Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joyless Mudville

It would not be factually erroneous to say that the Phillies lost their first game of the 2011 season last night but a more accurate way of putting it would be to say that the Mets beat them; because the loss had more to do with what the Mets accomplished  than it did with what our Fightins did or didn't do. The Mets had just an incredible third inning, scoring six runs, and their pitcher, Chris Young, had a phenomenal game all around, making Mets history by being the only pitcher in their 50-year history to get two hits in an inning. Both, of course, came in that incredible third inning; Young — a pitcher — was 3 for 3 hitting, scored a run and drove one in. Every single one of his hits was a valid one, too: He earned them.

In case you have not been paying attention lately, I am an avid Phillies fan and the Mets are one of our biggest division rivals — one of our biggest rivals period. Still it is hard not to acknowledge Young's beyond-impressive achievement. Quite a few other Mets had a good game last night as well, not the least of whom was David Wright, who went 4 for 5, scored 2 runs and drove in 2.

Wright is one of those scary-great players and I always kinda liked him; but for a while now he's also been one of my favorite (non-Phillie) players in the league because he's not only a really great hitter and an excellent third baseman, but also just seems an all-around class act. If anyone had to go 4 for 5 against the Phils, I'm glad it was he.

Last year, when the only games we seemed to get on TV were when the Phils played the Mets or the Yankees because, alas, we get NYC channels where I live (this season, we shelled out for DirecTV Extra Innings and so will get all Phillies games), I remember watching a Phils-Mets game on the NY channel and seeing a commercial in which Wright was spokesman for the New York City Carpenters' Union, and he pointed out that the new Mets stadium had been built, to code, by union carpenters making a livable middle class wage that enabled them to be active members of and contributors to their community. (You can see the commercials here.)

Well, here was a millionaire lobbying in favor of livable wages for the working man for a change! I liked that he opted to do that.

It was at that point that I decided I also respected Wright as a person. He is a good player but also, in my book, an admirable person, which is far more important.

I remember watching one Phils-Mets game during the height of the slump that Wright was in last year and seeing him fling his helmet in anger in the dugout after striking out yet again (or some such thing). He's a Met; there's no loves lost between his club and the one I root for, but I felt genuinely bad for the guy. I took no joy in seeing a truly great player agonize through a tough time, a time when he wanted to be helping his team and seemed just snakebit. (I felt something analogous when I saw that Tim Lincecum "lost" his first game this year after pitching 7 full innings and giving up no earned run; and he "lost" despite the fact that he didn't even give up the winning run (due to the weirdness in how they sometimes attribute pitchers' losses in MLB scoring). The Giants knocked the Phils outta the playoffs last year ... but that doesn't change the fact that Lincecum is a great pitcher, worthy off admiration.)

It was no fun watching the Phils get their asses handed to them last night; but there seems little point — there'd be something small-minded — in saying the Mets didn't deserve to win or the game coulda gone this way or mighta gone that. The Mets won and they deserved to.

I am making myself sound more reasonable than I am. I intensely dislike watching my team lose, but there are more important things in this world than whether or not your baseball team wins a game or even whether they win the fucking World Series. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to think of anything that matters less, in objective terms.

But I think sports can build character and I hope to become more like the person I somewhat disingenuously make myself out to be above. Because to my shame, I wasn't quite that person last night. Yes, sports can build character, can teach you winning with magnanimity, losing with grace, the importance of teamwork, the necessity of recognizing the contributions (and even feelings) of others ... but for fans, sports often seem to teach the exact opposite: how to be a sore loser, a graceless winner — how to be an all-around asshole.

Ian and I were watching the game last night (DVR'd so we could zip through commercials; by the 9th inning, what we were watching was maybe 20 minutes behind real time) and hoping the Phils would come back (they'd done it before); but with each passing inning, it became more and more clear that it wouldn't be happening this time. This was frustrating.

It was Teh 'Bride's late night at the library so she got home at maybe 9:15 (during the 6th or 7th inning for us) and went straight to bed; Ian went upstairs and hung out with her in our bedroom at around 9:40 so he could play with the iPad. At around 9:55, he comes down asking how it's going. "It's the bottom of the 9th and still 7-1," I said. "They're about to lose."

"Yeah, they lost. I checked online."

This was a forgone conclusion: The Phillies were going to lose. I knew this; they were not going to score 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th. I knew that Ian hadn't made them lose, in any case. But even though I am constantly telling him to be a good sport, I got really angry at him:

"Thanks for ruining the game for me, Ian! I wanted to watch it, but you ruined it! Just because you didn't want to watch it ..." etc.

I am that petty, that childish.

I became the worst possible example of the very type of asshole sports fan I am always exhorting him not to be. I became that with my own son.

This is the boy who, when we go to the local baseball field to practice, rushes 300 feet out into center field and says, "Hit me a fly ball, Dad!" And even though I keep telling him I'm not Ryan Howard, that I can't hit a ball that far (even if I were using something more substantial than his 22-oz aluminum kid-bat), he insists on seeing me as a guy who could do that. Despite all empirical evidence to the contrary. This is how he sees me.

He forgave me this morning when I apologized for having yelled at him last night.

He still doesn't see me as that asshole sports fan —despite all the evidence to the contrary. To him that was an aberration.

I sure hope it was.

For his sake, I have to be better than that. Not just a better sports fan.

A better person.

It didn't make me feel any better to wake up this morning and see that, at 9:42 last night, he e-mailed me from the iPad:  

Hi wats up dad wat u doing phials lost :( by

[This before he came down to tell me they lost.]

I know he loves me and looks up to me. I want so much to deserve that.

Last night, I didn't.


  1. AW DAMN GQH! how can I go on enjoying the outcome of last night's game after you go and post this "higher plane" post about sportsmanship and taking the higher road in life...


  2. The Twins, after some horrendous games (how do you give up a dozen runs to the Blue Jays?!), beat the Yankees in extra innings. Of course, the game was blacked out, as MLB wants a fortune for Yankee games, so FoxSports (aka MurdochNaziSports) charges extra to make all they can, so the local cable stations - in order to maximize their profits - broadcast 151 of 162 games. No Yankees, No Red Sox.

  3. Oh, and if that's the worst your parenting gets, you're doing just fine. The first conversation I ever had with my father, I was 14 and he had suddenly become bored from forced retirement; it was not about baseball, either, that was Mom's purview.

  4. Ummm....I love your "from the heart" posts. Don't hang your head, though, G.

    I think Ian got A LOT more from you NOT being a "better person," simply BECAUSE you apologized after losing your cool. What a great role model lesson that is to have one's father exhibit spontaneous human behavior that was less than ideal in his mind and then see him acknowledge and apologize for that behavior.

    We all lose our cool, but we don't all show concern/caring and apologize for it. If Ian emulates your behavior after he loses his cool (and he will) he will be that "better" person. If you hadn't lost your cool, he would never have seen your admirable way of dealing with it (and the respect that goes along with it) AND he would never have had the opportunity to experience the act of forgiveness and the wonderful feeling and bonding that goes along with that.
    I wish my parents had been humble enough to have apologized more...a lot more.

    So hold your head high, G.

  5. My eldest wanted an "official" Mets jersey a while ago. She had a bunch that she was requesting but I ultimately steered her towards #5. It was a wise choice. She came to me and wondered how the Mets were actually winning some games. It was sad that one of the local newspapers (I mean rags) had the headline the other day after the Yankees lost that they were not going 162-0.

    Don't worry about your Phils. They have plenty of more games left against the Mets to make up for one stinker. You'll have plenty of time bonding with Ian hopefully cheering for the Phils rather than rooting against the Mets.

    Save that rooting against for the Yankees.

  6. I'm with trailturtle. You are an AWESOME father. Let go of that Irish Catholic guilt, and know that we all consider Ian to be one very lucky kid.

  7. I'll be completely honest here and say that I did scroll through most of your post to get to the end so I could comment! I love reading what an awesome Dad you are, but I'm not a baseball fan by any means! when football comes back (and I deep down pray that they all get their shit together and sign the damn papers-damn unions, they should all go away, oops, did I just use this comment section for a political opinion? hehe) look out because I'm all about football. Anywhooooo.....please check out my latest post and I would love for you to possibly think about doing this on your beloved Morrissey. I hope I spelled his name right, I apologize if I didn't.

  8. I remember watching my Dad get so flustered by the Gamecocks. My dad was a HUGE sports fan. Loved every sport and was a baseball player when he was a kid. Anyway, years ago the Gamecocks lost a football game. It was just a regular game, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back. He wrote a very long letter to the school's athletic director which was filled with every 4 letter word you can think of. We begged him not to mail the letter (thank God there was no email back in teh day), but he did. Now it seems quite funny, but at the time, we were so embarrassed. Anyway, it's passion - and we've all been there. No harm. The apology you gave him was the most important thing. GO COCKSSSSSSSSSS!!!!

  9. The Twins home opener is today and yesterday their new "phenom" Tsuyoshi Nishioka broke his femur when a Yankee slid into him at second base. So... 2012 season starts when?