Monday, April 20, 2009

A Banner Day

"You once wrote,
'There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place,
and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds
to show you what's possible.'"
--Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams

You can call it coincidence. And I know most of you will. But I happen not to believe in coincidence.

On Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia said a tearful final goodbye to Harry Kalas, legendary voice of the Phillies for nearly four decades.

On Sunday, something magical happened. Or rather, somethings magical happened.

The Phils were down 4-0, in danger of losing their third in a row at home to the lowly Padres. Then Chase Utley hit a two-run shot in the sixth to make it 4-2. Then Jimmy Rollins came off the bench, with five hits in his first 40 at-bats this season, and smacked a pinch-hit homer, and suddenly it was 4-3. Ryan Howard came up in the ninth and hit a single only he could hit. Because the outfielders had to play him so far back, he blooped one into shallow center, and the tying run was aboard for Raul Ibanez. Up 2-0 in the count on pitcher Edwin Moreno, Ibanez crushed a changeup towards rightfield. If it stayed fair, it was certainly gone. And it was fair. Ballgame.

I know I wasn't the only one saddened by the fact that we wouldn't get to hear Harry call it out. But I was comforted, if only a little, that somewhere in heaven was heard, "Swing and a long drive to deep it fair? it fair?'s OUTTA HERE!"

At the same moment, the Flyers, down 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their opening round series, stormed to a 2-0 advantage on goals by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. But with 13 seconds left in the first, Evgeni Malkin, Public Enemy #2 in Philadelphia (guess who's #1) beat Marty Biron to cut the lead in half. Then 13 ticks into the second period, Rob Scuderi scored, and just like that, a great period of hockey was undone in less than half a minute.

But that's when the French Connection took over. Danny Briere collected the rebound of a Darroll Powe shot, dished it beautifully to a wide-open Claude Giroux, who slammed it into an empty net. Just a few minutes later, when the horrible officiating crew called Mike Richards for a hold no one saw, the Pens went back to the power play. Giroux carried the puck deep into the Pittsburgh zone by himself. As we applauded his efforts in taking time off of the penalty, he spun away from defender Kris Letang, zoomed behind the net and found Simon Gagne all alone in front for the shorthanded goal. Jared Ross, called up from the Phantoms last Monday, scored his first ever NHL goal to make it 5-2. And Gagne's nifty empty-netter salted it away at 6-3. Now it's a series.

By the way, Claude Giroux is the real deal. Not enough space to elaborate quite yet, but Giroux, just 20, accomplished what I think they used to call a "Gordie Howe hat trick." A goal, an assist, and a fight. He may not have gotten the actual five-minute major for fighting. But it was a fight. I'm counting it.

And then there were the Sixers. Having finished the season losing six of seven for a .500 record of 41-41, no one gave this team a chance against the 3rd-seeded Orlando Magic. And it certainly looked like everyone was right, as the Magic built an 18-point lead in the third quarter and began the fourth up 14. Orlando went ice-cold, and Donyell Marshall, the pride of UConn, helped the Sixers crawl back and somehow tie this game up at 91. An earth-shaking dunk by Dwight Howard put the Magic up 98-95 with 49 seconds to play. Marshall drilled a three to tie it, finishing with 11 points just in the fourth. And with 2.2 seconds remaining, Andre Iguodala, in the face of great pressure by Hedo Turkoglu, floated a 22-foot jumper to steal Game 1 on the road, 100-98.

The magic, it seems, was all for Philadelphia yesterday.

Other Musings:
I was reading something in ESPN magazine about a hockey player who had spent time in the minors with the Greenville Grrrowl. Yep. No typos there, you read it right. Grrrowl. With three rrr's. Most ridiculous team name ever. (If you look at the logo, you can see that they do the same thing with Grrreenville. I feel like an idiot just typing that.)

I don't know about you, but I love the name Hasheem Thabeet. Everytime someone says it, I get that Go-Gos song in my head. Come the draft, some team is going to be singing, "We got Thabeet, we got Thabeet..."

Just wanted to point out the trashiness that seems to happening at every sporting event recently. You know what they'd all say if it happened in Philly. But of course, when it's somewhere else, there's usually some comment about "a few bad apples," yadda yadda yadda.

Exhibit A: During the Cavaliers-Pistons Game 1, fans were chanting, "Detroit sucks." Note to Cavs fans: You live in Cleveland.

Exhibit B: At Rangers-Capitals Game 2, fans were chanting, "Yankees suck." They were calling out one of the baseball teams of the rival city during a playoff hockey game. Caps fans just took a huge hit in my book. (Not that they care.)

But then again, we are still Philly fans.

Exhibit 1: During yesterday's Flyers game, a skirmish along the boards allowed for a closeup of the players. You could see a fan in the front row flipping the bird--two, actually--at Evgeni Malkin, yelling something I'm sure Malkin couldn't hear, let alone understand. God bless the slow-motion on the DVR. That was classic.

Exhibit 2: When the Chicken Dance was played over the PA, Flyers fans filled in the part usually reserved for claps with, "Hey ref, you suck!" I actually thought that one was pretty clever. The organist couldn't have been ready for that.

Lastly, anyone else think Eduardo Perez on Baseball Tonight looks like a thinner, better-looking, Latin version of Luca Brasi from the Godfather? I'm just waiting for him to say, "The Reds need him to pitch well today...on the day of your daughter's wedding."