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Coach Flip Naumburg's Journal
Sunday, Rocktober 7, 2007
Oh what a week I had. I think or at least hope that it has ‘just’ ended. First there was the whole Philadelphia Phillie vs. Colorado Rockie Major baseball League Division Championship Series (of personal torture). I suppose I could write epically about my tale of one city, Philadelphia, a city that I have carried with me my whole life, but I haven’t lived there in 40 years. What is that? As it was it was not technically Philadelphia where I lived anyway. Hell, it was a couple of counties north of Philly where I grew up on a dairy farm. Dr. Freud, I think I need a little help here because modern methods may not work on one like me. At least my affliction is only for the Phillies and not any other teams from the city.
They (Philadelphians) are flat out the worst fans in America, and I didn’t have to remain a Phillie fan all these long and mostly woeful years. The options have been there for me with the places that I have lived, and I never even would have had to ‘leave’ my beloved National League, but no, I willingly and faithfully hurled myself annually each spring into that steaming pile of people that is widely known and recognized as the absolute lowest common denominator of sports fans.
HOW DID WIN-WIN TURN INTO LOSE-LOSE?
I just arrived home from Denver and the third and final game of the Phillie-Rockie series, won by Colorado 2-1 to complete the “sweep” of my Phillies and send them golfing while the Rocks move on. I had to go the game, of course, yet whatever the outcome it basically wasn’t going to be that good for me. If the Phillies were to win then those wonderful people who took me to the game would be unhappy but I’m sure undeterred. If the Rockies were to be the victors, well, then it would become what it did.
HEY WILBUR, WHICH WAY DID THEY GO?
Every time I have gone to games over the years it has mostly been Phillies-Rockies, Phillies-Dodgers, or Phillies-Giants. I even went to see them at Chicago's Wrigley field a few times. The games were always ‘road’ games as I haven’t been to the stadium in Philly since two stadiums ago (1960’s and it was called Connie Mack Stadium). Every time I went to games in Denver, Los Angeles, etc. there were always plenty of Phillies fans, and this was true when I saw them in Denver earlier this year at a time when you could have made a fortune if you were to go to Vegas and bet that the Phillies would meet the Rockies in a real series in what is rapidly becoming known as ROCKTOBER around these parts.
MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER GAME
I wore an old and faded Phillie hat to the game. It was subtle but true blue (red). I am not a wear-the-Mike-Schmidt jersey kind of guy anyway. I often don't even wear that much green when I coach CSU lacrosse.
There didn’t seem like there were many Phillie fans present on this playoff night, however. Maybe tickets were hard to come by. I know I was sure lucky not to just have a ticket, but literally I had arguably “the best seat in the house” and the option of making my way to a suite upstairs for a few jumbo shrimp and a Sprite if I felt like it. Sometimes the generosity of others simply astounds me and me getting to go that game fits in that category.
Anyway I scurried my way out of a jam packed Coors Field at game’s end where back inside there was now a massive and instant feeling of jubilation and I suspect relief that the team had cleared that first playoff ‘hurdle’. For the young Rocks and their short suffering fans it was the sweetest moment in franchise history (14 years?). There was a sense of nobody-is-going-to-leave-because-we-are-going-to-stay-and-party-all-night.
Just after the final out had been squeezed into the Rockies' Todd Helton’s glove at first base, and before the fireworks could get to going off and exploding too much I was already up the stairs and out the door. On that bitter trip through that PURPLE maize that was waving white towels I saw not one Phillie fan. Anything with a hint of red was already long gone, or so it seemed. I think it was just me and the Phillie wives there at the end, and truthfully I am happy for all of my Rockie fan friends, but I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I was on the highway home to Fort Collins in less than two minutes after I beeped my truck unlocked. No one had left their seats except me and all the other losers. I have never in all my sporting event travels driven out of the stadium area following the game more quickly. It was amazing. Heck, they are probably all still there as I sit here and it is tomorrow morning already.
The worst part of it all was the brooms. Basically the minute I heard that it would be the match-up I have been rambling on about I was also offered the ticket to go to game #3, the first one to be played in Denver for the series, as the first two were played in Philly. I eagerly accepted, but what came into Mr. Negativity’s head first? I’ll tell you. I knew we didn’t have the pitching to go anywhere so I was still in shock that the Mets had melted down so incredibly much, and it was indeed enough to let us Phillies win the division. I was not optimistic about our chances although I was elated by the late season run that had made for the current situation. The Rockies were and are basically on fire right now. The thought was “Please God, don’t make me have to go there (Coors Field) and see a bunch of people carrying (purple) brooms”. Brooms are of course the universal baseball symbol for “We have totally kicked your ass all week". We had already lost the first two back in the city of Brotherly Love so there was no way once we got out here, but the brooms pained me and I have never seen so many. The people I was with had a couple. Those cagey Rockie fans I (I think it was like 60,000) also all tried to high five me every time the Rockies did something good. They all did it with one another all night. I tried not to ever make any eye contact during those ‘special’ moments for them.
Oh well, I’m pretty sure that life will go on and I will find greater tragedy along my travels, but the game tonight was, and excuse me for this, not exactly a walk in the park. It was in some ways a miserable road less traveled to be sure. In spite of it all I am so grateful that I got to be a part of this epic Rockie moment, because the event was way bigger than just the game.
ONCE UPON AN ALUMNI TIME….
Earlier ‘today’ we had our alumni game. It was fun. At least others said it was. These games are hard for me. How competitive should I be? How can I root against the boys that have been here but now are not? I love them. I got to hate something but there is never anything out there to hate when they are all from ‘my team’. Then there is that whole playing of 65 guys in one game thing, which also stresses me out.
The alums had gone on all year about how they wanted to draw more older guys up for the event and the alumni weekend. Part of that plan was to have a few different games and match-ups. They didn’t want older guys to get ‘worked’ or even hurt by any of the young bucks, and they wanted to encourage more older players to come (and contribute). Also I had scheduled the thing during homecoming weekend and I had hoped that would help draw a bit bigger crowd. What it really did was make it so everyone had to park like a mile away and walk to the field because CSU and their crack police force had basically put a seal around any kind of campus access due to the parade which would be coming up in just a couple of hours from when we got there. I was already into the losing-losing part of things as I finally begged my way inside the campus gauntlet with a truck full of stuff to take to the field. It was barely 9:00 in the morning and my mood was already way less than a happy one.
When we all finally got there the Alumni had failed to bring this phantom “B” team I had heard so much about. The Alums as usual came after us hard, fast, and with some leftover skill. They eventually wanted to keep on with that ‘first’ game of “A” vs. “A” for basically a full game’s length of time. So we played on and ‘straight up’ as it were, yet I was trying to sneak and put in as many of my 65 as I could. We had another “half” later on where we really split up and everyone that hadn’t played much or at all got to play more.
Meanwhile I had never gotten a good groove going for us because we just had too many varieties and combos to get any kind of playing in the game like a team continuity.
We managed to ‘win’ the very sloppy game, but when it was over and done the rumor mill (Matt Smith-CSU-D-Big Alumni guy-1998?) started churning out that we (CSU NOW) were fun to play, nice game and all, but they (us) were just not that physical. Does that mean he thinks our team is a bunch of pussies? Oh great, we were now getting basically bashed by the alumni. Usually they would be fawning all over and about the next generation after the game we would play.
I guess it was all my bad. I didn’t prepare the team right. I told them all week about how we wanted to compete but that we needed to make sure that it was fun for the guys coming back from the past and to make them feel welcome in our family of now. I sold that as a priority. I didn’t make them work that hard at all this week in 'preparation'. We pretty much screwed around in practice. It was light weight practicing, and the only consistent part of the week as I look back on it was me being always with my good buddy grumpy who followed me around wherever I went.
Well, it is now after 2:00 a.m. and I say emphatically, “Screw all that!”. Next time I’ll make them (us) all color and polish their toenails and apply war paint to their faces before the game. Either way I will never (hopefully) prepare another team as poorly as I did ‘today’.
This was the minute waltz of journal entrees. It spewed itself forth.