I have been living in Allentown, PA for the last two years. During this time I have not been able to go to see my beloved Cubs. So when a co-worker told me he had two tickets as part of a Sunday season ticket plan that he couldn’t use for today’s game, I took him up on it. For fifty bucks I got seats and parking to the new Phillies Park. As a feeble, but complicated, protest I have taken it upon myself to refer to any park who has sold its name to a coporate sponsor by the team that calls it home. Therefore, the Astros play in Astros Park, the White Sox play at White Sox Stadium, and the Phillies play at Phillies Park. That way, we fans can keep the same monikor for a stadium no matter who has a ten year contract for the stadium to bear its name. It is complicated because the only result is that other sports fans who do not know me invariably arrive at the conclusion that I am a slobbering moron because I don’t know the parks’ names, then I have to explain it and they think I’m trying to cover for being an idiot. Meanwhile, my point about the economic injustices brought about by the first year players’ draft (and its exclusion of foreign-born youngsters) is totally lost on them! Imagine.

As I was saying, I was there. During the eighth inning I turned to my wife and told her there’s no worse nightmare than having to endure my own team getting no-hit on tickets bought from a Phillie fan who would love to see Milton no-hit somebody, so that as I was explaining how awful it was to sit thorugh it he would be telling me how lucky I was for getting to see it and how he’s pissed that I got to see the game when he should have rightfully been there.

Here are my observations:

THE GAME

  • For 3 of the 6 innings he pitched, Prior looked like he was barely escaping. For two innings he looked dominant, and for the other inning he looked average.
  • Just as Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers had psychological blocks which prevented them from being successful, I believe Mr. LaTroy Hawkins has such a block about closing. I normally don’t buy into the myth of the closer, but Hawkins is a person who appears to be affected by the role.
  • The Cubs deserved to get zero runs that game.
  • Barrett really didn’t look like a major league catcher behind the plate.
  • The first eight innings were the least enjoyable innings I’ve ever experienced at a game. Between worrying about Prior blowing his arm out and watching the Cubs get no-hit (and Milton REALLY looked dominating; the Cubs hit only 2 or 3 balls hard the first 8 innings). Usually there’s something positive to draw on and enjoy, but my wife had gotten in a fight on the drive to Philly, the Cubs were sucking, Prior shook his arm as if his elbow hurt after giving up the homer in the sixth, and even the hits the Cubs got were mostly due to luck and Doug Glanville.

THE PARK

The park is absolutely beautiful. Nice statues outside, nicely laid out with wide concourses with which you can see the field, one of the two hot dogs I got was pretty good (I got a green dog in the Astrodome once!), good seats all over, 4 decks of seating around the infield and two decks in the outfield, and the playing surface gave true hops, but seemed a little shorter than the numbers indicated at the power alleys. All in all, Philadelphia has been blessed with a lovely stadium.

THE PEOPLE

With apologies to the hundreds of thousands of Phillies fans whom I did not encounter tonight, I have to say that the ones I did meet were people of deplorable character. I haven’t been to Wrigley Field recently (since ’96, in fact!!!) and I don’t like what I’ve been hearing, but today alone I experienced or observed the following:

  • Harrassment of FAMILIES of opposing teams before the game in the parking lot, along the concourse, in the seats, and after the game in the parking lot,. Not friendly “haha your team sucks” harrassment, but red-faced, vein-protruding shouts of “YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE!” and “CUBS ARE LOSERS! LOSERS!!”
  • FOUR “boo the home team” instances.
  • A guy right behind me leaning forward to shout discouraging heckle-style comments ostensibly aimed at Cubs players but intended for me.
  • Unrequited anger. It wasn’t a park filled with anger, but it was like a mountain range with a few active volcanoes; taken in whole it was awfully scary. I tried my best to smile or make self-deprecating jokes, but merely because my shirt and hat bore the Cubs logo I attracted a lot of unwanted attention.

I have NEVER felt more unwelcome in any place on EARTH as I did at the game today. And the Cub-Phillie rivalry isn’t even a noteworthy one; I can’t imagine if the Mets or Braves were in town.

I realize that not all Phils fans behave in this way, but from my personal experience, the fans of the Philadelphia area live up to their goonish reputation.

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