becoming a dump. Occasionally, everyone looked at their encoded birth certificate warning against false optimism, because after “Place of Birth” it said “Philadelphia.” The imprimatur followed them on their driver’s licenses and tax returns. It was everywhere. It’s the Mark of the Beast. Because of this, the glass, as it were, would always be half empty. Life sucked and so did the baseball team. You were from Philly -- be thankful for cheesesteaks and Schmidt’s at least and grow fat.

So, in my formative years, as I followed the exploits of the “Golden Era” team into the late 70s, everything looked peachy keen when they made it to the playoffs. But, as older fans were compelled to remind us younger ones, they’d find a way to blow it, and they did three years running in the post-season. As you can see, a pattern begins to emerge, and the weave and wove is the eternal Philadelphia. You were marked; the team was marked. With one exception.

When that Golden Era team won the only World Series in franchise history in 1980, those of us old enough to know better yet young enough to still hope knew instinctively the next time they’d pull something like that off people would be jetting around in flying cars. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right. It took a year to see the otherworldly conspiracy. The Carpenter family, all in all decent people who really wanted to win, sold the team to the current cabal of bluebloods on October 29, 1981 – the 52nd anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash that led to the Great Depression - and let PR huckster Bill Giles in on their booty to run the show.

Now the half-full glass was about to be emptied.

The carnie who brought you the death-defying Kite Man and Karl Wallenda (if would have been sooooooo Philadelphia if he fell from that high wire over the Vet) sold off the club’s entire future in monumentally moronic trades and other misbegotten adventures that, except for the 1993 fluke, has brought us to our current uncertain juncture. The same inbred fuckers pull the strings, and there is no reason to think that money they off-loaded in the Abreu trade will be spent anywhere but on the Main Line.

While the 2006 team is finishing with a fury and currently tied in the loss column in the wild card chase, don’t buy your playoff tickets just yet. Take a look at your birth certificate. It might be encoded with that hieroglyphic meme “Philadelphia” and you know that means success breeds disaster.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Bill said...

Great read, Lou.

I think Philly phandom is the second-leading cause of heart attacks right behind a nice line of cocaine, except the former is more addicting.

31/8/06 12:18 AM  
Anonymous ChuckM said...

The plain old cursed aspect can not be understated. In 2003, I attended both the Saturday and Sunday games of the late September series vs the lowly Reds. The Phillies had just come off taking 2 of 3 at home against the Fish, had won the first game of the Reds series and had pulled 1/2 game over the Fish. Florida were playing their daddies Atlanta and the Phillies looked like they had monemtum on their side. Well, that momentum came to a screeching halt as they dropped both games to the Reds. In each of those games, the Phillies were smacking the ball hard all game long but always right at a Red fielder. Meanwhile, the Reds hacked runs off of barely touched bloopers and dribblers that barely got out of the infield. It was just frustrating watching this from the stands. The Reds ended up winning both games by 1-2 run margins and instead of the Phillies going down to Miami with a half game lead and momentum, they came in a half game out and on their heels. I dont have to detail the rest of the story.

31/8/06 12:37 PM  
Blogger Tacony Lou said...

chuck,

See. You might want to stay away from the ballpark in September. You shift their luckplane the wrong way. Read your birth certificate.

31/8/06 3:41 PM  
Anonymous ChuckM said...

Lou, Indeed, I was born at the old Womens Hospital @ 42nd and Poplar and my parents lived in Overbrook at time so my certificate does say PHILADELPHIA...I remember meeting a person who was at Black Friday 1977 who was old enough to remember 1964 and he said Black Friday was like 1964 condensed into one inning and that everybody who left that game knew that the Phillies were going to lose the next game, even with Lefty starting. Hey, it could be worse, we could be Cubs fans.

31/8/06 3:56 PM  
Anonymous ChuckM said...

Talk about reality checks. Just a miserable loss last night. Crappy baserunning (Dellucci), crappy fielding (Howards backhander in the 10th was inexcusable), poor bullpen work and most of all poor gametime managing. When a team is handing you a win, you WIN and thats that. I have a hunch this upcoming homestand is gonna get ugly and I'm not just talking about the weather.

1/9/06 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Fortunately, I was playing poker so I did not have the misfortune of watching the Phillies phlub in the tenth. I believe it is the first time they've lost a game after leading in the eighth inning (or something like that) so I can live with this one loss. Just one, though.

What has happened to Aaron Fultz? And why does Cholly keep trusting Arthur Rhodes when he's clearly shown he doesn't have it anymore?

His bullpen management is equivalent to the guys that ran Enron.

1/9/06 2:19 PM  
Anonymous JG said...

I still think back in amazement at the Astro series in '80. It was like a complete role reversal. You actually knew they would win it all after that. These next few years look to be our best chance in a long time, I just hope there isn't a new Joe Carter out there waiting to piss on the parade.

1/9/06 2:45 PM  

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