MLC sent along this link about Jonathon Papelbon ragging on Boston Red Sox fans. Well, to be fair, he didn't quite rag on them, he just said they were "a little bit more hysterical" than Philadelphia Phillies fans, who "tend to know the game a little better." That's provocative enough.
Two things: One, it's important to suck up to your new masters, and if nothing else, Phillies fans love to be told they're intelligent. Now, Philadelphia will never be mistaken for Oxford or Cambridge or Alexandria or anything but they'll always have sports intelligence.
Believe me, I'm not trying to minimize this form of intelligence: As a Diamondbacks fan, I freely admit that the fans in Phoenix could use some remedial baseball classes. Mom always talks about how the D-Backs fans not only like to do the wave but they also do it at the wrong time — I can't quite make out when there is a correct time: Is it meant to distract the hitter or the pitcher? Doesn't it distract both of them? The mind reels.
And two (I almost forgot that I said there would be "two things"), given all this, what does it mean to be intelligent about baseball in the first place? I mean, when people praise a town's collective baseball intelligence, aren't they just saying that it's nice that the fans rise to their feel on an 0-2 pitch? And how smart do you really have to be to count to two?
Now look, I've watched enough Joe Morgan to understand that there is much I don't understand — or at least wouldn't immediately put together — about baseball. (Funny, I didn't realize there was so much animosity pointed toward Joe Morgan; Tim McCarver I almost understand, but Joe Morgan? Guess I haven't been paying that much attention.) But people talk about "baseball intelligence" like it's a matter of not going apeshit over a lazy fly to short right, or maybe being able to explain the infield fly rule without having to Wikipedia it.
But like I said, I'm just being a goof — I definitely value and respect a municipality's baseball intelligence. Clearly, I'm just jealous.
But that's all neither here nor there. The buried lede in the ESPN piece is actually this:
Dropkick Murphys front man Ken Casey caused a bit of a stir earlier in the week when he said Papelbon, whom he calls a friend, couldn't come out of the Phillies' bullpen to "Shipping Up To Boston," the popular Dropkick tune Papelbon used for years with the Red Sox.
Papelbon on Thursday would not reveal his new entrance song, but did say it wasn't by the Dropkick Murphys.
So if Papelbon is looking for some good-timey, vaguely intimidating entrance music that also contains some sort of local reference, there are some options.
If he wants to build on Madson's namby-pamby 1980s nostalgia — and I'm not suggesting he do this — he could use Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger", which isn't the worst guitar riff in the world, and also has a nice Rocky tie in.
Some other local favorites might include the Dead Milkmen's "Bitchin' Camaro" or perhaps even "Big Lizard In My Backyard". The Hooters' "And We Danced" (the open sort of evokes the bagpipe in "Shipping Out To Boston," though ultimately this might be too pussy, although the league needs a new Eric Byrnes). How about Cinderella's "Nobody's Fool" (I totally didn't know they were from Philadelphia)? And then there's P!nk's "So What", an idea so dumb it might actually work.
And then there's Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road", which although on the face of it lacks an intimidation factor is actually a bigger "fuck you" to an opposing team's 3-4-5 hitters. In addition to the obvious lyrical content, there's kind of a quiet brilliance in a player coming in to shut down the visitor's side of the ninth to a song you'd hear at a middle school dance. It's got a sort of Quentin Tarantino vibe going.
Another outside-the-box idea: Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom". Another "fuck you" in the sense that you're so convinced you can shut down the opposing team that you are comfortable enough to enter to Elton John. If I were an opposing batter, I'd be pissed. Another reason I like this idea — the lyrics scream "high-priced free agent":
I used to be a rolling stone
You know if the cause was right
I'd leave to find the answer on the road
I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed
The less I say, the more my work gets done
You could always get a harder-rockin' band to do a cover of "Philadelphia Freedom" — we could get something done during Spring Training. Maybe even the Dropkick Murphys themselves? Just a thought . . .
After being selected No. 1 overall by the Yankees in the 1991 MLB draft, Taylor was expected to take the Bronx by storm.
A shoulder injury suffered in a bar fight derailed the left-hander's pitching career and, despite a then-record $1.55 million signing bonus, he never made the majors.
On Thursday, Taylor was arrested on drug charges in Carteret County, N.C.
There's a thrill in knowing about "tomorrow's stars today" and before Royce Clayton, I think the first person I thought to pay attention to might have been Brien Taylor. This was back when I started to conceive of baseball as I would, say, a record collection. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't go down that route. I would have probably wasted a lot of time on stuff like fantasy baseball or something.
That's not to say that a little part of me feels like I want to know about the stars of tomorrow. It's a latent impulse in everyone, but probably mostly male collector scum types. I continue to indulge this impulse: I'm still waiting to see what happens with Dellin Betances — if we position him right, he could do for the Lower East Side what Jeremy Lin did for, I don't know, the continent of Asia, I guess. Speaking of Linsanity, even the president has a bit of collector scum in him:
[Bill Simmons]: So you're catching up, obviously, on the fact that you had been surpassed as the most famous person who was a Harvard graduate.
Obama: Jeremy is —
BS: Jeremy Lin.
Obama: — doing good. And I knew about Jeremy before you did, or everybody else did, because Arne Duncan, my Secretary of Education, was captain of the Harvard team. And so way back when, Arne and I were playing and he said, I'm telling you, we've got this terrific guard named Jeremy Lin at Harvard. And then one of my best friends, his son is a freshman at Harvard, and so when he went for a recruiting trip he saw Lin in action. So I've been on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon for a while.
BS: Are you taking credit for "Linsanity"? It kind of feels like you are a little bit.
Obama: I can't take credit for it, but I'm just saying I was there early.
It's an intoxicating feeling, knowing something most others don't. And it's even better in baseball, because so few players in the minor leagues make it to the majors, so knowing about tomorrow's stars today is an especially satisfying feeling.
Which is to say, I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Oh, I should remember Brien Taylor because he's probably going to be awesome." That was of course the last time I thought about Brien Taylor. I could never be Tim Kurkjian, much, much less Will Leitch.
Here's a selection of Taylor stories from the New York Times archives:
When we moved into Kawama we were excited to see that one of our neighbors was a Phillies fan — at least that's what we assumed by the car and its Phillies license plate holder and window stickers.
I think Goober was the first to approach the owner of the car. We were all curious how someone so deep in Mets country could be a Phillies fan. He said something about vacationing in Clearwater, the Phillies' spring training home in Florida, and developing an affinity for the team. Over the summer we'd chat every now and again about the Phillies, say, about Michael Martinez's first big league home run or whatnot.
If the Phillies had gone to the World Series against, say, the Yankees, I hoped a writer would find one more Phillies household on the block and then we'd be profiled as the block in Queens with the most Phillies fans.
That, of course, didn't happen ("We dared for a single season to behave like Yankees fans, to cheer for our team with a swagger instead of hesitation, and in the end we took a kick to the stomach"), and within days of the Phillies' season unceremoniously ending in the first round, the guy across the street replaced his Phillies license plate holder and window stickers with a New England Patriots license plate holder and window stickers.
It's one thing to root for the Phillies because you vacation in Clearwater — even though the Mets are the home team, you have this special link with a different team — fine, I get that. But rooting for the Jets' arch-rival can only be construed as a blatant fuck you to New York City. In my mind this started when Bloomberg announced he was running for a third term, or perhaps when Con Ed couldn't figure out how to get the electricity back on for like a week back in 2006. That's what I'd like to think this is about.
But just the idea that there's one guy in Queens who not only roots for the Patriots but who is so flashy about it is of course really funny to me. Look, New York is a wonderful city. I feel very fortunate to live here. I enjoy living here. But one thing I am physically incapable of ever doing is rooting for its sports teams. I used to say that I only miss two things about my home town: My family and the sports teams. That's still the case, but there's something else at play here when it comes to supporting New York's teams.
One, they don't need me. There are more than enough fans in the 40-million-plus Metropolitan Statistical Area to support two NFL, MLB and NBA franchises, and three NHL franchises. For the most part, those teams dominate if not in wins than at least in financial resources. They could succeed without fans at all.
No, it's something else, which just could be that there's just something really unappealing about latching on to New York teams. I can't quite pin it down. If I moved to Cleveland I might start rooting for the Cavaliers. If I found myself in Vancouver I might bring myself to cheer for the Canucks. But the Yankees? The Giants? The Rangers? The Knicks? God, no.
Maybe one day I'll figure out what it is exactly but for now, I'll just chalk it up to an innate contrarianism.
Which is why tomorrow I sort of want to bring a dozen chicken wings across the street, just as a little wink, like "I feel you, bro." Because the only thing this could possibly be is a Class A Contrarianism, and if we find one more example we could be written up as the most contrarian street in Queens.
Yankee star Derek Jeter, one of New York's most eligible hunks since his split with longtime gal pal Minka Kelly, is bedding a bevy of beauties in his Trump World Tower bachelor pad — and then coldly sending them home alone with gift baskets of autographed memorabilia.
The Yank captain's wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kiss-offs came to light when he mistakenly pulled the stunt twice on the same woman — forgetting she had been an earlier conquest, a pal told The Post.
"Derek has girls stay with him at his apartment in New York, and then he gets them a car to take them home the next day. Waiting in his car is a gift basket containing signed Jeter memorabilia, usually a signed baseball," the friend dished.
I will never look at my signed Jeter baseball the same way again.
The Philip Roth anecdote comes courtesy of Nora Ephron, by the way, who reported it second hand, albeit in a book.
It's instructive to see just how crappy baseball writers' predictions can be. Take the New York Times' staff: Teams like the Red Sox (granted, there's some outside chance they could salvage this horrible year, but still . . .), White Sox, Twins, Dodgers, Reds and Rockies are bandied about as projected winners. And the Marlins. Are they fucking kidding? Tyler Kepner has Jon Lester and Tim Lincecum winning their respective leagues' Cy Young Awards. Excusable, but David Waldstein actually has the Dodgers beating the Angels in the World Series. I mean, come on.
Tyler Kepner needs to be called out in particular. Yes, preseason predictions are fraught but the way he automatically had the Arizona Diamondbacks finishing last means that he just wasn't watching enough Arizona Diamondbacks baseball at the tail end of 2010.
I thought they'd be about .500. Instead they won the NL West. And they did this even after losing All-Star-caliber talent Stephen Drew to a season-ending injury, arguably their best player.
In a season with more than one ridiculously awesome moment, last night was probably the coolest so far . . . as they say at the link, "Babe Ruth and Ryan Roberts will always and forever be on the same short list":
That Kirk Gibson-esque arm pump wasn't only awesome because it was in front of the Dodgers — it was awesome because Kirk Gibson now manages the Diamondbacks. Roberts said he'd been waiting all year to do it.
Oh, and by the way (to use one of Kevin Blackistone's favorite phrases), Kirk Gibson is so clearly Manager of the Year it's ridiculous. Good for him . . .
Of course the "Philadelphia Phuckin' Phillies" line is nearly self-explanatory — Philadelphians are phond of replacing "Fs" with the more phonetic "Ph" and the F-bomb can probably be traced to Chase Utley's post-World Series win rally speech at Citizens Bank Park back on Halloween 2008:
There's nothing like cursing on live television, but seriously, don't shoot the messenger — that was the greatest sports speech ever.
As for the water monster, I can't explain it so easily. Just embrace the fact that a very lovable 39-year-old outfielder is still ripping shit up.
Jen's dad sent an email early this morning with two words: "Merry Cliffmas."
I wasn't sure what he was talking about at first and assumed maybe that just meant that free agent pitcher Cliff Lee was staying with the Texas Rangers — which would have been funny enough for Yankees Non-Partisans (technical term: "dayenu") — but when I went to the sports section, the news was even better:
The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to terms late Monday night with Lee, the prized left-hander who pitched for them in the 2009 World Series, according to a baseball official told of the deal. The official, who said he believed the deal was for at least five years and $100 million, was granted anonymity so he could speak freely about a contract that was not finalized.
The Yankees had bid seven years and about $150 million for Lee, who also had a strong offer from the Rangers. But in the end, Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, informed the Yankees that Lee was headed to Philadelphia, where he never wanted to leave after a dominant postseason run for the Phillies.
. . .
In returning to Philadelphia, Lee will join a staggering rotation that could rival some of the greatest in history. Lee, a former Cy Young Award winner, will join the two-time winner Roy Halladay, along with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
I responded to Jen's dad with a similarly terse two-word missive: "Holy shit!"
Rodrigo Lopez? I almost think Tyler Kepner is being facetious here. I don't know how many Yankee fans got to watch Rodrigo Lopez pitch last season. I did, but that's only because I got to see Arizona Diamondbacks games on MLB Extra Innings. Just so you understand, 35-year-old Rodrigo Lopez was like the Diamondbacks' third or fourth starter, 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA last year, a sort of low-risk placeholder until someone else came up or along.
So I ask you: Rodrigo Lopez?
By accepting a smaller contract and fewer years, Cliff Lee has stuck it to the Yankees in ways that Red Sox fans could only dream about. The only thing cooler would be if the Phillies dealt the now-unnecessary Joe Blanton to the Sox. Oh wait.
Lee's "nonchalant" catch* of a Johnny Damon popup in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 1 of the 2009 World Series was a nice "fuck you." Signing with the Phillies for a shorter contract and less money is an even bigger "fuck you." Few players, much less fans, get to screw the Yankees this way. And Lee not only did it on the field but in free agency as well. He's a Yankee Non-Partisan hero.
As for the Phillies, expectations are now into the stratosphere. That said, while they may have a "staggering" rotation, they still don't have a lot of solid relief pitching. But I'm not sure they even need it: Roy Halladay had nine complete games last year, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels had three between them and Cliff Lee had seven. That's 19 complete games. And something tells me that with relievers like Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin backing them up, this rotation will be that much more focused.
Maybe the decision was easy for Lee. Maybe his wife's gut reaction about the city had some bearing on the decision. But it's healthy for New York City to know that it is not the best place in the entire universe. Cliff Lee is now this idea. He's his own Miami. He's Woody Allen's Match Point. He's Northampton, MA. Except that he's better than all of those, because apparently New York wasn't even really in the hunt in the first place.
Which means that he really does own the city.
*It's too bad that there aren't any embeddable videos of this catch — at one time there were but it seems that MLB has cracked down on all that; this link is a never-ending MLB playlist of videos related in some way to Cliff Lee, but as it goes on (and on and on) it gets less pertinent — there are Giants-Phillies highlights from this year playing now; I wonder what will happen if I let it run all day.
Later in the day I usually turn on ESPN and have it on in the background while I'm working. Yesterday's Jim Rome take involved Los Angeles Laker Ron Artest's comments on Los Angeles Clippers rookie forward Blake Griffin's rapidly expanding highlight reel, which is about all you'll be able to catch of Griffin, since the Clippers have been horrible for years and are never shown on national television.
Griffin looks awesome, at least in the highlights they show on ESPN, and Artest was asked about it:
Artest goes on to say that if Griffin dunked on him he would buy that poster and ask the rookie to sign it. Like I said, hilarious — and when you watch the full interview you see how Artest is holding court for the sports writers and they're all laughing along with him.
I was telling Jen about the "highlights is stupid" quote and I noticed an above-the-fold story about Griffin on the front page of The New York Times sports section. Sure enough, they brought up the Artest quote in the fourth paragraph, but look at how lamely they cleaned it up:
"His highlights are sick," said Lakers forward Ron Artest, repeating the declaration as if speaking in capital letters. "I wish he dunks on me. I'm not going to lie. I hope he dunks on me, puts his shoulders on my face and like, 'Aaaaah!' Just crazy. Lights it up. His highlights are stupid."
If you watch the full interview it's clear that Artest is being purposely folksy. Maybe an overeager copy editor even changed the quote. A friend once told me that an overeager copy editor changed his "through a glass darkly" to "darkly through a glass." He was pissed. Regardless, the Times should give Artest his quote back.
At the same time, maybe Jim Rome could have contextualized Artest's comments a little more — maybe by showing the Los Angeles Times' YouTube of the interview (incidentally, how cool is that that they put up all eleven-plus minutes of it online?). Rome's staff is having some fun with Artest's vernacular at Artest's expense — fair enough but a tiny bit cheap if you listen to the whole clip on the YouTube. And if you watch the full video you can hear more about his charity championship ring raffle to raise money for mental health issues, which seems extra cool on the part of Artest.
In the ongoing list of things the internet does reasonably well — including but obviously not limited to song lyrics, footage of early punk rock shows, the shared experience of watching playoff baseball via an "open thread" on a sports blog and computer help* — here's one more: Coordinating chants at Cleveland Cavaliers games. To be fair, there was a clear and present matter at hand for Cavaliers fans — expressing their displeasure at LeBron James for leaving the team through free agency in a flashy narcissistic way — but the coordinated effort got a lot of press:
We ask for all of you who have been a part of this movement to continue to push in these final 24 hours. It wouldn't be possible without you, and won't succeed unless we make sure the "fourth quarter" of our efforts is as strong as the first three. Get the word out, send the sheet to co workers and friends, print out extras if you're going downtown, hand them out at bars, do whatever you have to. Get Cleveland chanting!
The sheet (.pdf) had instructions for what to chant when, e.g., in the second half of the first quarter "Whenever LeBron has the ball or is at the free throw line the chant is: Ak-Ron Hates-You (Clap, Clap, ClapClapClap)." It went on from there, and was to have culminated with a penultimate "De-Lon-Te" chant early in the fourth quarter, until the Heat stretched out its lead to thirty and LeBron was pulled from the game.
The 'Delonte' chant will be in reference to the reported affair that occurred last season between James' mother Gloria, and his teammate Delonte West. West is now a member of the Boston Celtics, but shortly after the end of the playoffs last season, in which West's and James' Cavaliers were eliminated by Boston, speculation ran rampant that James learned of West's affair with his mother during the playoffs and it caused his distracted and seemingly disinterested play.
Despite being an otherwise meaningless early season game, Thursday night's 118-90 Miami Heat victory was the most anticipated regular-season game in the history of pro basketball. As the national media kept reporting all week, Cavs fans had been waiting more than four months to vent their spleens. And vent they did.
When James first took the court in his No. 6 Miami Heat jersey 17 minutes before the opening tip, he was greeted with a cosmic jeer, soon followed by a raucous chant of "a—hole, a—hole."
Midway through the first quarter, his ears were pummeled by a thundering chant of "Akron hates you, Akron hates you."
When I first met LeBron James in 2008, I was in awe. He was 23 at the time and I was 53, yet it seemed as if the ages were reversed. He had been a basketball legend for years. As we embarked on a book project together, he had an affable poise that contrasted with my own babbling efforts to build rapport. I ascribed to him a worldly wisdom.
Then of course he goes on to sound every part the 53 year-old — hollow advice to leave and never look back, et cetera, et cetera and then something about "personal growth." Somehow he decided that James should have gone to the Knicks, which in retrospect looks absurd.
James followed Bissinger's advice to leave and do soul searching or whatever Bissinger's writerly heart wanted James the nonfiction star to do like not at all, which makes the Bissingerian plot line seem that much more hollow:
LeBron James's relationship to his community is profound: he built a palatial house in the Akron area and just finished his seventh season with the Cavaliers. But I believe those roots have become golden shackles. He is too loved, and therefore too coddled and too easily forgiven.
His play in the fifth game of the N.B.A. playoff series this month against the Boston Celtics, a 120-88 trouncing, was bizarre and inexplicable. In missing 11 of the 14 shots he took, he simply looked as if he had given up, astounding not only for James but for any professional athlete competing at the level of the playoffs. It was inexcusable, whatever the circumstance.
In a place like New York, the tabloids would have screamed "LeBomb James!" In Cleveland, there were a few boos, but they amounted to nothing compared to the desperation of the fans to keep him for next season and beyond. In such an atmosphere, human nature inevitably takes over: you stop constantly pushing yourself because there is no real incentive, particularly when you have so many good nights on the basketball court and keep your fans satiated.
. . .
LeBron, take the chance. Just go and never look back. In the greatest city in the world, you will never regret it. It is time to leave home.
You get the sense that Bissinger wanted LeBron to leave the Midwest via a large Greyhound with a duffel bag over his shoulder, the coach bus kicking up dust as it stopped to pick him up on a rural stretch of U.S. 224. I don't know what Bissinger thought about the ESPN special.
All told, Cleveland's fans were the most interesting part of the game last night (with the exception of this, which is kind of awesome). Some cities are like that. Philadelphia is one place. So is New Orleans, I recently learned — it seems that the entire city jumps up and starts waving handkerchiefs whenever K. Gates' "Black & Gold (Who Dat!!!) Superbowl Edition ft. Ying Yang Twins" is played. Seriously, it's weird — it looks like those scenes in Season 2 of True Blood when the Maryann Forrester character puts the entire town of Bon Temps into bacchanalia trances.
You get the sense that Cleveland fans wouldn't need a "Fan Up" campaign to remind their fans to arrive to games on time and stay until the end. You'd think that players would like that aspect of playing in a city, but that's clearly not the case. In that sense it reminds me of something someone reminded me once about art museums: Museum-goers are under the impression that museums are primarily about seeing art but there's a case to be made that's not the real reason museums exist — rather, museums are about maintaining collections of art, and viewing the art is only a secondary purpose. Some collections are better than others in this respect, but most only show a small percentage of what they hold.
In the same way, maybe the Miami Heat are less a root-worthy team than they are a collection of museum pieces — like a Platonic ideal of "Starting Lineup" (minus the point guard). And instead of winning championships or giving a city something to cheer for, the team simply exists to make overwrought Nike ads.
Of course, without those overwrought Nike ads, we wouldn't have the spoofs:
In the commercials LeBron says "What should I do?" over and over. But for the rest of us taking it all in, it's more like "So what do you do?" — because there's not much else interesting about the story line now except to want to see the Platonic ideal fail.
If Wilson has his say, the Giants will win a championship sometime in the next 10 days, the first for the organization since 1954, four years before it moved to San Francisco.
That would leave one outstanding goal for their closer before next spring training.
"I'd like to be a crossword clue one day," he said. "I want to be in The New York Times's Sunday edition. Right now, the clue 'Giants great' is always Mel Ott. I want my clue to be down, not across. The down ones are usually harder. And when I'm the clue, I'll fill it in — just that one — and frame it.