As winter turns to spring, we have come to expect certain things. Days get longer, birds begin to chirp, and boobs seem to get bigger and more properly displayed. Collegiate lay-ups and full-court presses are replaced by professional fungoes and suicide squeezes. And while the weather may not have wholly cooperated on the 3rd, it truly was my first day of spring (Rita’s owners and operators be damned) because I went to my first Phils game of the 2008 season.
Make no mistake about it, this year is pregnant with possibility. With key additions like Brad Lidge and Pedro Feliz (not to mention addition by subtraction moves such as dumping Barajas and assigning Helms), Chaz’s bunch looks poised to repeat as NL East Division Champs in the face of competition from the Braves and Mets. This last sentence demonstrates the recent arrogance of the Phils and their phans, because young and hungry teams such as the ExposNationalsFarmTeamformostNLSquads step their game up when they travel to the cozy confines of The Bank, and the result can be taking two of three.
The day started off quite well. By Noon, a healthy group of a dozen or so were boozing and playing lawn games in the gem that is FDR Park. (Author’s Note: if you haven’t been pregaming for Philly sporting events at FDR, you are no friend of mine because you seem to A) enjoy paying for parking; B) not enjoy watching things like Toomey knock over a tub of approximately 1,200 cheddar goldfish and then giggle himself into a near urine-inducing stupor; and C) disregard the right, no, the duty, to piss as openly as any mountain climber would dare to dream). Wawa sandwiches were in the mix, the newly constructed washers set was making as many friends as Shuptar was alienating, and signs ostracizing the baseball and love-making skills of Pat Burrell were nearly completed if Primo hadn’t given the first “W” wayyy too much real estate on the sole 8” x 16” placard. (The piece of construction paper soon met its final demise at the hands of Petrillo. Its final resting place is a garbage can, its headstone reads only a solemn: No Household Trash. Truly, a life taken too soon).
If you can believe this, Richards and I selfishly decided to leave this Eden to actually make it to the park and watch the game. As we strolled in during the top of the first, reality quickly replaced the euphoria that hovers like a dim mist which intoxicates the nostrils and pores of all FDR pregamers. Moyer was getting shelled, the wind was whipping icy hatred into section 114, and dollar dogs were nowhere in sight. Before we knew it, it was 5-0, Nats.
Like Tim Redding before him, Jason Bergmann was mowing down Phils like Chelsea does man-egos. As we settled into the bottom of the third with nothing brewing, our own 34 y/o second-year stud Chris “the Coste with the most” Coste swaggered into the box. Before Bergmann even started his wind-up, I mentioned to the man of un-average height, “What does this guy need to do to play everyday? Every time I see him, he’s doing something great for our squad, and look at his hilarious picture on the jumbotr….” *CRACK*. And like that, it was 5-1, Nats, after a Coste moonshot. The first highfives since a “hole-in-one” which occurred during a washers match were thrown and said man of un-average height scampered into the concourse to get a round of cold ones.
It was at about this time that tragedy struck. As Richards and I joked about flexing muscles on the FanCam to impress “all of the too-bundled hardbodies up in here”, he received a call that whose effects are similar to a pet dying, receiving an unjust parking or moving violation, or finding a bare fridge at 3am when its just you and a slightly too-hot girl for you to pull otherwise. Our favorite officer had turned around on 76 and decided not to attend the game with us. We knew he’d be late, we were both sympathetic to his laborious schedule these days, but, nonetheless, a significant amount of wind came out of our collective sails. Now, stories about apprehending the slime of Germantown after a high-speed pursuit in rush hour traffic while getting blown by a councilman’s daughter resulting in receiving three merit awards at a banquet in the deep Northeast with other hirsute heroes who demanded that a shot taking contest precede an accuracy contest at an underground gun range which serves both reuben sandwiches and Thai happy endings would be replaced by humdrum predictions like “you think they bring in Saenz here?... nah, I bet Condrey…”. Boo-earns, indeed.
Things took a turn for the much better in the 6th inning when we used up all of our bleeding, seeing-eye singles for the entire first half of the season to rally from the early deficit. It was great. Things later took a turn for the much more hilarious in the 8th. Two Caucasoid gentlemen who appeared to hail from the Rawnhurst or Bustleton section of our fine city were walking up the aisle that intersects sections 114 and 113. Just as they were about 3 steps below our row, one guy, without saying a word, just turned and 180-d the other guy. They both spilled to the cement stairs and the melee was on! Tall man had a better view of the entire affair, so for real “facts”, I defer to his account. By my more entertaining account, however, I believe the rhubarb was the result of either misplaced sneeze particles or the classic “oh, I thought you were somebody else who also happened to insult my jean short/Wrangler performance fleece/Umbro bandana combo.” Either way, an unmarked guard separated them and continued his investigation in the concourse behind our seats. Beware of these Gestapo-like gentlemen. Plain-clothed fight breaker-uppers seem to be ever-looming at The Bank like Tallman around 19 y/o’s at parties who don’t seem to know anyone.
I found a few things to be very comforting yesterday. When The Vet was imploded, I thought the years of blue-collar passion (the very same passion that has cheered career-ending injuries and booed ex-hometown heroes when they return with arch-nemesis teams) forever perished along with the dust and rats to be forever replaced by the bourgeoisie clientele of The Bank, $11 sandwiches, and vomiting in bathrooms stalls as opposed to other fans’ faces. I was wrong. I saw a fight ten feet from me. I saw two old friends from high school just by chance. Tallman and I snuck down to Rolls-Royce seats after the 8th inning. Beers were, one could say, going down like beers. While it may no longer be with us in body, the spirit and the sweaty charm of The Vet lives on to this day. After pirating the previously mentioned Tera Patrick/Miko Lee/Dani Woodward/Kobe Tai-esque seats, Tallman and I had the opportunity to see the play of the game. Reigning MVP Rollins went from first to third on a bunt proving that big players make big plays, all but sealing the W.
As we went back to FDR and the car, I couldn’t help but notice the grass looked a little greener and the air smelled a little fresher, as expected when they days are just recently growing. This was but a fleeting moment, however, because the entire area surrounding Tallman’s car was soon flooded by a symphony of urine, vomit, and spilled cooler juice as we all (and I mean us two and then like 15 other dudes in a 100 foot radius) got in one more outdoor piss at FDR before the trip back up 76 to reality.