Friday, April 13, 2007

I've Seen This Movie, Too

By Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

Watching the 2007 edition of the Phillies is taking on a cinematic quality already in the first nine games of the season.

You know the kind, a real good trailer filled with bright colors, action, suspense, excitement, with the lure that your dollars won’t be wasted?

Well, take it from someone whose last foray into a movie theater consisted of the cringe-worthy double feature “The Number 23,” and “Reno 911: Miami,” that investing any more energy and effort into hoping this year’s blockbuster is any different or rewarding than years past is fruitless.

By now, even the least astute and blindly hopeful Phillies fan can see the season unfold before them. The 2-7 start through a bitter cold Northeastern April compounded by limping into May with less than 10 wins. A couple more good quality starts from the staff ace made better when the bullpen comes up huge as the trees begin to blossom.

The brief spurt - say, an 11-3 or 12-1 run - that begins just about the time the kiddies are released from school and attendance begins to rise steadily. The hopes that Pat Burrell, or whoever happens to be the lone player actually hitting something worth his contract, will be the one to spur the rest of his teammates to break out of their collective funk.

Fan interest grows and rises with the mercury. Even the most gruff and disbelieving adults hold off on tainting their young charges against their new heroes when Chase Utley and Ryan Howard combined to hit a couple of walk-off home runs to lift the club within striking distance of first place. As the dog days approach, certain starters who were tight in the cool Spring weather begin to tire easily as the humidity of Summer impacts the number of innings they spend on the mound.

Still, though, consistent play has the team thinking Wild Card as they compete with the requisite Central and Western division teams which are always in the hunt.

However, as the kids go back to school and the nights grow shorter and cooler, they also get crueler. The occasional poorly-timed extra-innings loss which costs the Phillies a potential series sweep pushes them further back from a playoff spot, as everyone else in the chase keeps chugging away. Newspapers, radio, and television resurrect their incessant chatter about how those games early in the season are again a stumbling block. Charlie Manuel, Pat Gillick, and any number of anointed “team leaders” go in front of the cameras to profess patience and positivity that the club can make a big push at the end to get to the top.

Then, a late-season visit to (pick one) Florida/Atlanta/New York derails those hopes and dreams in a blinding flash of defensive gaffes, over-anxious at-bats, and explosive middle relief. Fans start the E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!! chant during the final home stand, and the rest of us who’ve stayed away slink off to wait for crisp Autumn Sundays which hold better odds for redemption.

This script is in desperate need of some rewrites. There needs to be shocking plot twists, adult situations, profane language, violence and possibly some partial nudity that nobody should see coming, and should keep people ponying up their dough. Come to think of it, anybody know what Joe Eszterhas is doing these days?

You wouldn’t pay $9.50 at your local multiplex with the stadium seats to watch a movie whose plot you already know within the first 10 minutes. So why spend $30 per ticket plus parking, plus food, even if it is a nice place to take the family on a beautiful July night?

I’ve seen this movie already, and the sequels haven’t gotten any better.

This club may be the first in baseball history to lose on five separate Opening Days, only one of which will take place beyond their home field. I don’t think anybody would ever see that coming. Still, one piece of radical minutia won’t be enough to generate a buzz further than your office water-cooler.

You’re better off dipping into nostalgia, staying home and popping in a DVD of “High Hopes: The Anatomy of a Winner,” the story of the 1993 Phillies. Even though you know how that one ends, there’s infinitely more satisfaction in the journey.

Or, you can search the inner recesses of your memory to access the last 2-7 start, back in 1987. That, at least, had the anticipation of Mike Schmidt’s 500th home run to keep the masses involved.
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