24 October 2008
VETERANS STADIUM IS THE HIPPEST PLACE IN TOWN
A Non Fan's Notes, Etc.
So maybe this isn't specific to Philadelphia. Maybe this happens in Boston and Tampa and wherever else baseball is played these days. In fact it can't be just a Philly thing, at least not entirely. Nobody likes a frontrunner or fairweather sports fan, especially one from his own town. I imagine this is a sports fan's nightmare: You show up for "work" (watching the game) every day (game), you struggle with a team for 168 nights and an interminable off-season reading gossip on Deadspin, "your" team finally does something right such as getting itself to the Big Game, the Fall Classic, people start throwing "World Series" themed cocktail parties you're not invited to, your favorite bars grow more crowded with people who still have the tags on their just-bought jerseys (unintentionally, though I've heard this is a thing, and I know what it means) of players whose first names they can't remember, and there you are--there you fucking are--unspeakably angry at these people because they are freeloading on all the "work" you did the last six months, watching the game, supporting the team, while these Non Fans were doing whatever people do if they don't watch sports (you don't know, on account of being a lifetime sports fan). Scott Rolen or Sonny Rollins or Rolling Rock or Sitting Bull hits a home run, the team wins Game 3, the group of vaguely attractive women behind you who haven't been watching the game at all are suddenly jumping up and down and hugging each other and you are livid, as these people have no right to be excited, not a single fucking right at all.
Now that I think about it, this is pretty much a subplot to every major sports movie I've ever seen (I've only seen Fever Pitch). But to get to why I am even writing this down, why I am feeling so utterly vexed right now as this team progresses through the World Series, I do believe everything is a little more precarious in Philadelphia, with Phillies fans and fans of Philadelphia, with fans "from Philadelphia" and fans "actually from Philadelphia," on and on and on.
I have not followed the Philadelphia Phillies closely my entire life. My parents let me play baseball, and I had this wacky pitch I threw that got me onto a few select teams in my early teens, but when my eyes went bad and my Latin homework picked up and my general disregard for physical strength took hold, I was more than happy to put the glove back in the shed. "The Sylvesters are just not good at sports" is an actual thing my father has said to me. The most I've ever seen my dad get excited about sports was some Superbowl maybe 15 years ago, I forget who was playing. The whole fucking day he kept walking around the house, completely sober, yelling in what he thought was a sports announcer voice, "It's Superbowl Sunday!" And what this meant was that, after dinner, he was going to take out the gallons upon gallons of ice cream and toppings he had bought at Genuardi's that afternoon and make each of us a "Superbowl Sundae." I'm pretty sure he stole this idea from Bennigan's. Additionally: we weren't allowed to eat ice cream in the family room anyway, so we all sat around the kitchen table, eating these pretty terrible anything-goes type sundaes my dad had made for us, while the game played on the television we couldn't see on mute, because my mom didn't like the noise while eating. She said it made her antsy. This is the house I grew up in. We listened to a lot of Kool & the Gang, and we made a lot of home videos of my brother Anthony dancing to "Love Shack." I've never seen my dad drink more than two beers--and I remember the day he drank two beers like it was yesterday. I was so nervous he was going to do something rash.
The way I imagine normal people interact with pop music--in this passive, osmotic kind of way--was how I was with Philadelphia sports. I knew the basic talking points. I knew players names and general reputations. I had passable short-term memory for when we won and knew when we lost. I had seen, if not live then on the nightly news, very important moments in our history of failures and unexpected triumphs: Randall Cunningham jumping over that dude; John Kruk getting beaned; the Joe Carter homerun; Jim McMahon's sunglasses; the concept of Von Hayes. The concept of Von Hayes, I imagine, is akin to the concept of bloghouse. Bloghouse is very important to a lot of people! And once I left the city in 2000, I ceased to partake in even the osmosis. To know about Philadelphia sports would require an active degree of interest that I just never had, and one which, being totally honest, I may have been raised to look down on. Time watching sports on television was time not doing yard work, time not setting the table or doing the dishes, time not practicing trumpet. To this day I get really fucking antsy when I'm not working on or towards something.
And yet! And yet I go to my friend's last night to watch Game Two--and I am by far the loudest, most emotionally attached viewer of this World Series in the room. People confused me for an actual fan of major league baseball. One of the Phillies hit a solo homer in a later inning, someone asked me who hit it, I still can't tell you who hit that home run, and yet I definitely sprung out of my chair and yelled and threw my hands up like an actual fan of Philadelphia sports teams. All the little bullshitting people do during sports broadcasts--talking about what pitch the pitcher "has" to throw next, stuff like that--I was all over it. I had opinions about every single move and motion. I said things like "if they're down by four now, they're either going to have a five-run inning in the top of the ninth or they're going to lose it." I likely characterized this potential arc of gameplay as "such a Phillies move." And when I walked back to my apartment after the game (they lost), I past a man walking his dog, and I said "how's it going" and he said "it's going! how's it going for you?" and I said "the Phillies just lost, I'm fucking miserable."
I am still under the impression that I meant this. I was upset. Not in a "my team lost" kind of way but a "my city lost" kind of way. This is the part where things get magnificently mental and fucked up, so if you want to bow I understand. Philadelphia--a place I have never lived in properly, though I spent four long years on Girard Ave thinking I did; a general area I haven't really lived in for eight years; a woe-is-me grass-is-greener anti-intellectual willfully-blue-collar everything-sucks-and/or-is-gay state of mind I don't believe I ever really inhabited ever--is my city. I identify this place as the reason I am who I am who I am who I am, etc., and yet I really have little to do with the place. There is nothing to it that I fully agree with, and in fact, there are aspects of Philadelphia that I have serious problems with. There's a reason I don't live there, the biggest one being: It's a really negative place! The stereotypical Philadelphian is skeptical to a fault, more likely to subject himself psychically to pain than to pleasure, because at least pain has no lie to it. Pain is real, and the real is most important. Pleasure has the possibility of not being real. Pleasure has the possibility of being yet another promise gone wrong, in a city that has seen so many things not go its way that--and this is what's so difficult for me about living there, the fucking tautology of the place--I sometimes worry the negativity fulfills its own prophecy. That nothing ever good happens, because if something good were to happen, it wouldn't be Philadelphia. So when I said I was miserable about the Phillies losing, I was miserable about Philadelphia losing, over and over again, Liberty One be damned.
I am not just miserable in this stupid abstract Poor Philadelphia way though: I am actually miserable for being miserable. Not just because I have no right to be miserable, in the exasperated "hardworking" sports fan sort of way I mentioned above, but because let's face it: What kind of asshole am I for writing what I just wrote a second ago? Poor Philadelphia? Really dude? There's this thing on the internet called GoodReads, which is a book Facebook basically. On Goodreads I wrote a review of Philly ex-pat Bruce Buschel's book called _Walking Broad_, in which he revisits the city and his memories there good and bad etc., in which he said exactly the same thing as above, more/less, except he did it in his own hacky fake Mitch Albom kind of way. And the book came off very self-congratulatory--like look at me, I'm such a fucking genius for escaping Philadelphia. Thank God I got out of that place, now my life is so much better, drinking zinfandel with my wife and writing pretty boring articles for magazines nobody under 55 reads, etc. I hated this guy's book. It was a hatchet job on Philly--the projection of all his setbacks and life obstacles. It was his The Beast.
And in that sense, as his wife concluded at the end of the book, he is still something of a Philadelphian. The problem is that he's the worst fucking kind of Philadelphian there is. And there are so many people in the city and from the city who are not like this. Two of my best smartest bookish friends in New York are from Philly--real fucking champs who get murdered by their high school friends for leaving the city. One of them emailed me earlier this week and asked whether we "should" be in Philly just in case they win the World Series. By now you should know how loaded this proposition is. Two ex-pats, from New York no less, who don't follow the Phillies, coming down the nights of Games 3 4 5, to celebrate the victory of "our" team, "our" city. We'd get the shit kicked out of us! We would be hospitalized, and the doctors on call would know what happened, and they would leave us to die. For a bulk of its residents, the second you leave Philadelphia, it is no longer "your" city. I know and feel this to be so true, that as I watched Game Two--the only baseball game I've watched on television this year--my bad karma may actively have been harming the team's performance. (My other Philly friend assured me that Mitch Williams, who is in the booth commentating--do people know this? why are my superstitious living-in-Philly friends not completely livid about this?--is likely the source of the bad karma, if it exists.)
Speaking for myself: I'm susceptible to constructing "if only...then I" hurdles and then granting them cosmic life-altering significance. If only I get new job X then I will be able to find the constancy to save money; if only I get a piece published at magazine Y then I will feel validated as a writer; if only Barack Obama wins then I will feel like I can listen to pop music seriously without feeling a tad irresponsible; if only I break up with this guy or this girl, I can rebuild my entire life and totem in an order more pleasing to me.
Some of you surely do shit like this too. After the hurdle is cleared, there is always another "if only"--ALWAYS--but that is how we grow and learn and generally get better at what we're trying to do and where we're trying to go with our lives, etc. And when we approach certain hurdles and realize they're likely insurmountable, we either break them down into "mini hurdles" or we rethink that specific route and take on new hurdles, which themselves will have their own mini hurdles, onwards and onwards. But the point here is that--speaking for myself again--I've cleared enough hurdles in my life that I am generally up to the challenge of clearing hurdles. I am generally of the temperament that I will be happier having cleared hurdle x, as this has generally been the case for me in the past. It's easier to get up in the morning as you begin to think with more and more frequency, hey, maybe today won't be so bad. Maybe, today, something will go my way.
Philly has its share of hurdle clearers and all-around thrivers--but I cannot underscore enough how much easier it would be for every single Philadelphian in the entire fucking world to get up out of bed in the morning if s/he knew the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. This won't be a point of strut--this will be a break. Because we all secretly believe we live in or lived in or "lived just outside of" the best city that has ever existed. We do believe we are special. And we have been told for decades that we are not special. We have been told forever that we are the asshole of Northeast Seaboard, the perineum of the country at large. We have been told we are the fattest, ugliest, stupidest city. We have been told that we're only famous for the fucking Roots. And at a certain point we started believing you. We started believing that we were nobodies. We started liking the Roots.
But if the Phillies won--I mean look. It's not going to slacken the murder rate, it's not going to do anything remotely tangible or immediate or anything you can turn into a smarmy salon.com piece without crediting my blog like usual. But if the Phillies won... Christ, imagine going your WHOLE FUCKING LIFE without catching a break. Not once. You have given up on the idea of catching breaks. You have learned how to "make the best of it," which in the case of Philly means being in a permanent state of exasperation: people ordering cheesesteaks in foreign languages, Santa Claus showing up at an Eagles game, people from Chestnut Hill saying they're from the city, dogs that bark too much. (R.I.P. Duke the Dog.) It's not great feeling exasperated but at least you're not wallowing. If the Phillies won, for many people this would be bigger than Barack Obama. It's the same Yes We Can idea we're talking about, obviously. A win might give that one dude at that one bar the confidence, say, that he maybe can cross the insane hurdle that is tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt. A win might ease Dude X's guard just enough that he decides, you know what, maybe I'm going to give this Mayor Nutter guy a chance. His first 100 days weren't superb but maybe he can deliver on Things A B C. Maybe everybody isn't out to get me after all; maybe my life wasn't doomed from the fucking start.
22 October 2008
POTENTIAL IDEAS IN THE VEIN OF PITCHFORK'S 'BEARDO' SHOW FEATURING LES SAVY FAV'S TIM HARRINGTON, AN INDIE ROCKER WHO HAS A BEARD
-weekly show where sufjan stevens goes to church
-daily show where parts & labor work as auto mechanics to make ends meet
-weekly show, hour-long, thriller, in which the members of interpol hunt down criminals
-show where asian guy from fuck buttons taps people in the balls
-jackass-type prank show in which moustache guy from hold steady randomly shows up in people's bedrooms, and stares at them while they sleep and then they wake up and the first thing they see is his face
-show in which a new person on the internet each week leaks the next deerhunter album
-performance art show in which different bands watch nitsuh abebe play with his shirt sleeves