A Sure Sign Of Spring

Today is the day. We’ve just had the ceremonial changing of the jinglers. Doppler’s Eagles tag has been replaced by her Phillies tag. Let the games begin!

We are rabid Phillies fans. Luckily, even with Major League Baseball’s draconian blackout rules, it’s easier than ever to watch them play.

Just before I swapped Dop’s jinglers I moved the Roku from my office to the family room. Big league, big screen.

So exciting. I turned the set on just in time to see the pre-game setup package. This time of year every team is a contender.

Next up, Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler, the Phillies main TV broadcast team. They’ve been in Florida a few weeks. Both looked like they’ve spent too much time under french fry lights!

We quickly noticed a structural change. The on-screen scoreboard has been expanded from four to five panels. The balls and strikes will now be visible all-the-time instead of swapping their spot with other stats. The pitch count is a new addition. No pitch speed, but it might not be available during the spring.

The regular season doesn’t begin until April 5th. Until then we’ll be watching as many players with high uniform numbers as we can.

And So It Begins: Baseball

I am so upset. The baseball season has opened in a totally strange way. Bad feng shui!

By tradition the first game is played in the afternoon in Cincinnati. Not this year. Miami opened a new stadium and played St. Louis tonight. Last week Oakland and Seattle played a couple of real games in Japan.

I think MLB considers last week’s two games a “soft opening.” Who can tell anymore?

The Phillies play Pittsburgh at PNC Park Thursday afternoon. We’re big Phillies fans in the Fox household.

Right now most of the team seems injured. The rest are considering AARP cards. I don’t sense a winner. I hope I’m wrong.

It could be worse. We could be Mets fans.

Baseball is different than any other sport. Most of the time most of the players really aren’t involved in the action. Even so the season is long and grueling.

We’ll see some games. My sister and brother-in-law have invited us to Milwaukee to catch a weekend series. A former boss has offered Helaine and me seats in his company’s box at Citizen Bank Park.

We’ve got the MLB video package for the computer again. We can see nearly every game (and Helaine will). I can watch on my phone, tablet, Roku and PC.

The Dog’s Got Bling!

Doppler’s normally very docile, but you probably don’t want to diss the Phillies.

Doppler is nothing if not a stylish pup. She wears a collar with hearts, skulls and crossbones. Her sweaters carry designer labels. And now, on this day Phillies pitchers and catchers report, Doppler has a new tag to wear around her neck.

Doppler’s normally very docile, but you probably don’t want to diss the Phillies. Just because she doesn’t use her teeth doesn’t mean she won’t!

Baseball On My TV

Baseball is the natural enemy of snow.

I’ve got baseball on my TV right now! The Yankees are hosting the Phils. It’s still early. There are players on-the-field with uniform numbers in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Spring training serves as a milepost. It’s not spring here yet, but it soon will be.

Baseball is the natural enemy of snow.

A Day Of Sports

For the Phils pitcher Roy Oswalt scored from second on a play where he ran past the third base coach’s very visible stop sign then slid into home wearing a warmup jacket and gloves! The only thing missing was a red cup full of beer!

As you might imagine the Foxes spent the day watching the Eagles then the Phillies. We weren’t disappointed. Both teams won.

Interestingly neither game was carried to Cablevision customers in some of the Philadelphia suburbs. I hope Cablevision paid their customer service operators hazardous duty pay today. Let the cursing begin!

Both games had interesting moments. Kevin Kolb the Eagles quarterback aired it out and played like the passer he’s supposed to be, but disappointingly never has been. For the Phils pitcher Roy Oswalt scored from second on a play where he ran past the third base coach’s very visible stop sign then slid into home wearing a warmup jacket and gloves! The only thing missing was a red cup full of beer!

On a day like today it is difficult not to take advantage of technology. The Eagles game wasn’t on TV here so I borrowed a friend’s DirecTV to-go package. Computer quality is good, but not yet as good as a broadcast channel.

We watched the Phils live on Fox through the DVR allowing us to pause the action. Actually that’s where technology came back to bite me!

As Ryan Madson pitched to the Giants in the ninth I opened Facebook. For me there were two outs to go but on Facebook a friend had revealed the game was over. Oops.

I tried to tell Helaine I didn’t know, but it’s not the kind of thing anyone hides well. Certainly not me.

How I’ll Watch Two Games At Once Tonight

This is the techno equivalent of rubbing your stomach while patting your head and hopping on one leg.

Comcast has upgraded our DVR. Actually that may not be the proper characterization. They’ve changed and prettied it. Upgrade? The jury’s still out.

In order to enable the new stuff Comcast eliminated a few minor never used features like the picture-in-picture I want to use today! The Eagles and Phillies are both playing at 8:00 PM.

It’s the 21st Century. I can ad lib a solution… maybe.

Our Vizio TV has picture-in-picture built in, but one picture will have to be the cable tuner in HD and the other the set’s built-in tuner. It too might be HD. I’m really not sure at this point. This is the techno equivalent of rubbing your stomach while patting your head and hopping on one leg.

In case you’re wondering what I’ll be doing during halftime of the Giants/Texans game you now know.

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Conclusion: Wow, it works! The setup to split the screen was reasonably straightforward… if you’re nerdy. Seriously, this is not for the faint of heart.

On top of that there is the ability to actually make the split 50/50 and swap audio from side to side.

As it turns out the picture-in-picture Comcast removed was inferior to what I already had.

Sunday In The City–A Lot More Than Baseball

The real suprise and a true show stopper was Katie Finneran playing Marge MacDougall, a sloshed, possibly widodwed, pick-up on Christmas Eve. She was deliciously ditzy in an over-the-top role that could only appear on Broadway!

I’m writing this Monday afternoon. That says a lot about how busy we were Sunday!

Helaine bought tickets to the weekend Phils/Mets series at Citi Field. Originally the Sunday game was scheduled for 1:00 PM. That was before ESPN decided it would be the Sunday night game starting at 8:00 PM.

What was a baseball/motel/baseball plan became baseball/motel/filler/baseball plan. The question was how to fill?

Stef stepped up first. It was she who suggested going to brunch. After a little research (they have the Internet in California) she suggested Max Brenner’s in Union Square, a restaurant none of us had heard of. Max Brenner’s specializes in meals built around chocolate.

We left our motel near LaGuardia/Citi Field, walked to 111 Street and hopped on an inbound #7 train.

The Corona neighborhood where we boarded the train is mostly Hispanic. The train itself was a mini-UN. A woman sat across from us reading a Korean newspaper (with ads for State Farm Insurance and Dodge vans). There were a few groups of young Chinese girls near the door. Spanish was being spoken everywhere. It’s possible we were the only people within eyesight who spoke English as our sole home language.

We headed to Times Square, walked up a level to the downtown platform and took the local to Union Square. The restaurant was just a block away.

Breakfast was delish!

I had Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries, fresh whipped cream, shaved white chocolate and fresh strawberry syrup (plus a white chocolate syrup I never touched, but looked great). Helaine had fresh berry pancakes with blood orange syrup.

We headed out on foot down Broadway then past NYU’s sprawling non-campus to Washington Square Park. The park’s fountain was shooting water skyward and the area was alive with people this cloudy Sunday (and people with dogs).

Washington Square is a beautiful park. It’s the iconic symbol of Greenwich Village–the neighborhood within the city. This is the common meeting area. We even saw one couple get married in the park!

We walked around the Village a little longer, but it was cloudy and threatening. Back to the subway and back to Times Square.

Sunday is matinée day for the theater. We got half price tickets at TKTS for Promises Promises the Neil Simon/Hal David/Burt Bachrach revival starring Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth.

I’ve gotten excellent tickets at TKTS in the past, but this was a summer Sunday and we were there at the very last minute. We sat in heaven, way up in the second mezzanine.

Twenty years ago this would have been a problem. Today Broadway performers are so well miked the sound was great though we were a little far to see facial nuances.

Promises Promises is a great show with songs you already know and a full Broadway orchestra. Kristen Chenoweth was good, but Sean Hayes (Will and Grace) was surprisingly excellent. He’s an OK singer, but an excellent comedic actor in a show which demands just that.

The real suprise and a true show stopper was Katie Finneran playing Marge MacDougall, a sloshed, possibly widowed, pick-up on Christmas Eve. She was deliciously ditzy in an over-the-top role that could only appear on Broadway!

The show broke and we walked through a now soggy Times Square back to the 7 train. It’s astounding how quickly the vendors found umbrellas to sell! Today’s going rate was $5 (pronounced “figh dollar”). I expect the rate is as fluid as the weather.

The train back to Queens was crowded, but surprisingly Mets fans weren’t a large constituency. The 7 allows the central city to unload to the less glamorous neighborhoods along its right-of-way. That’s what took up the bulk of the space.

After a quick change at the motel (and an unexpected courtesy van lift to the stadium) we were back at Citi Field. It was raining, but not heavily enough to delay a nationally televised game. The fans in the stands are second class citizens in this equation.

I want to stop for a minute to say something nice about the Mets: Citi Field and the Citi Field employees.

The stadium itself is very nice. The walking areas are wide. Food is plentiful and actually worth eating! Though Subway has a large billboard in the outfield advertising their $5 foot longs, they’re $7.50 here.

Last night as we walked from our van down a deserted footpath toward the main stadium entrance we passed a young woman casually guarding a VIP entrance. As we came within a few feet she smiled and said, “Enjoy the game.”

It seemed totally spontaneous and genuine. This woman was representative of every Citi Field employee we met! Every single one was friendly, helpful and genuinely glad to see us there… even though we were wearing Phillies shirts.

The fans were equally friendly to us. I suspect they would not receive the same welcome at Citizens Bank Park in Philly. I apologize in advance. It now seems very unfair.

I understand from a Facebook friend the Mets took their blue collar team and, in building a new stadium, priced them out of the park. Judging by the sparse weekend crowd I suspect that’s true and a shame. Unsold seats do no one any good.

Saturday we sat on the first base side in the 400 level. Sunday’s tickets were on the opposite side six rows back in the 300’s. The seats were comfortable and the sight lines very good.

What luck–we were under cover!

This was a great weekend series for two Phillies fans. The Phils won both games (with the help of the floundering Mets who made more errors than runs this weekend).

Our 8:00 PM game wasn’t over until after 11:00 PM. We got home around 1:30 AM. TV friendly isn’t family friendly.

It was a great weekend. I now need a few days off to recuperate.

Phillies Baseball: A Night In Queens

Turning sixty wasn’t all bad. Helaine got me a bunch of gifts which have unfolded over the last month. This weekend it’s the Phils versus the Mets at Citi Field.

I know the neighborhood after all I grew up in Queens, but I’d never stepped inside Citi Field until tonight. I am favorably impressed.

We’re staying at a hotel in Corona (sounds like a dream come true, right?) so the stadium is ten minutes away. You walk up to Roosevelt Avenue then turn left and continue under the Flushing El.

From a distance the stadium looks classic. Lots of earth tones and exposed brick. As you draw closer it looks like the stadium itself is wrapped in an outer building.

We got frisked (yeah, frisked) and had our bags inspected on the way in. The stadium staff could not have been nicer nor smiled more.

We had no hassles while wearing Phillies shirts. Truth is a full quarter of the fans seemed to be Phillies fans. Really Mets fans? This is the best you could do on a Saturday night? There were loads of empty seats. What a shame!

The biggest difference between an old and new ballpark is the availability of food. Citi Field is loaded with food stands many serving specialty items. I bought some sushi and had a lobster roll. Helaine got a hot dog and shake from the Shake Shack.

Our seats were in the 400 level on the first base side and in the first row. It was a great spot to watch the game, not quite as good for photography which demands you stay close to eye level with the action.

The Phils won! It wasn’t pretty as the Mets gave up three costly errors (and we think it should have been four). The final was 4-0.

Chris Velardi and daughters will be glad to know they’re getting the Mets hats they gave away tonight!

Tomorrow’s game was originally scheduled for the afternoon. Thanks to ESPN it won’t start until 8:05. We’ll take advantage of the #7 train and spend some city time before heading back to Citi.

A Day Of Baseball

Helaine spent the afternoon rooting for the Mets. No, that’s not a typo. Yes, it is like the president of BP hoping for a quick changeover to solar.

It’s been a baseball Saturday at the Fox house. The Phillies are on right now. Earlier we watched the Mets play the Braves.

I didn’t grow up a serious baseball fan, but I didn’t live with Helaine! She is, to say the least, a captial “F” Fan. Actually, it’s more accurate to call her a Phan!

Wouldn’t your dad like this?” I asked her earlier. His TV viewing spot was in the basement on a small set. We’re watching in HD on the largest screen I’ve ever owned.

My in-laws reception was reasonably OK in those pre-cable days. It was certainly better than at my Uncle Murray’s apartment in Queens where the TV was unwatchable every time a plane took off or landed at LaGuardia. Honest. You can’t make that stuff up.

It’s not that we get replays today, it’s that we expect them on every pitch of consequence. My father-in-law had to wait for the paper the next day if he missed something.

Helaine spent the afternoon rooting for the Mets. No, that’s not a typo. Yes, it is like the president of BP hoping for a quick changeover to solar.

Atlanta won.

We’re now watching the top of the 9th with a Phils and Reds deadlocked 0-0. At the moment Travis Wood is throwing a perfect game! Roy Halladay is pitching a five hit shoutout.

We can only hope Wood becomes the Harvey Haddix of the 21st Century.

Update: Phils win walk-off style in 11. Very exciting. Sorry for both starting pitchers who were exceptional in no-decision starts.

Ask Me Anything–Why A Philadelphia Fan?

It is where I realized I was an adult. Normally you slide into adulthood gradually. Not me.

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

Dave writes, “As you grew up in NYC, have lived in the Buffalo area and now CT how did you and Helaine become such avid Philly sports fans?

Yeah, funny thing isn’t it? A lot of my friends don’t understand.

Helaine’s explanation is easier. She grew up in Philadelphia, the only child of a father who was a rabid Philly sports fan. It was from him she learned to talk back to the TV and question balls and strikes even when the Phils are up by a dozen. They shared a Phils season ticket package as she grew up.

My answer is a little more difficult. I grew up in New York and was a marginal sports fan. Nothing serious. I attended a few games–even a Mets game at the pre-Shea Stadium Polo Grounds!

I worked in Philadelphia on the radio from 1975 to 1980. Philly is where I realized I was an adult. Normally you slide into adulthood gradually. Not me.

It happened in the late 70s when I began playing poker every Thursday night with a bunch of guys around my age. Most of them had families. All of them had responsibilities. Each was accomplished in his own way. It was an impressive group.

They were adults and treated me as an equal. Therefore, I realized in one Eureka moment, I too was an adult. I was ready for adult pursuits.

At the same time a friend whose father was a season ticket holder to the Eagles asked if I wanted to buy two of them. Bingo! My love of Philly sports began.

I sat through a 4-10 Eagles season in Section 614. I never left before the final gun.

I attended a load of Phillies games at the Vet. I was there for the Phils-Dodgers playoff game where the fans rattled Bert Hooten so badly he had to be pulled!

I find watching sports with my wife among the most enjoyable parts of our relationship. She knows a lot more about the games than me!

Baseball Begins!

All the teams are in first place. All the pitchers have a 0.00 ERA. My cellphone ringtone is the ESPN baseball theme music!

All the teams are in first place. All the pitchers have a 0.00 ERA. My cellphone ringtone is the ESPN baseball theme music!

Let the games begin. Baseball season begins tonight with the Yankees versus the Red Sox.

Baseball season used to begin in Cincinnati with the Reds playing a weekday game in the sunshine. Fat chance now. TV rules.

The Reds are in the Great Flyover. Yanks-Sox are big city draws and will play in primetime. The rest of you purists be damned.

“You know,” I said to Helaine. “At some time the Phils won’t make the playoffs. At some point they won’t get to the World Series.”

I got the type of scowl only a wife can give to her husband. I dropped the subject. Our marriage needs to be preserved.

One day last week Helaine sent me three emails in rapid succession. One Phillies pitcher was getting cortisone shots while another would start the season on the DL. I can’t remember what the third email was about, but it’s possible another pitcher had tied himself to the SEPTA tracks outside Suburban Station. Helaine implied the team would have to look for pitchers in the stands before each game.

Fans–bring your glove and spikes.

Once again I gave Helaine the MLB.tv package for her computer as a birthday gift. What a husband. I bought the companion app for my iPhone. It’s possible we can watch games on both simultaneously. The terms of service aren’t clear.

Oh, who am I kidding? Bank error in your favor only happens in Monopoly!

Stef, who returns to SoCal tomorrow has promised to watch tonight’s game with us. She wasn’t forced. She wants to watch. She is surely Helaine’s child!

Go Phils.