Monday, October 27, 2008

Pretzel's Honor

Before the start of the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers wrote an article that went beyond poking good-natured fun at the opponent city and took cheap shots at Philadelphia, its culture, and its citizens. An excerpt:

ANGRYVILLE—You spend any time in this dingy city and around these folks, and pit bulls running wild come to mind.

Fine when leashed, but set them free, put a beer in their grubby paws and it's only a matter of time before they're going to go on the attack—both the home team and its opponent feeling the bite.

For Dodgers, it will be handle with care... Dodgers bullpen might not include...It's an angry place, all right, everything old here in Philadelphia, crumbling and in ruin. Even the city's main attraction has a crack in it.

So the prevailing opinion around here is you have to be an obstinate pug to make it in Philly, the football team tough, the hockey team a bunch of bullies and the Phillies rugged competitors like Larry Bowa.

This is supposed to make Philly an intimidating place to play, Bowa telling the media Wednesday that if the Dodgers thought Chicago was bad, "they're going to be in for a rude awakening" playing here.

"It was like a West Coast crowd in Chicago," said Bowa, the Philly in him unable to keep himself from slapping Dodgers fans, and apparently discounting the manner in which Nancy Bea Hefley can whip a Dodgers crowd into a frenzy.

But if a Philly crowd is so intimidating, as Bowa suggests, why do the Phillies lose here so often? A year ago, the Phillies became the first pro sports franchise in North American history to lose 10,000 games.

Philly has always been more bark than championship bite, so why should the Dodgers give a hoot about folks who paint their faces and then have to drive home looking like sad clowns?

The Dodgers have the better team, a destiny date in Boston, and while that might make the folks in Philly miserable, they don't know how to act any differently here.

Simers' article was soon reprinted on a Philadelphia Web site (, whereupon it drew the ire of many locals. It was brought to my attention by a friend, who "commissioned" me to post a suitable response to Simers' boorish snobbery:

T.J. Simers proved as astute a baseball expert as an appreciator of American culture. But that’s to be expected from a resident of a city so uninventive that it essentially named one of its baseball teams the “City of Angels Angels.” Through L.A. smog, he foresaw victory for a squad that won a powderpuff division with a puny 84 wins—and won it solely because the Boston Red Sox virtually gave away Manny Ramirez. Without Boston’s gift, the Dodgers are pipe-dreaming of a .500 season. Even with Manny, they could only eke out a lone win in the NLCS—but that’ll happen when the opponent’s #2 starting pitcher out-RBI’s your catcher and right-fielder combined.

Yes, everything is “old here in Philadelphia, crumbling and in ruin.” We’re practically living in rubble. To hell with the history of the United States—we should raze historical and architectural landmarks like Independence Hall, the Museum of Art, Walnut Street Theater, the marvelously ornate City Hall, and start afresh. Who needs the colonial sublimity of Elfreth’s Alley when we could instead erect soulless abominations like Walt Disney Concert Hall and stare agog at how shiny they are? (Note to Los Angeles City Council: Keep Donald Duck away from the blueprints next time.)

Still, we’re quite proud of our city’s main attraction, crack and all. In the town that gave the New World democracy, our Liberty Bell is the foremost symbol of freedom—the same freedom enjoyed for the last fourteen years by the unending Los Angeles embarrassment known as O.J.

Yes, the Phillies were the first North American team to 10,000 losses. It’s easy to stay off that list when your city doesn’t even have a professional sports team until after World War II. (Our long-departed A’s gave us five World Series titles before Hollywood even started shooting in Technicolor.) And how does the second-largest city in the nation allow not one—but two—NFL teams to abandon it? That’s some fan base Apathenos have there. But then, you can’t spell “blasé” without “LA.” Granted, the Lakers own a glorious history (even if their best player of the last decade is a Philadelphian), but those triumphs are cruelly balanced by the woeful Clippers, one of the poorest-run franchises in American sport.

And why do the Kings even bother?

“Angryville,” as Simers has less-than-cleverly dubbed Philadelphia (conjure that one in six-lane traffic on the way to work, T.J.?), doesn’t require Hollywood glitterati at its games. We’re content living without the starstruck sycophantism of La La Land. And if our favorite sons are as glamour-less as Benjamin Franklin and W.C. Fields, that still beats the Bloods, Crips, and the omni-obnoxious Jack Nicholson. (By the way, six decades after his death, Fields’ films are still more entertaining than ninety-five percent of the drek Hollywood churns out.)

Philadelphians are passionate fans, alright—occasionally too much so—but it was Dodgers fans guilty of acting like classless buffoons in this series, reported in the media and caught on Youtube throwing food, viciously berating, and even spitting at isolated Phillies fans.

You might want to reset the coordinates of Angryville in your GPS, T.J.

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