Just got back from Phillyphest 2010. Whenever the Red Sox are in Philadelphia I head down to see my buddy, Avi, the Israeli Lion. Our mutual pal, KenWhite (he is one of those guys who is a firstname/last name guys) joins us. Both are big sports fans. The Lion is a rabid multi-sport, single city guy. Local sports memorabilia adorns most of the walls and shelves of his home. Teddy bears with Flyers hoodies, teddy bears with Phillies hoodies, and teddy bears holding baby teddy bears wearing Flyers or Phillies hoodies. KenWhite is from the Cleveland area. He spent nearly two decades in Boston but has not wavered in his loyalty to the teams of his childhood. Our 3 man, 3 team dynamic makes for interesting, intelligent conversations. Mostly. Here is one of em.
On the drive down for Phillyphest 2005 (or 06), KenWhite and I invented a very entertaining game. Its genesis was a comment I made about the Utah Jazz. I likened their history to the career of Pearl Jam. I guess I meant that they were really talented but never talented enough to be considered the greatest in their milieu at any given time.
It was an off-the-cuff statement, but it led to other comparisons. We finally refined the game to rock bands or musicians and their Major League Pitcher equivalent. For the rest of Phillyphest, we tried to find the major league equivalent of Supertramp, the Pixies, etc.
I guess this game would only be appealing to people who like baseball enough to know something about pitchers and their careers. Everyone seems to like music enough to know the bands. But the great thing is that you need not use pitchers or even baseball, although I found it to be the most fun because of the diversity of major league pitchers along with its ultimately limited number. It forces folks to come up with cogent arguments for why, for example, Greg Maddux is U2.
Or Roger Clemens is the Rolling Stones.
Or Nolan Ryan is the Grateful Dead.
Why is Greg Maddux U2? Early in his career, Maddux put up some really good numbers. Think U2’s first few albums. Really good stuff, but not top of the charts in terms of sales. Then Maddux goes from Chicago to Atlanta and becomes the dominant pitcher of his league. His career goes on forever and even at the end teams trade for him hoping that he will put them over the top in their quest for a championship (San Diego and Los Angeles). U2 had a decade of real dominance. And then continued to put out albums and sell out shows even while their fans were saying the best stuff was the older stuff. At the end of it all Maddux will be considered one of the best of all time, as will U2. Even though folks who aren’t fans of either have been scratching their heads forever wondering how the hell did either of them get so big.
The Rolling Stones are, like U2, clearly one of the best bands in Rock history. And Clemens is one of the best pitchers to play baseball. And if more than 5 people are reading this, my point will be made. As many people hate Clemens, and claim he is a steroid using fraud as hate the Stones, for stealing blues riffs or songs. Both hung around too long. And both clearly cannot get used to having their careers over (demanding a congressional hearing is like re-releasing Exile on Main St with bonus tracks).
See where all this is going? While not endless fun, it can certainly make a 6 hour ride go by fast.
But perhaps you want to know where on earth do I get Nolan Ryan as the Grateful Dead?
Nolan Ryan has more no hitters in Major League history than any other pitcher. He won over 300 games, a benchmark for excellence over a long career. And he is the leader all time in striking out folks. His major league debut was in 1966 and lasted until 1993. Some amazing numbers. People have argued he is the best pitcher ever. But he also has walked more people than any other pitcher. He has lost more games than every other pitcher save two. His only World Series ring is from a season he hardly played in. His post season numbers are ordinary. One could argue he is the most overrated pitcher of all time. Which brings us to the Dead.
Greatest American band ever? Plenty of folks would agree. But even more will say “GTFO!” (Which means “get out”…kinda). And no amount of arguing will convince either side they are wrong. But their career is long, successful and controversial. They are Nolan Ryan. Although I can’t see Jerry Garcia putting Trey Anastasios in a headlock and punching his lights out.
Try it. Come to the bar and I’ll be up for a round or two. You can only be wrong if you can’t defend it, and it whiles away the hours.
I have some sad news to share here: a Highlander has left the nest for another job. Server extraordinaire Jim Paul has taken a job at the Gallows, a new joint in the South End. It is hard to quantify the effectiveness of servers and bartenders. Sales, check averages and tip percentages are some ways, but hardly infallible. But a clear sign of how good Jim is at his job was his last shift at Highland Kitchen. So many of his regulars came to to mourn his leaving and celebrate his opportunity. And what a party it was. If you feel the need to catch up with Jim, or rather his alter ego Vice Versatile, he organizes, hosts and performs at Jacques on the 2nd Monday of every month. More info forthcoming. Wednesday night Karaoke will not be the same.
Notes on Phillyphest: I went to the Jerk Store…
After stuffing my face with pretzels and hot dogs at the Phillies/Sox game I returned to the Lion’s neighborhood, desperate for the miraculous restorative powers of Fernet Branca. We tried quite a few places but didn’t have any luck until we found the Snack Bar, an intimate eatery in Rittenhouse Square. I ordered four. The bartender looked as if I had just announced he was incontinent. He asked how I wanted them. I told him neat. As he rolled his eyes to the other patrons at the bar, he asked if I wanted them in snifters. Simple shot glasses would do just fine I told him, not really understanding where all the hostility was coming from. He then described his idea of the flavor of Fernet to his audience. Now I was shocked. I told him if he hadn’t had it before he was welcome to try it on my dime. He refused, saying he was well aware of how awful it tasted. And then proceeded to garner laughs from the hags who cackled at his witticisms. I wondered aloud whether he was in the business of trying to convince people not to spend money at his bar, and whether the Branca brothers had done something to his granny. I left with a sour taste in my mouth. At first I thought it was just the Fernet Branca but then I realized that I wanted to yell at the dude. And so the next night, after thinking of all the things to say when he rolled his piggy eyes upon hearing my request for more Fernet, we went back. I was crushed to find he had Saturday nights off. Bah.