Into the Mind of J: The Game One Experience

J, one of our favorite guest columnists, somehow landed front-row tickets, right behind the Phillies dugout for Game One in Yankee Stadium.  Apparently, the seat to his right was Spike Lee’s seat (I wouldn’t have believed it if there weren’t pictures to prove it).  So, we asked him to describe the experience of a Phillies-Yankees World Series game from, basically, on the field.  This is what we got:

If you’re a Phillies fan, Game 1 of the 2009 World Series was a game for the ages. It was probably the second biggest Phillies win in my lifetime (behind the ‘08 WS clincher, duh). I’ll leave it to the experts (Bry and Doogan) to break it down every which way in every bit of its awesomeness, but what I’d like to do is share my personal experience being there because it was the single greatest live sports experience of my life. Hands down. Yes, Doogan, something finally surpassed the #5 Temple win over #4 Michigan State in the 2000 college basketball season.

It all started Tuesday night, the night before the game, when my buddy Josh called me during my grad class. He left a message that I listened to during our midclass break.  “Just wondering what you’re doing for the game tomorrow. Call me back.”  Not much excitement in his voice, nor any other tell that I noticed should indicate anything other than he’s gonna be around Philly and wants to hang out. So I called him back after class. “Yo, got your message. Not much, probably just hangin at my place. You gonna be around?” “Nope…..but I happen to have an extra ticket for tomorrow…” After he convinced me he’s not joking, I told him that I’m sick right now, but I’d have to be dead not to accept. “I mean, what if Cliff Lee was sick right now. Would he not show up tomorrow?”, I explained. “The team needs me.”  Josh then explained he got the tickets through work and that they’re “really good seats” but wouldn’t tell me anything further except that we might want to get there early for batting practice.  I was officially excited.

So I took a half day at work on Wednesday, hopped on the R6 to 30th st, to the Amtrak to Penn Station and arrived around 5:00, wearing pretty much every piece of Phillies gear I own. After getting lost walking around midtown Manhattan (I know the streets are numbered, I’m kind of an idiot), I arrived at Josh’s apartment, where Doogan was also waiting to join us in our ride up to the Bronx.  Doogan I’m sure would consider killing for a ticket to this game (which he was sure to point out to me during our walk to the subway), but did not have one so he was just coming for the experience up to the point where we enter the pearly gates of the new Yankee Stadium.

So we hopped on the F train (I think?  Isn’t that the one that John Rocker made so famous?  Oh wait, that was the Mets.  Anyway…), along with way too many other people, and proceeded to sweat profusely for the entirety of the 40 minute subway ride.  Despite the overwhelming majority of Yankees fans in the car, the only chants I heard were a couple of “Let’s go Phillies”, in which I did not partake, heeding the advice of every hack office comedian earlier that day at my work who told me “You’re going to Yankee Stadium?  Don’t come back with a black eye!”  Though, these chants were met with nothing more than a few annoyed looks and indirect remarks (not that they warranted anything more).

Shortly after emerging from the underground sauna, Josh, Doogan, and I were stopped by a rather polite Yankees fan who wanted to know how long it takes to get to CB Park, what the stadium’s like, etc.  Halfway through answering his questions, a Japanese television crew, I’m sure there mainly to cover Matsui, jumped on us assuming we’re bantering about the matchup and asked us something like “So how tough have the Yankees fans been on you guys since you got here?  Is there a lot of anger between the two fanbases?”  This was kind of awkward since we were just making polite conversation and the reporter wanted some meat for her story.  We were just like, “No, not too bad.  This guy seems like a pretty nice guy…”  And trying to help her story out a little bit I added, “but the game hasn’t even started yet!”  Ha, pretty sure we didn’t make the final cut.

Josh then nonchalantly led us to our VIP entranceway, as he had these tickets once already for a regular season game this year, so he knew what to do.  This is where we said goodbye to Doogan with a few pictures and encouraging words.  In line we met our first couple of Yankees fans who really wanted to give us some crap.  The two guys behind us broke out the old “They let Phillies fans have VIP tickets?!  You guys aren’t allowed here!”  Blah blah blah.  The only interesting part of these two guys was the fact that the one argued with me when I told him we had more championships than they do this century.  So we passed through security and into this beautiful bar-restaurant area with flatscreens everywhere and free buffets of anything you could possibly want, from sushi to meats to gourmet dishes to candy to typical ballgame concession food to ice cream.  You name it, it was free there (and I later found out you can also have any of that ordered from and delivered to your seat).  Everything was free exept the booze, which was expensive for NYC, but I couldn’t possibly care.  Whatever I spent I could chalk it up to the price of the trip considering the ticket was free (thanks to Josh!).

We grabbed a couple beers and headed out to the seats.  I was expecting to be near Me N Josh at seatsthe field considering how shady Josh was being about the location of the seats, but this was ridiculous.  First row, behind the Phillies dugout, right above one of the dugout entrances, seats 1 and 2.  Believe me when I tell you, I don’t think I could have chosen two better seats had we been given first choice in the ballpark.  When we got there, the Phillies just were finishing up batting practice.  It was just amazing to be so close that I could read the facial expressions of or say something without yelling to these guys I’ve spent so much time watching on TV and rooting for and calling out their first names in disgust when they made a bad play.  And they were getting ready to play game 1 of the World Series.  This had just gotten surreal.

We spent the next hour downing beers, taking in the great view, and watching the media do their thing on the field.  The highest profile guy we noticed was probably Chris Berman.  It may or may not surprise you to hear that he looks even worse in Hangin Outperson than he does on TV.  I may be exaggerating a bit but he looked like he gained 20 pounds and slept in the suit he was wearing and it didn’t help that he appeared to be creepily hitting on one of the young production assistants.

But probably my favorite anecdote of this little downtime was when a few of the guys who weren’t starting this game (the starters were busy warming up) were just hanging around the dugout, some in, like Blanton who was drinking what appeared to be hot cocoa, some out, like Pedro who was just standing near the dugout looking around and cracking jokes.  There was a Yankees fan who decided it’d be fun to walk down to the aisle area next to me and heckle them.  “Hey Cole, how’s the baby?!”  “Hey Miguel [Cairo]!  You miss it here don’t you!”  “Hey Pedro, nice jerry-curl!”  Pedro’s already facing our direction with his hands low in the pockets of his official Phillies team jacket.  In response he just looked up at the guy, pulled his pockets up to expose the crotch area of his pants, glanced down at his crotch, and shot the guy a little smile.  It may sound cheap, but it was priceless.

Next came the starting lineups.  Starting LineupsThe Phils were announced first and met with a whole lot of boos (as expected), and lined up on the third base line right in front of us.  The chemistry of this Phillies team was as apparent to me as ever.  They just showed so much more energy than the Yankees did when they lined up, high fivin everyone, jokin around, etc.  The Yankees came out to the crowd erupting, but just ran to their spot in the line and stood there.  This was the loudest the crowd was all night.

At this point, there were a bunch of random fans crowding the aisle next to me to get a closer glimpse of the field before they had to return to their seats for the first pitch.  It Spike Leewas at this point that Josh nudged me and goes, “Hey check it out, it’s Spike Lee!”  Sure enough, Spike Lee was a couple people to my right, leaning over the dugout saying something to a couple of the players.  My first thought was, “Wow, I want to say something to him, but what?  I like your movies?  No, that’s probably annoying.  I’ll just snap a picture of him and that’ll be it.”  So I did and figured he’d return to his seat and that’d be the last I saw of him.  But as the game started and everyone was ushered back to their seats, Spike settled into the seat directly across the aisle from me.  So here I was, sitting in seats that (according to one Yankees season ticket holder) probably could have sold for $7,500 each, with my friend Josh to my left, Spike Lee to my right, and the entire Phillies team directly below me, watching Game 1 of the World Series.

Just as the Phillies were starting up 2-out a rally in the 1st inning, Spike turned to me, pointed at the dugout surface, which was significantly peeling already in its first year, and goes “1.5 billion dollars?”  Apparently Spike Lee was cracking jokes to me.  “Ha, I was just sayin the same thing! …but if this were Philly it’d probably be completely peeled off by now.”  I still have no idea what that meant, and I’m sure Spike was equally confused.

Utley’s bomb in the 3rd inning was pretty much all it took to shut the crowd up for the rest of night.  Except for the scattered Phillies fans going crazy, including Josh and I Howard Smilepounding on the dugout roof, the rest of the place was a deafening silence from the moment we jumped on top with that homer to the end of the game.  I was shocked at how much the fans were taken out of the game.  When the Yankees failed to score again in the 4th, Ryan Howard taunted Spike a little bit, “Smile!” as he ran into the dugout.

In the 5th inning, Robinson Cano popped up to short with Matsui on first and one out.  J-Roll made what could be a shoe-string catch or a trap and threw to Howard who tagged Matsui.  This was kind of a confusing play.Jimmy Smile  Spike goes, “That was stupid!”  “Why?” “Cano’s a better runner than Matsui!”  “I think he caught it in the air and was going for the double play.”  Sure enough, the umps conferenced and concluded a double play.  What a great play.  As Jimmy ran into the dugout, Spike yelled at him “That should work in Little League!”  Jimmy just winked and blew him a little kiss.

With Cliff Lee still cruising in the 6th inning, Spike Lee’s thoughts apparently moved to other sports.  “So we got Sixers-Knicks and Giants-Eagles this weekend.  Who you got in Sixers-Knicks?” “I dunno, they’re both pretty terrible.  Can they both lose?”  Spike didn’t seem to get the joke.  “And your Giants have been struggling lately, but you definitely didn’t lose to the Raiders, so I’m gonna give you guys the edge in that one.” “Ha, Pffff, Jamarcus Russell?!?!”  “Ha, I know, a little embarrassing.”

When the Phils tacked on two more in the top of the 8th inning with an Ibanez single the place started to empty out.  It was only 4-0 and they still had two more at bats!  That would never happen in Philly.  I was embarrassed for them.  Howard popped his head out of the dugout and goes to Spike, “You leavin?” “Til the end, baby.”  “Here tomorrow?”  “Nah, Yankees dugout tomorrow.”

In the bottom of the 9th, after the Phillies make it 6-0, the few Yankees fans that were left showed a little life in them as they scored their first run.  Spike was getting a little fiesty.  “Where’s that bullpen of yours?  What’s wrong with your bullpen?”  “There’s a lot wrong with our bullpen.”  “Hahaha”  “But yours isn’t much better.”

But we didn’t need the bullpen.  Manchild, Cliff Lee closed it out himself and sent the remaining Yankees fans racing for the exits, Spike Lee included.  Not us though, Josh Obnoxious Phils Fansand I wanted to bask in the amazingness of what we just witnessed.  The other Phillies fans in attendance apparently had the same idea because within 20 minutes, there were probably more Phillies fans hanging around than Yankees fans.  Some of these Phillies fans started to get loud and obnoxious to the remaining Yankees fans.  In fact, hands down the most obnoxious fans I experienced the entire day was a group of Phillies fans right after the win.

The stadium was beautiful and I highly recommend it.  However, my opinion is probably scewed by the fact that we had the best seats in the house.  The fans were fine and had no problems with anyone the whole game.  And it’s not like we weren’t going crazy every time the Phils scored.  However, again, my opinion is probably scewed by our seats.  Most of the people around us looked like they were there on the company dime (which of course we were as well), and that class of fan is much less fiery in general.  Plus, we were at a game where the Yankees got shut down.  What was there to be cocky about?

Josh and I stayed for post game interviews and then took off.  Chase’s was directly in Chase interviewfront of us.  It was quite a feeling to walk out of there with a victory.  We could figuratively puff our chests out as we walked by all the dejected home fans.  I mentioned to Josh as we exited, “Getting out of here might not have been this easy had we lost.”  This was right around when I was shoving a couple last handfuls of free stuff into my pockets.

When we got outside I realized we had a 40 minute subway ride ahead of us and I already had to pee.  “Are there any bars around here?  I could use the bathroom and we could do a victory shot!”  We walked up to the first bar we saw and realized it was packed with nothing but pissed off Yankees fans.  As we walked up to the large bouncer with a Yankees hat on, he goes, “You guys are brave men.  You sure you wanna come in here?”  Cutting through that crowd was a little harder than the usual crowded bar.  I took a few light elbow jabs and got the finger a lot, but made my way to the bathroom on the other side.  The guy in front of me stared me up and down like he wanted to eat my children, but I just looked away.  As I finished up at the urinal, one of the guys who’s exiting the bathroom decided he’s really gonna get me.  He kinda yanked on my backwards hat a little so that my head jerked back, and then ran out of the bathroom.  One of the other Yankees fans in there was as confused as I was by the display and then congratulated me on the win.  Josh and I then got a couple Jaeger shots, toasted to a Phillies world series victory in a bar full of pissed off Yankees fans, and took off headed for the subway.

We got back to Josh’s apartment around 1:00 and proceeded to watch highlights of the game we were just at.  We even saw ourselves on a shot of Charlie Manual during a Chase Utley homerun highlight thanks to the slowdown feature on Josh’s Direct TV.  Asleep by 2:00, up by 5:00 to catch the early train, at work by 9:30, at grad class by 6:00, and home by 8:45 to catch the beginning of the third inning of Game 2.  What a whirlwind.

Me N Josh

Into the Mind of J

[Another valued BSB reader making a valued contribution]

“Worth the Wait?!?”

Scott Kazmir, following the game 7 clincher of the ALCS: “It means everything to me, it really does, especially for this city.  It’s pretty much worth the wait, you could say, for what we had to go through the past four years.”

Okay, so Doogan will attest to the fact that I’m the first person to overreact to statements made by a sports figure, especially if theres any way they could be construed to be a slight against one of my teams.  And from what Ive seen Scott Kazmir is a likeable guy, but well, this statement set me off yelling at the TV the other night, alone in my apartment.

Scott, this is your 4th full season in the big leagues!  Youre 24 years old!  Tampa has no baseball history at all, let alone one to feel sorry for!  That city has nothing but fake diehard fans and bandwagoning, blue Mohawk wearing posers!  They dont deserve anything!  What the hell do you know about strife, Scott?!  Try losing 10,000 games!!  Try waiting 100 years for your first championship!!  Try playing for the quote unquote worst franchise in sports history and seeing your fans still come out in droves year in and year out just to be disappointed one more time, and then see if you still think the city of Tampa deserves this one!

OK.  I feel a little better now that someone actually heard me.  A little.