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Monday, October 27, 2008

Nuttin' but Brotherly Love

The Philadelphia Phillies are currently one win away from a World Series championship, the first major-sport championship that the city of Philadelphia has seen in 25 years. I choose to make no speculations as to whether or not they will get that final win (Lord knows I've been disappointed before) but merely to set up the premise for this post: A Philadelphia team is deep in the postseason and there are widespread reports (not even new stuff mind you, just historical perspective) that the fans of Philadelphia are a bunch of assholes. Often led by stories of Santa Claus, snowballs, and D-cell batteries, the general gist is that the Philadelphia phanbase is a vile bunch of barely evolved neanderthals who will turn on the ugly against your team or even their own.

My question is this: To what aim? Is this hard-hitting journalism? Would you like a story that would astonish and inform more people? Try starting with: "Philadelphia is a city located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania..." It's pretty much that basic. Philly fans boo. Santa got it. Destiny's Child got it. Sarah Palin got it.

It seems there are only a handful of possible reasons that these stories could still be being written.
-To inform the greater populace: *buzz* see above and try again.
-To let fans traveling to Philly to see their team play know about the class of people they're up against: Perhaps, but I expect that you're enough of a fan to travel to see your team, you're familiar enough with the sporting landscape to already be well aware.
-To shame and ridicule the heathens that consider themselves Philly fans: If this is the purpose, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Some--I'd wager many--rather like it. We wear each article about unruly behavior like a badge of honor. And to be honest, why shouldn't we? OK, sure, if you bring into play those rules of common decency that apply in the real world it looks bad, but this is sports. Is it a bad thing to be known as a tough place to play? Is it a crime to expect excellence of your team? Is it taboo to be known for passionate, fanatical support of your team and the city and region they represent? If you answer no to any or all of these questions, then perhaps Philly ain't that bad after all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grohawk > Rayhawk

The Tampa Bay Rays, in their first-ever postseason bid, have embraced a new team tradition: The Rayhawk. In a show of team unity, many of the players have shaved, moussed, or otherwise acquired the iconic strip of hair down the middle of their heads most know as a Mohawk. Fans have followed suit, and there's even talk of Rayhawk bikini waxes. The Tampa Bay Area is being swept with Rayhawk madness.

Is anyone else feeling a bit of deja vu?

Rewind just about a year, on the other side of the Bay. The USF Bulls were the #2 team in the nation, and the college football world was abuzz with the Grohawk, named for QB Matt Grothe, which could be found on the heads of most Bulls, many Bulls faithful, and even Rocky, the mascot. I say this not necessarily to discredit the Rays, but let's not pretend as if it's new, or even new in recent history or new to the area.

It's October, which means I'm actually paying attention to baseball. If you read this regularly or know me personally, you know that I consider a 162 game regular season to be at least a hundred games too long. I've paid a little more attention the past year or two because one of my co-workers is a big enough Sox fan to pull it back out of me, but even at that, I'm hard-pressed to care about any single baseball game or even a single series before at least September. That said, now that we're down to the final four, things get interesting, considering I've got legitimate geographic ties to three of the four teams remaining. Let's talk about them, shall we?

Boston Red Sox: My team, forever and ever, Amen. Who knows how they ended up sticking--all of my other sports allegiances switched to Philly after I moved to Wilmington--but I expect that since I began following baseball and collecting cards at a time when I had lived in Boston more of my life than anywhere else.

Philadelphia Phillies: Having grown up in Wilmington, the Phillies were the home team, and though I never latched onto them, I still typically like to see them do well.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: I never had any particular affinity towards them, despite living in Tampa for two years while attending grad school at USF. Still, I can certainly appreciate an upstart program from the Tampa Bay area doing the damn thing.

So that said, what about matchups? It's clear that the LA Dodgers hold the least weight in all of this, both because I never lived specifically in LA and because EAST COAST WHAT!! In a perfect world, the Phillies will defeat them in the NLCS. But here's my thought for the potential matchups:

Boston vs. LA - Boston. Duh.
Tampa Bay vs. LA - Tampa Bay, although I will admit the fans and even players are getting plenty damn annoying. Still, much as I would have had Hillary gotten the Democratic nod (whoa, did I just take it political?) I'll still likely hold my nose and root for them, for the sake of history, an area to which I have ties, and EAST COAST WHAT!!
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia - Philly. This one is particularly significant because in the minds of some I've encountered, the cities of Philly and Tampa blood rivals locked in an epic battle for superiority. Don't know where that came from--a better characterization is that Tampa Bay has kicked Philly's ass every chance it's gotten in contests that matter: the Bucs went through the Eagles in the NFC Championship en route to their Super Bowl (not to mention shat upon the Eagles in the inaugural game at Lincoln Financial Field), and the Lightning took out the Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals on their way to the Stanley Cup. This one would be crucial for the city of Philly, if for that reason alone.
Boston vs. Philadelphia - This would be a tough one--based on who I'm rooting for in each series, I want it to happen, but it could divide my very soul in two. Based on what I've said earlier, the Red Sox should be the no-brainer, and I'd agree with that. I'm a Sox fan, not a Phils fan. Why the conflict? Because not unlike the 86 years I endured (yes, I didn't come into this world until year 63, but the Sox fans here will back me up when I say you inherit it all) prior to 2004 without a Sox championship, I'm sitting on 100 consecutive seasons without a championship in ANY of the major sports in Philadelphia. So while the Phils are the only one of those teams who isn't my primary in its respective sport (actually, I think I pay little enough attention to the Flyers to have an opinion there, but when the chips are down I root for them because the jersey says Philadelphia) I still don't know if I could bring myself to root against the possibility of a championship coming to the City of Brotherly Love. Rational thought also tells me that the Sox won twice in the past 4 years anyway, not to mention a few Super Bowls in the past few years and a NBA championship this year, so it's time to let someone else play too, but that said, I don't think I could bring myself to root against my team either.

So if it comes down to it, expect me to be a namby-pamby fence-sitter, front-runner, homer, guy who wears one team's jersey and another team's hat come World Series time. If my (non-)allegiances shift, I'll keep you posted, but if the circumstance should arise, I'm likely to both be very pleased and very disappointed when it all plays out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Ball

In the NCAA's 2 big revenue sports (3 if you count women's hoops), fans get a glimpse of their team well before the season begins--many basketball programs hold Midnight Madness when practice is allowed to begin a month or so before the season, and football programs put on a spring game to get our mouths watering before school lets out for summer. With lacrosse's fall ball heating up, I got to thinking: Why not put some preview hype on it? I understand there are relatively few schools where lax is one of the major players (my alma mater is one of them) but since they're playing it anyway, no reason why you couldn't hold a skills exhibition (like some Midnight Madnesses), a scrimmage (like other Midnight Madnesses and spring football games) or even an honest-to-goodness game against another team, hype it up as you would the others, and get the fans drooling over lacrosse well before the season starts.

Surf's Up

Drum Corps International's Jersey Surf got called up to the big leagues--it was announced not long ago that Surf, a perennial power in Division II/Open Class, will be making the change this coming summer to World Class competition. I've gotten to see them relatively little since becoming a drum corps fan, but I've been entertained when I have seen them. Plus, a friend of mine used to march Surf back in the day, and they add another mid-Atlantic corps to the mix. Welcome to the big time!

Quotable Quotes-Cowboys Style

A conversation in which I was involved yesterday:

Calvin: I mean really. Who fights in bathrooms?
Curtis: Prisoners.

This took place shortly after hearing the news that Adam "Don't call me Pac Man" Jones got into an altercation with a team-assigned bodyguard yesterday prior to a meeting with league commissioner Roger Goodell. Knowing he's already on thin ice, this doesn't bode well for the Cowboys defensive back. But wait. I'm an outsider here, and admittedly, one with an anti-Cowboys bias. Let's see what someone closer tot he situation can discern?

It's not that big a deal. -Tank Johnson

So there you have i--wait, what? You asked Tank? Asking Tank about a player in trouble is like asking Marion Barry about drugs and their influence on the inner-city. At this point the Dallas Cowboys, who historically love their troublemakers, have said that they won't levy any consequences on Jones. The league itself has yet to chime in. I say send him home--I hear there's a talented young corner from South Florida who could use some more playing time.


(Writer's note: I've taken a physical/mental health day from work today after a marathon stretch, so you're going to get a few blogs from me rapid-fire.)

So the Yardbarker sidebar has informed me that Sarah Palin will drop the puck at the Philadelphia Flyers home opener. Let's hope that the Flyers faithful give her the proper welcome as only sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love know how.

I honestly don't understand this move. It's true she's a hockey mom, and likely a hockey fan, but why Philly? She's from Alaska. Wouldn't the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, or Vancouver Canucks be closer? Oh that's right, they don't vote in US elections. But having grown up in the Phillysphere, I've got several problem with this decision. One, politically I'm a Democrat, so I don't like Sarah Palin. Intellectually, I've got a brain, so I don't like Sarah Palin. As a shameless homer, I fail to see her ties to the Flyers. But guess who does have legitimate ties to the area? That's right, her vice presidential opponent, Scranton-born, Claymont-raised, Delaware senator Joe Biden. I haven't heard him say if, but if I were a betting man, I'd wager that Joe, like many northern Delawareans, pulls for the Philly sports teams. Why not have him drop the puck?

Pennsylvania is a battleground state for a reason, and as such, I honestly don't know, politically, which way the hockey fans in Philly lean. But let's hope it's the right--or rather left--way, and she gets a Santa Claus-like greeting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

TV Wars

My local cable operator just added the Big Ten Network. This now means that I've got (either normally or through the added sports package): ESPN regular, 2, News, Classic, and U; Fox Sports Network; Fox Soccer Channel; Fox College Sports Atlantic, Central, and Pacific; NBATV; NHLTV; Speed; Tennis; Versus; A channel all about the Braves; Big Ten Network, and it's entirely possible I'm forgetting some.

My immediate thought was if I could just get MASN, I'd be set. Apparently MASN heard. Having signed an online petition (and thus gotten myself onto a mailing list) some time back, I got an e-mail the other day with the subject, "Minnesota Golden Gophers?" Having learned that Time Warner had added BTN, they were compelled to cry, "What about me? What about Ravens?" (oh, the pun! I hurts so good!)

MASN and Time Warner have been in a blood feud here in North Carolina since MASN's inception a few years ago. My understanding of the story is this: MASN wants for TWC to carry it as a basic cable channel. TWC has refused--I'm not sure if they've offered it as a premium channel as well. The two are at an impasse, which means we get no MASN.

Truth be told, it largely makes sense--they are the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and we are in the South. The one reason that makes MASN make sense here is the Baltimore Orioles. Believe it or not, most of the state of North Carolina is designatd by MLB as Orioles (and now Nationals) territory. It certainly makes sense--from here in Greensboro, in central NC, we are only slightly closer to Atlanta than Baltimore, and now with the Nats in the mix, we are roughly equidistant from the two closest baseball teams. If you're farther east and closer to I-95, that balance tips in Washington's favor. Us not having MASN now puts us in a bind: By this MLB policy, games get blacked out if they're on "local TV"; O's games that should be and once were televised in NC are now only on MASN which means we get to see them nowhere. This is an issue not only for O's fans but for fans of other teams who may be playing the O's (my team and O's divisionmate Boston Red Sox come to mind). As for me, I'd welcome a new sports channel in general, but MASN is particularly appealing to me as a native mid-Atlanticker for mroe "local" (at one time) coverage, especially my alma mater UMBC.

But MASN's latest ad campaign is intentionally misleading: First they leverage the inclusion of the Big Ten Network as reasoning why TWC hates MASN. However, BTN was added as part of Time Warner's premium sports package, while MASN insists it be included on a basic cable package. Secondly, the "shock and awe" campaign the waged by stating "Minnesota Golden Gophers?" was intentional both becuase Minnesota is the farthest Big Ten school from NC, and because, c'mon, a name like "golden gophers" is easy to make fun of. But in reality, I know for a fact there are a ludicrous amount of folks from Big Ten country--Ohio specifically--residing here in North Carolina. And considering that a Big Ten member school--Penn State--is actually (arguably) in the mid-Atlantic, is that really who they should be poopooing?
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