Thursday, February 03, 2005

Willful Ignorance
I didn't watch the State of the Union speech last night, figuring that a commitment to my own sanity and temperament outweighs whatever abstract obligation I have to stay informed about the stream of lies and propaganda emanating from the mouth of the Idiot King. Though it was faintly useful to have it on at the gym; I could look up from my reading on the stationary bike, see the porcine face of Hastert and get a small jolt of adrenalized rage.

I did read that Bush took his de rigeur shot at the homos in calling for the Hate Amendment, which probably pacifies "SpongeDob" at least a little bit. Not that this has a snowball's chance in Hades of winning passage, as The Carpetbagger details. Anyone else getting violently sick of symbolic politics?

At least there's some sign that the Democrats are getting smarter about punching back. For one small example, here's a thread on DailyKos that seems to have originated with the Senate Democrats' "War Room." Good for them in no longer running away from the people who by right and commitment should be their staunchest allies and biggest fans. Check out all the love for Senate minority leader Harry Reid, who really does seem like a canny political operator even if his politics are well to the right of most Kos visitors.

Besides, as Bleeding Gums Murphy once said about not going to the dentist, I have enough pain in my life. This excellent, funny/heartbreaking article from the Football Outsiders website sums it up pretty nicely:

In some cities, fandom is born of glory, but in Philadelphia it grows in adversity. Philadelphia fans, real ones, emerge from a white-hot crucible of snarling hostility and pent frustration, like the orcs in the first Lord of the Rings movie. They are born of great suffering, as per the Lord’s command in Genesis 3:16. Young Philadelphia fans “make their bones,” like Mafia hit men. They experience something on the field (diamond, court) so heart-rending, so soul-emptying, that it dries up all of the endorphins in the brain. They emerge from the experience steel-eyed and flinty.

I’ve made my bones a dozen times, maybe more: when punter-turned-kicker Mike Michel (don’t ask) missed the extra point and the chip shot in 1978, when Kenny King out-jumped Herm Edwards in Super Bowl XV, when the Dick Vermeil Eagles collapsed, in the Fog Bowl against the Bears, when Mitch Williams faced Joe Carter, and so on. Character building experiences? Perhaps, but my wife will affirm that the character they built can be hard to live with sometimes.

...Take away the Connie Mack and Greasy Neale-era guys that no one remembers, and Philadelphia is left with Julius Erving, Bobby Clarke, Mike Schmidt, and Chuck Bednarik. And we hate all of them.

Okay, that’s not true. But we are blind to greatness in Philly. In every other city in America, Schmidt would be the consensus choice for the greatest third baseman ever. But go into any dingy taproom in Philadelphia, and you’ll find plenty of old timers who will swear that Schmidt – who brought the city it’s only World Series – never had a clutch hit in his career. Clarke, beloved in his Flyers heyday, has been vilified (with some justification) as a general manager. In Philadelphia, we run Charles Barkley out of town, Scott Rolen out of town, for faults that sane fans would forgive. Only Bednarik (who scares us) and Erving are exempt from this strange treatment.

No, Philly fans like their sports stars to be above average but fatally flawed. We enjoy the predictability of failure: when we lose, we’ll know exactly what went wrong. The true Philly sports icon has a major problem or two that makes them tragically doomed. Some examples: Eric Lindros (couldn’t stay healthy), Randall Cunningham (dumb as a brick), Allen Iverson (short, enjoys firearms), John Kruk (fat, lazy), Mitch Williams (no control), Pete Rose (general lowlife), Ron Jaworski (hit in the head too often), Buddy Ryan (blowhard), Larry Bowa (total sociopath). McNabb’s inaccuracy was supposed to be his Achilles heel, and there’s still time for him to join this illustrious list with just one or two Super Bowl overthrows.

When local radio hosts Glenn Macnow and Anthony Gargano wrote The Great Philadelphia Fan Book in 2003, only a few chapters were devoted to Schmitty, the Doc, and the Broad Street Bullies. The bulk of the book dealt with Lindros, Cunningham, and Iverson, the guys who really occupy our gray matter. I’m told that New York sports fans argue about Mickie Mantle vs. Joe DiMaggio, about Phil Simms and Frank Gifford, about Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing. In Philadelphia, we perform endless paleontology, digging up Mike Mamula and Bobby Hoying, Izell Jenkins and Ron Solt, Bruce Ruffin, Andy Ashby, Charles Shackleford, Shawn Bradley, Simon Gagne, and Jeff Ruland. They were the teases, the would-be saviors, the false prophets, but we refuse to let history bury them.

Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell are poised to join this ignoble group, high draft picks who never turned the corner on their careers but were counted upon in critical situations. Pinky, FredEx, and Pat Burrell occupy about 75% waking thoughts of the typical Philly sports fan on the eve of the Super Bowl, at a time when we should be harkening back to Bednarik or Bernie Parent.

...Queenan wrote that “rooting for teams like the Phillies was the Vale of Tears, the Stations of the Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Bataan Death March, and the Babylonian Captivity all rolled into one.”

Izel Jenkins, a defensive back for the Eagles in the '80s, did have one of the all-time greatest sports nicknames: "Toast".

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