Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thoughts From The Halfway Line

Back in the long-ago days when we here at TigerBlog HQ used to do something we called "media guides," pretty much every publication included language that Princeton was located at the midway point between New York City and Philadelphia.

Starting tonight, that distinction takes on even greater significance than letting college students on a bucolic campus know they have easy access to two great metropolitan areas. Starting tonight, Princeton is essentially the halfway point between the World Series opponents, the New York Yankees (evil) and the Philadelphia Phillies (reasonably good).

As an aside, it it TigerBlog's belief that 50 years from now, there will not be a World Series or Major League Baseball and that the most viewed sporting event (accessible via computer chips implanted in fingernails that allows the public to watch the event on their own internal mechanism) each year will be the championship game of Major League Lacrosse, to be played annually in front of 1,000,000 fans on a special stadium built on the international space station. Check back with TB in 2059 and congratulate him on being correct.

Anyway, back to Philadelphia and New York, it's actually 10 miles further to Yankee Stadium than Citizens' Bank Park, so the exact halfway point would be five miles up Route 1, around Raymond Road or so. Or maybe the Target in South Brunswick.

Still, it's close enough that there have been more than one media stories about it in the last few days.

Here at TigerBlog HQ, we have varying loyalties in Major League Baseball, including a Met fan who's going through a pretty rough time as his two least favorite teams play for the championship. There's also a Twins fan, a Dodgers fan and yes, a Yankees fan.

As for TigerBlog himself, he grew up rooting for the Mets but gave up on them when he moved to Hamilton Square in 1987 or so and couldn't get SportsChannel, which used to the cable home for the Mets (and no longer exists). That left his choices as the Yankees, Phillies and Braves, all of whom had all of their games on the local cable system.

TB chose the Braves because 1) he couldn't stand the Yankees, 2) he didn't usually root for Philly teams over New York teams and 3) MotherBlog had moved to Atlanta. This was in 1989, two years before the Braves went from being awful to being good. TB went to his first game at Fulton County Stadium in 1990, on a day when Tom Glavine lost to the Dodgers and about 10,000 people were in the stands.

As the Braves got better, TigerBlog got more into them. Looking back at those years, two things stand out. First was the night that TB went to a game in Atlanta while construction of the Olympic Stadium (now Turner Field) was going on, either in 1993 or 1994. During the construction, fans had to park downtown and be bused to the stadium, as there was no parking. After the game, 45,000 people or so had to wait on lines as buses pulled up, loaded and left for the parking areas. TB was shocked to find not a single pushing/shoving/cursing/escalating violence issue during the whole procedure; it was simply a huge line of people patiently waiting their turn.

Second, there was the time TB flew back to Philadelphia after visiting MotherBlog in the hospital, where she was battling what would turn out to be terminal cancer. MB had upgraded TigerBlog to first class (loved the hot towels), and it was pointed out to TB by the person sitting next to him that David Justice was on the same flight, across the aisle. TB told the stranger in the next seat about how he'd been visiting MB in the hospital and how David Justice was her favorite player. It led to this conversation:
Me: "It'd be great if he could send her something; that'd really lift her spirits."
Stranger On Plane: "Ask him to."
Me: "I don't want to be pushy."
Stranger On Plane: "Where can he go?"

So, with that logic, TigerBlog wrote a note about how MotherBlog was in Piedmont Hospital and how she watched all the games and how he was her favorite player and could he drop her a note, for which TB included MB's address. All the usual stuff. Later that night, MotherBlog called to say that David Justice had called her in the hospital and spoken to her for 20 minutes. He later sent her a package of Braves gifts, including a baseball autographed by about 15 members of the team and a tomahawk. TigerBlog has been a huge David Justice fan ever since.

Of course, eventually TBS went away from televising Braves games, and TB's interest in baseball began to wane. These days, his favorite teams are the Padres (Chris Young and Will Venable) and the Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf), neither of which made a run at the postseason.

As for this World Series, who is a Princeton fan to root for? Well, TB started by asking baseball coach Scott Bradley, who once played for the Yankees and is a regular at Yankees' Old-Timers' Day.

Bradley, though, likes everyone, so it's hard to get him to take sides. His basic comments were: "I just want it to go seven games and be close in the last inning and have someone have to get a big hit, like Chase Utley or Derek Jeter."

TigerBlog thinks the Yankees gave up on Ohlendorf too soon and that they'd be a better team right now had he taken Joba Chamberlain's spot in the rotation and had Chamberlain be the eighth-inning man all year. Plus, TB has never liked the Yankees.

As for the Phils, TB used to be a vendor at Veterans' Stadium, though he's never been a huge fan of the team. Still, TB will root for the Phillies for one reason: the team's TV play-by-play man, Tom McCarthy.

For those who don't remember, McCarthy used to call Princeton football and basketball on the radio, and he was the one behind the mic for the 1996 NCAA tournament win over UCLA and for the great 1997-98 season. He is an all-time favorite of basically anyone who's ever met him, and TigerBlog has had few better friends in his life than McCarthy. TB couldn't be happier that his career has skyrocketed, even if McCarthy was going to email TigerBlog a picture of his World Series ring from last year to put up here and forgot to.

As an aside, the only other time TB has ever flown first class was with McCarthy, when Princeton was coming back from Miami after playing Florida International (love the hot towels).

So, combining "Tom McCarthy" with "they gave up on Ohlendorf" and "a lifetime of hating the Yankees," TB is pulling for the Phils. And for a good, entertaining championship round.

After all, the day when the Major League Lacrosse championship wipes out the World Series is coming.

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