Watching Game 6 On Staten Island

Normally we'd be home watching stuff like Game Sixes, if there are Game Sixes to be watched, but it was a mixture of prior commitment and hubris that took us to Staten Island to participate in the latest Staten Island Pub Crawl during Game 6 of the NLCS. "Commitment" because we hadn't done a pub crawl in some time and "hubris" because, well, who would have thought this thing would have gone six games? Turns out that the Giants are on a major league streak right now . . .

I guess it could have been worse — had the Yankees beat the Rangers on Friday night, I think Game 6 of the NLCS would have aired in the late afternoon, which would have meant that we would have been on subways, ferries and trains for much of the game. As it turned out, Game 6 started at 7:57 (I never understood the :57 of MLB playoff start times), so we were able to monitor the progress of the game during stops along the crawl.

Cucina Di Napoli, Tottenville

Cucina Di Napoli, 7324 Amboy Road, Tottenville, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 7:23 p.m.

Things started out pretty well — we were carb-loading at Cucina Di Napoli in Tottenville when the Phillies scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and Jen was excited as we walked to Atlantic Station to get to our next stop. Our friend Bates, a Red Sox fan who (at least for one night) was sympathetic toward the Phillies, cautioned that the offense still looked weak, which of course was true but which also didn't mean much if Oswalt could hold back the Giants.

So it was a tiny bit worrying that some sort of error (Jen saw it on her phone during the train ride to Great Kills) lead to at least one San Francisco run as the Giants tied the game in the top of the third, but it was still early in the game.

Talk of the Town, Great Kills

We got to Talk of the Town in Great Kills in time to catch the bottom of the third inning, including that bench-clearing flareup. I was a little bit surprised to see two apparent Giants fans sitting at the bar. Things still looked good even after the Giants pulled starting pitcher Jonathon Sanchez and Ryan Howard was up to bat with no one out and runners at first and second. Of course Howard struck out; this would stick out in my mind later on.

Talk of the Town, 24 Giffords Lane, Great Kills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 9:29 p.m.

I continued to watch the game out of the corner of my eye while we tried to overtake "Larry" and "Larry Who" on Erotic Photo Hunt (note: the Penthouse version of the game is much more difficult than the generic version — too many dumb subtle differences between the two photos). Still 2-2 when we left Talk of the Town and still 2-2 when we rolled into Night Gallery in New Dorp.

Megamasters Photo Hunt Penthouse Top Scores, Talk of the Town, 24 Giffords Lane, Great Kills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 9:40 p.m.

Night Gallery, New Dorp

Now Night Gallery is a little bit different than the rest of the places we usually stop at on the crawl. The place has a little bit of a dodgy history, and on this particular night, it felt like we came in a little too much like gangbusters. It's not always so low key, to be sure — we've had good nights when whoever is the bartender there is friendly and whatever patrons are around don't seem to mind a bunch of yahoos invading their space, but there was something a little off about the "vibe" there on this night — to me at least. I was feeling like we were clogging up the path between the door and the back, then feeling like we were too loud as I chatted with some folks we were with. Or it could have just been that I was too preoccupied with watching Ryan Madson pitch the seventh and eighth innings. The conversation was veering off into politics when I noticed that overused camera angle that Fox employs when a runner crosses home — you know which one, the low angle looking up at some slugger's mammoth legs as he's reaching out to high five whoever is on deck. That was when I silently took in the fact that Juan Uribe just homered to put the Giants up 3-2.

Night Gallery, 36 New Dorp Plaza, New Dorp, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:20 p.m.

I still thought there was hope when we left Night Gallery until I realized that it was already the top of the ninth inning. Jen kept following the game on her phone and we saw there were two relatively quick outs. Then Rollins walked . . . and Utley walked . . . and Howard was up to bat again . . .

Northbound Staten Island Railway Train, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:32 p.m.

Lee's Tavern, Dongan Hills

We got off the train at Dongan Hills and entered Lee's Tavern to find the patrons gathered around the front following the game on the television above the bar. They — I'm assuming they were Mets fans — were clapping loudly as Howard swung at another strike. 2-2 count, bottom of the ninth, and another ball makes it a full count.

Lee's Tavern, 60 Hancock Street, Dongan Hills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:36 p.m.

"One more strike and the Phillies are going down!" the guy next to us yelled out. I guess Mets fans have to get inspiration from somewhere, and it would come down to Brian Wilson and that freaky-ass Just For Men Black Bart beard versus Ryan Howard.

Lee's Tavern, 60 Hancock Street, Dongan Hills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:37 p.m.

No matter how good your team is, there's a sickening feeling about your chances in this position. As Jen put it, the Phillies fans in the stands looked like they were going to barf. I think you watch that kind of situation and know that it probably won't turn out well — which also makes that feeling all the more awesome when it actually happens to go well. Of course Brian Wilson got Howard to look at a sinker just in the zone for strike three. Those are how those situations usually work out.

"Yes! Yes!" the guy next to us yelled as he pumped his fists. I think he quickly realized from our lack of shared enthusiasm that we might have been rooting for the Phillies so he thought to add that Howard had to at least swing at that pitch, that it was too close. He was obviously correct — and Mets fans should know — it sucks a whole lot harder to take a called third strike than to at least take a swing at something (spin it however you want from here). (Part of me wants to remind the guy that the number two candidate for the Mets vacant GM position is the same person who ran the Diamondbacks into the ground.) (Part of me also wants to remind Giants fans — if we knew any, that is — that Cody Ross is a free agent after this year.)

It serves us right I suppose, rootless as I guess our lives are, to have to watch the Phillies lose among a bunch of frustrated Mets fans in a Staten Island bar, but, jeez — ouch — that was rough.

They seat our group in the annex room on the other side of the bar where chairs are stacked on tables. I was zoning out watching #11 Missouri closing out an upset of #1 Oklahoma, which I guessed was good for Boise State, but it was hard to get excited about anything sports related right then. Meanwhile, Cooley baits Bates about the various Red Sox-Yankees series this past year. Cooley's feeling less stung 24 hours after the Yankees own Game 6 loss. Bates recounts all the injuries the Red Sox had in 2010. I ask Cooley about whether Girardi will come back, if Posada will be eased out of an everyday role and if she really thinks they can get Cliff Lee. We scarf pizza (Lee's is still good, no matter how crazed their Mets clientele is) and make it out in under an hour.

On the way over to the train Bates recounts all the greatest disappointments in his personal Red Sox history. For him, the "best" series he ever saw wasn't the epic 2004 Red Sox-Yankees ALDS but rather the 2003 Red Sox-Yankees ALCS. I have a hard time abiding this contrarianism, but Bates made an interesting case: Of course the Red Sox lost that series, but the way they lost it really stands out — Tim Wakefield giving up that home run to Aaron Boone, Rivera praying on the mound, etc. In Bates' view, 2004 was not possible without 2003, and having Tim Wakefield lose it in 2003 was OK with him, Wakefield being his favorite player of all time.

Knuckleball pitchers really are cool, and to me there's this awesome mystery in how and why a knuckleballer will have his fingers work one day and not the other — Wakefield's knuckleball obviously was not working in Game 7. Bates adds that he loved that Joe Torre said something along the lines of how Wakefield was the best player he never got to coach and that it was classy that he called out Wakefield during the post-game press conference. (I'm amazed at how well Bates remembers baseball stuff — looking up stuff today, it seems he's remembering everything 100 percent accurately — I wonder if this is a Red Sox thing or something.)

The point being, according to Bates, is that it's much better to lose in seven games (or five games) than to lose in six games. There's something especially horrible about losing in six for some reason . . . this is true.

The train to St. George was delayed by some mechanical glitch — Bates joked that it sounded like they were riding on square wheels — and we lost a few more from our group as they ran for the 2 a.m. ferry. We circled back to the last stop, a new place, Karl's Klipper in St. George (The Real McCoy has since been replaced by a new pizza place that seemed a little too Belmar for our speed).

There are some girls in Karl's Klipper yelling out the lyrics to "Sex on Fire," which was Jayson Werth's walk-up music in 2009. My mind drifts toward Jayson Werth and his contract year . . . and I'm still thinking about Howard looking at that last strike. Meanwhile, Jen goes into a bit about Morgan Freeman, which probably doesn't merit an explanation beyond which to say that I think she was somehow trying to take her mind off of the loss.

It's 2:15 or so and most of us are tired and hinting that it would be nice to get on the 3 a.m. ferry. We finish the last of our drinks and start to get our stuff together. By this point, Bates has donned some sort of Halloween wig and is joining in with the girls at the bar: "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn! Well that's alright because I like the way it hurts!" We finally get him to ditch the wig and leave the sing-a-long behind. We make the 3 a.m. ferry back to Manhattan in plenty of time — fortunately we can still buy 16-ounce tall boys, and that really is the best deal in town.

Staten Island Ferry, New York City, October 24, 2010, 3:01 a.m.

We leave everyone behind at Water Street with their cabs home and Jen and I head over to the Bowling Green station. It's not until we get to the subway platform that she admits that she's sad. I agree. Then the thing that first bothered me about Howard striking out in the third inning finally comes into focus.

The other day ESPN's Jim Rome "burned on" the fact that Jimmy Rollins wasn't bunting the runner over in Game 4, the game where the Giants went up 3-1 in the series. What really bothered me about that third inning Howard strikeout wasn't that he struck out — we had seen Howard strike out that way many times over the course of the season — but rather that he struck out with runners on first and second and no one out. Now I know it's not the kind of thing that cleanup hitters "do," but in a must-win Game 6, why the fuck can't Ryan Howard bunt? I know it's lame or whatever to have your big slugger bunt like he's some weakling shortstop or pitcher or whatever, but wouldn't you rather have Ryan Howard swallow his pride and help manufacture a run than have the team end its season? I don't get it. And it doesn't make sense when Charlie Manuel already went "unorthodox" by pitching Roy Oswalt in relief in Game 4 before some of his other relievers. Ryan Howard should have sucked it up and bunted. I'm convinced this is a big reason they lost this game.

On the subway platform at 4 a.m. Jen thinks Charlie should be fired, but reconsiders the next morning — there's only so much a manager can do, and besides, they had their chances last night — a few of which just went the wrong way because of dumb luck. Neither of us have read any of the Philly sports sites yet. It's still a little too raw. Maybe tomorrow.

Posted: October 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Thrill Of Victory And The Agony Of Defeat! | Tags: , , , ,

First Base Coach To Tom Hanks . . . "There Is An Academy Award At Second Base!!!!"

In the ongoing list of things the internet does really well — song lyrics, footage of early punk rock shows, probably also porn — the "open thread" has emerged as also being kind of brilliant. Not the lazy Oh-it's-Friday-and-I'll-let-people-comment-about-nothing-in-particular kind of open thread but rather the It's-the-baseball-playoffs-and-let's-replicate-the-experience-of-watching-a-game-together kind of open thread. See, for example, this open thread from last night's Phillies-Giants NLCS Game 5 on the Philadelphia sports fan site The Fightins.

Jen likes to check in on the Philadelphia sites every once in a while — The Fightins and The 700 Level are two in particular. I always say that I miss exactly two things about my hometown — my family and the sports teams. One is obvious — you should miss your family! — and two, the idea of rooting for New York sports franchises is about as unappealing as it gets. We have many close friends who root for New York teams — though I don't personally know any Nets fans — and those teams just don't need any more support (the Diamondbacks, on the other hand, could use several hundred thousand more supporters — abandoning that poor franchise now would be basically finishing what Hitler started).

Although my family does have some Philadelphia roots, my current support for them is more directly related to Jen — if I went to the boardwalk shops at the shore I might be in the market for a "Philly By Injection" novelty T-shirt. Which is to say, we watched Game 5 last night. Just as we watched Games 1 through 4. And Games 1 through 3 of the NLDS. And countless regular season games on MLB Extra Innings. And Game 3 last year — and etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. But this game was the "must-win" game — the Phillies down to the Giants three games to one.

Jen, like many Philadelphia sports fans, has a streak of negativism that seems to have been present at birth. The way I understand it, the "Phold" of 1964 permanently altered her parents' DNA and the defective gene was activated in 1993 and subsequently exacerbated by things like the 10,000 loss mark that the team reached in 2007.

Suffice it to say, the level of anxiety before Game 5 was high. The game started out badly, then got better, and then got tense until there was finally relief — the Phillies won — woo-hoo — and now they'll have to do it all over again on Saturday. Usually games — for me at least — are a blur of ups and downs and cursing at Ryan Howard when he golfs at curve balls in the dirt and pumping fists and holding heads and whatever other emotions happen, and it's hard to recall everything. Which is why the open thread is so genius — the entire game comes back to you when you read it again. Newspapers have gotten into the act by having their reporters "live blog" games, but it's not nearly as great as the open thread. And as you'd expect from a town that "booed Santa," the Fightins open thread sort of reads like cross between a Greek chorus and 4chan. Reading it after the fact is really entertaining.

The game basically starts with "SHANE, DONT SWING AT BULLSHIT PITCHES!" (comment 67) and ends with "FUCK YEAH FIGHTINS!!! BRING THIS SHIT HOME!" (comment 751). Between it runs the gamut: the handle "Darren Daulton's can of Oompa Loompa spray tan" sarcastically writes "great start" (comment 91); JT asks (comment 136) when Pat Burrell turned into overly aggro-Washington National Nyjer Morgan after Burrell argues a strike call and seems to yell "What the fuck are you looking at motherfucker?" at Roy Halladay; the Phillies' three-run third inning elicits cheers — "Phinally! Phuck yeah! Phuck you Giants!" (comment 226). It goes on from there. Mixed in the action are trolls with handles like "Giants Fan With Broom at Game 5" and "PhilsSuckMooseBalls" — they're the useful foils for the thread.

This being a game against San Francisco, and the nature of semi-anonymous comments from Philadelphia sports dudes being what it is, a certain degree of homophobia eventually emerges, but it's really precipitated by the aforementioned PhilsSuckMooseBalls troll, who gloats (comment 309) — I think in response to allegations that Tim McCarver gushes too much about Giants players like Tim Lincecum — that he "blow[s] [himself] on a daily basis! And take it from Tim McCarver's shrunken chode in the ass every Thursday at 2pm!" PhilsSuckMooseBalls adds (comment 325), "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA YA SUCK COCK!"

It has never been clear to me why fellatio should be maligned in this way. I kind of want to blame David Milch but it's not all his fault, and besides, the mere misogynistic/homophobic etymology of "suck" should be disturbing to us, as should the mainstream acceptance of the term. That said, Jenkintowner's comment (375) after slow Giants left fielder Pat Burrell somehow eked out a double in the bottom half of the fourth inning is hilarious: "First base coach to Pat…'There is free cock at second base!!!!'" It kind of devolves from there until Chase Utley makes a spectacular catch to end the seventh — "HOLY SHIT UTLEY MATRIXED THAT MOTHERFUCKER" (comment 725) — and Philaflava pronounces that "The man crush on Utley is officially back" (comment 732).

Anyway, pretty great stuff . . . and like I mentioned, the open thread is the closest thing there is to understanding the back-and-forth, up-and-down intensity of playoff baseball — without actually watching playoff baseball, that is.

So after the game is over Jen is reading this stuff out loud and guffawing at parts — the handles in particular are funny, so it reads like "'Jamie Moyer, drenched in Champagne, having the time of his life' says (October 21, 2010 at 10:25 pm) . . ." or "'The Elevator Tower at the Vet that withstood the Vet Implosion for ten or so seconds and then proceeded to fall over' says (October 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm . . ." — and then she sees a link on one of the sites to this dopey by-the-numbers "takedown" of Philadelphia culture. This sets Jen off.

As the guy who posted the link notes, the piece brings up the usual Philadelphia sports fan tropes — Santa Claus, et al. — and that it's another in a long line of lazy stabs at a city that doesn't deserve all of the abuse it gets. (By the way, the Santa Claus story has been exaggerated over the years as this USA Today piece from 2003 shows.) Yes, Philly fans returned to rare form this year with the Taser and vomit episodes — but it's important to note that these two yahoos came in from the suburbs. Jen says she wants to write a letter to the editor.

Troll comment 40 on the open thread wrote, "You know what a 'perfect 10' is in Philly? A girl who has more teeth than she has kids." I think Philadelphia is an easy target because it's got a white Irish-Italian working class that no one worries they will offend — shit left over from the previous centuries when the Irish were a different "race" and all Italians were in the mob. Today, the "Philly" has become an almost-epithet adjective along the lines of "ghetto" or "rough," not to mention easy fodder for San Jose Mercury-News columnists.

I also blame Jonathan Demme for the nation's perceptions of Philadelphia — after all, he was responsible for clumsily using a struggling post-1970s milieu of urban decay as the setting for a story of a man dying of AIDS. You might not have realized that the real-life subject — or semi-subject, as it were — actually had no connection at all with Philadelphia. The pre-Rendell city just served as a convenient stand-in for the notion of "the end of the line." Has Detroit even been treated this shabbily in art? (And don't even get me started on Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" song and video — takes the "subtlety" of Demme's dim view of Philadelphia and clobbers you over the head with the symbol like a sock full of nickels in the 700 Level of the Vet.)

If the Phillies don't win the next two games — and it's possible they won't (some of Jen's negativism has rubbed off on me over the years) — then that's OK I guess — it obviously has to be OK — but it still sucks, to use the word of the day. There's something really deflating about ending a baseball season with one game — deflating in a way that, say, Diamondbacks fans didn't experience this year when their team's season ended like in May or something. Especially in this part of the country. Especially this time of year when the inexorable slide into winter is going on and whatever trees are around are just getting barer and barer with each windy snap and each day just gets colder and darker and crappier and then finally you're stomping slush out of the treads of your ugly snow footwear.

And it only makes it worse when Cole Hamels totally loses control of the game — and basically the series — in the fifth inning and then the drive back to New York is damp and overcast and days later Michael Bloomberg will steal a third term over the objections of nearly no one in power it seems and it all kind of makes you feel crummy (thus, this) . . . until the Phillies trade for Roy Halladay in December and the crazy roller coaster thingy starts up again.

When it's going well, this time of year just consumes you, and when it's going badly, it also consumes you. Bring on Game 6.

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: FW: Link | Tags: , , , ,