I hadn't blogged in a while until the previous entry. It wasn't some premeditated thing, it just sort of happened. Lots of good stuff that was blog-worthy will be handled in a manner reminiscent of Jennifer Rubin's frequent "Flotsam and Jetsam" posts in a bit. In the meanwhile, it's been sports saturation, with decidedly mixed results.
Thursday night was the low point: I attended the Predators game, watching them play extremely well for the better part of two periods, building a 3-0 lead on the Calgary Flames while out-hustling, out-hitting, and out-shooting them. A second period goal by the Flames made the margin 3-1, and two quick goals early in the third tied the game and deflated the Preds, who played on their heels throughout the final frame. The go-ahead goal for the Flames (scored by Mike Cammalleri, my first pick in this year's fantasy draft - I had already retained such worthies as Ovechkin and Nabokov) and an empty-netter (to complete a hat trick by Jerome Iginla) later and it was a 5-3 loss for the home team.
During the game, the monitors in the arena did not have the World Series on! I was dumbfounded. Surely out of the scores of monitors around the concourse, they could tune in a few to the Series? So instead of watching, it was follow-along-on-the-Internet, and the news wasn't good: 2-0 Rays, 3-0 Rays, 4-0 Rays. On the way home in the car, the Phils cut it to 4-1 and should have had the tying run at the plate after Jimmie Rollins was hit by a pitch. However, that wasn't called, and they could manage only one more run in the 9th to take the 4-2 loss.
Good friend Bruce Marshall arrived Friday night, and we went to see Father Ryan take on MBA. Not unexpectedly, MBA pounded this year's not-so-good FRHS side, 45-0. Even a blatant face mask committed by MBA wasn't called - not that it would have mattered one iota in terms of outcome, but as an example of officials not being on the level, that one was hard to stomach.
The bad sporting news wasn't over yet! Saturday afternoon, after watching an enjoyable karate session by the two youngest boys, we headed up to Nashville to take in the Vanderbilt-Duke game. Vandy had a surprising 5-0 start to this season, including a win over Auburn with ESPN's College Game Day on campus, generating a lot of excitement over a possible bowl appearance by the Commodores. A sixth win would make Vandy bowl-eligible! Then they went to Mississippi State and lost a winnable game. They next went to Georgia and lost a game they weren't expected to win, playing a decent if not great game. But the Duke game was the one that was supposed to right the 'Dores' ship. Fellow VU alumnus and friend Dan Gray (in town for his 30 year reunion) joined Bruce and me. Inept execution on offense, some lapses (not lining up on defense, allowing Duke to run a quick count and throw to an uncovered receiver and gain 30 gift yards, for example), one great play for the home team (a 75+ yard TD throw and catch), three missed field goals, and a game-ending INT at the 1 yard line... and a loss, 10-7. Vandy knows how to rip the hearts out of its fans - maybe that's why the cardiac transplant center is so skilled!
We needed to change our sports momentum, and so we trudged back downtown to watch the Predators and Kings. Now Dom was added to the mix. Bruce and I sat in the All-Inclusive Zone, with monitors aplenty - and they were willing to tune in the World Series! Bama-UT on some screens, Penn State-Ohio State on others, and the Preds game on most of the rest. Of course, the Series was in a rain delay, so even though the monitors could be tuned in to the game, it didn't matter. Now the creepy part: the Preds play extremely well out of the gate, dominating shots on goal, building a 3-0 lead, and chasing the opposition goalie. And then the Kings score a goal, and then another. It's 3-2. A 17-4 SOG advantage is now a 20-21 disadvantage. Thursday night's Flames fiasco appeared to be playing out again in front of us. But then... a goal from an unexpected source, defensive forward extraordinaire Jerrod Smithson. And again, a goal from a minor offensive contributor, the Fightin' Inuit Jordin Tootoo. A 5-2 lead and everything seemed back to normal. Except that the Predators inexplicably kept turning over the puck in the neutral zone, and it was 5-3, and then, with 1:04 to go, 5-4. A tense final 64 seconds passed without a goal, and we could finally savor a victory. At last, one of my teams won a game!
Checking on the Series, it was 1-0 Phils, then 2-1 Phils by the time I got to the car. We had to play a game of who goes where, with Dan joining me in my car and Bruce joining Dom in his. I drove Dan back toward Vandy to get his car, and then we drove back to Father Ryan where Bruce's rental had been left (confusing? You betcha!). So now we had 4 cars and 4 drivers, and we were all set to drive back to Brentwood, where our out of town visitors would spend a night in a hotel, and Dom and I could head home to watch the end of the Series. Of course, this being the South, there was college football all over the radio dial. What wasn't there? The World Series!
So I tuned in 1210AM, and listened through the static as best I could to the incomparable Harry Kalas and the still-grating Chris Wheeler. Dom told me that I had to pick up his twin sister across town - aargh! I had a Series to watch at home! Fortunately, Emmy called me before I left the Ryan parking lot to tell me that she was getting a ride to a friend's house that was actually on the way home - thank goodness! So Emmy joined me in the static and occasional play-by-play that emanated from the radio. It was still 2-1 when we got home.
On the couch, with Luca resting his head on my leg and Emmy sitting astride my other leg, I told Luca before the very pitch to Utley when it happened: "Home run". The pitch, the swing, the homer! Luca was duly impressed. I wasn't feeling nearly so bold when Ryan Howard stepped in, but he followed with a bomb too. 4-1 and feeling good. Then a blown call on a beautiful play by Jamie Moyer and Ryan Howard led to 2 runs that otherwise would not have scored, and I was beginning to get the Ghost of Phillies Past vibe, 1977 division ("Steve Garvey has yet to touch home plate at Veterans Stadium" to quote the late great John Facenda). Tampa ties the game in the top of the 8th and I am getting verrrry nervous. But then something un-Philly-like happens in the bottom of the 9th. Eric Bruntlett, a utility guy who has punched well above his weight in this Series, gets hit by a pitch (now I am thinking Ghost of Phillies past, Pete Rose - 1980 World Series division). I am peeved that they have Victorino up to bunt, and his first attempt is a failure. The second one nearly hits him, he does a jig to avoid getting hit, and Bruntlett breaks for second. Of course, the ball bounces straight back from the back stop to Dioner Navarro, the Rays' catcher, and I am thinking that we are cursed. But Navarro's throw is off line and skips in to center, and smart, aggressive base running by Bruntlett gets him to third. Two intentional walks later, and I am telling my kids: the pitcher has thrown 9 straight balls - do NOT swing until he throws a strike!
Ball one high. Oh yeah! Ball two high - oops! Ruiz swings at it and fouls it off - idiot! The count goes to 1-2 and I am thinking that a strikeout is unavoidable, followed by an inning-ending, soul-crushing double play. He fouls off a pitch (a ball, but he has to protect the plate, so that's okay). He lets ball two pass high and away. And then he swings at an inside pitch, rolling a swinging bunt toward third. Longoria has to make a choice: let it roll and hope it goes foul, or try to force Bruntlett, steaming toward home plate. He tries to make the play, but with Bruntlett between him and the catcher, he has to throw it over the runner's head - which was also over the catcher's head. Bruntlett scores, Phils win! The possibility that they won't have to return to Florida and capture the title at home remains alive.
Before the game I was thinking: the Phils had never won a World Series Game 3. In 1915 and 1983, they won Game 1 and then dropped 4 in a row. In 1950, they were swept 4 straight. In 1980, they dropped Games 3 and 4 in Kansas City. In 1993, they lost Game 3 at home and then the infamous 15-14 loss in Game 4 followed. So that means that they would also be breaking new ground should they win tonight, as they have never won a Game 4 either. Go Phils - bring home the title, and set up the bookend '80 and '08 victories, and GOP wins in presidential elections shortly thereafter!
Today should be a little more mellow, owing to the late finish time of last night's game, and the relatively low importance of today's Eagles game. It's about time for kickoff, but I suspect that they won't be showing the Birds here. Just as well - I will save the agita for tonight. I predict a high-scoring affair tonight, with the Phils prevailing 11-6. Not that you would want to put any money on one of my predictions!