Monday, July 11, 2011

Statement Games

This past weekend was filled with statements in both the world of sports and my own personal life. It started with a rain delay in more ways than one and ended with on offensive explosion, with extra-inning home runs and penalty kicks in between.

My weekend began with what was supposed to be a fun, relaxing trip to Atlantic City with Toonces and a buddy of ours. I took the day off the work, slept in and relaxed until my friends arrived and we embarked east around 2 p.m. What ensued shortly after we crossed the Ben into Jersey was wave after wave of torrential downpours. Then … nothing. Traffic already began to crawl shortly after crossing the bridge, but then as we were oh so close to the 42 freeway en route to the A.C. Expressway, there was nothing but a log jam. Then we saw a fire truck slowly but surely making its way through the traffic jam, never a good sign.

About 10 rows of cars ahead of us, just before the exit for 42, the fire truck parks across two and half lanes to prevent anyone from passing. As I listened to KYW, the report was in: flooding on the 42 freeway and 295, the exit sign that was right in front of me. Motherfucker.

So there we sat … and sat, and sat. Not moving an inch. Playing games of scat (aka 31). Me alternating turning my car completely off and then idling it to get some air conditioning with the rain pouring down. Things were so bad that Toonces and our friend got out during a break in the rain, ran to the liquor store we were basically parked next to and bought a bottle of Old Grandad.

As hesitant as I was to let them drink alcohol in my car, I couldn't stop them. And as the time passed by without us moving an inch, I honestly couldn't even pretend to care. My only complaint was that I couldn't partake, seeing as I was in the driver's seat. It was so brutal. The worst part is I hadn't eaten all day yet, with the thought we'd stop somewhere on the way. When Arby's near my house got vetoed, we were set on stopping on a Burger King or Taco Bell on the way. Sadly, we were stuck with nothing but liquor stores, adult bookstores, abandoned buildings and a strip club near us. No food in sight.

Over an hour after being at a complete stop, finally some of the firemen began to direct traffic and let us through, though 42 was supremely fucked, so we started to navigate through an alternate route. And the first thing we did once we got off the first exit to get the hell out of another traffic jam was to hit up the first BK we saw, devouring our food and finally setting out.

The rest of the trip involved us mapping out routes to get to A.C., and by the time we got there, it was around 5:30. So a drive that typically takes an hour or so took us 3 and a half hours. We probably should have taken that as an omen. I mean, it was almost as if god was telling us not to go to AC with the flooding and the long delay. But we pressed on anyway.

Once we got our room and our bearings, we headed to the casinos to start gambling. And things started our really well, playing craps at Bally's and getting a good number of early wins. An old Asian man was standing directly next to Toonces and giving him shit for not believing in his rolls and for rolling snake eyes and a 12 on his first two rolls before surrendering the dice to me. But I quickly helped the whole table bounce back, as did our other friend who kept the hot streak going.

We weren't lighting the world on fire or anything, but damn near everyone at the table was up money, with the three of us all up somewhere in the $50-$80 range. Then the old Asian's son joined the table and proceeded to ruin everything. Once he started to roll, the entire table cooled, and the money we had won in a matter of minutes vanished even quicker. You're damn right I blame him.

Things only got wilder from there. Roulette came next. Then off to bar with Toonces to begin drinking. Then some let it ride with a dealer who had the most absolutely perfect breasts I have ever laid eyes on.

After that it was more drinking, as we sat at the bar at Wild West and watched the Phils game, which finally got underway.

Full disclosure: I got a six-game plan to the Phils with Toonces and silver fox, and all season long, either when we're at the games or when I'm watching any games with them, those two have been absolutely killing Raul Ibanez. I mean just killing him. Hell, we even went to the Vance Worley win against the Red Sox, where Raul accounted for every run and went 3-for-3, and they still weren't giving him much credit.

Personally, I like Raul. And even though he's struggled terribly at times this year, I still think the Phillies are better off with him in the lineup than without. So Friday's game couldn't have been sweeter for me. It started off with Raul scoring the tying the run in the 2nd after getting a hit to finally give Roy Halladay some help. And then, after Halladay be masterful in his 7 innings but still get a no-decision, we were off to wander, watching sexy girls dancing on stage, viewing some girls attempting to ride the mechanical bull and losing a game of beer pong we had no business losing.

By the time we returned to the bar to get more drinks, Raul was crushing a walk-off in the 10th after Juan Perez pitched an absurd perfect inning, striking out all three Braves he faced on 9 freakin pitches.

Drunk, happy and low on funds, I yelled at Toonces, then called silver fox and did my best Spanish impersonation. It was glorious.

Shortly thereafter, Toonces and I started to wander the streets looking for trouble as our friend, who was up around $500, headed to the Borgata for a poker tournament. We figured we'd either spend our remaining money and let our friend buy us food and drinks with his winnings, or we'd see what was up and then head back to the room.

As it turned out, we decided to pool our money and put $130 on red and another $20 on 19, letting that dictate where the night would take us. And wouldn't you know it, red hit, doubling our $130 to make it an even $260. This is where smart people, people without gambling addictions walk away, especially when they've already lost money on the night. But while we may have some decent brain power between us, we are also gamblers at heart. So after a quick walk around the casino to discuss our options, we decided to let that shit ride. The only question was do we put it on black this time instead. Toonces suggested we do, but I said we should stick with what worked.

So there we went, putting $235 on red and $25 on 19. The dealer launched the ball … and the fucker hit on some black 20 number. I can't even remember which one. All our money, gone, just like that. If I had only listened to Toonces … or if that god damn 19 would have hit.

So that was it for us. We called our friend to see where he was but to no avail. So we headed back to the room, turned on Sportscenter and tried to get some sleep. Shortly thereafter, my phone rang. It was our buddy. I asked how the tournament went, hoping he won or at least placed in the money. He said the tournament was weak, only one table, so he bailed and played cash games. And did not play well, trying bluff his way to big a pot. That $500 he was up vanished, and then some.

Basically, the three of us endured a 3 and half hour trip, 2 and a half hours longer than usual, to AC basically to hand over all of our money. Normally that's not much of a big deal, and really it wasn't a big deal, but it sucked that much more given how painful it was to get there.

Oh well, you win some, you lose some. At least Raul saved the day. We awoke the next morning, hit up an agita-inducing breakfast buffet and headed back to Philadelphia. Thankfully the ride home was uneventful and took roughly the normal time.

Once I got to my house and my two idiot friends left, I collapsed in my bed, only to wake up to Cliff Lee hitting his first career home run to give the Phils a 1-0 lead off Tommy freakin Hanson. Awesome.

Of course, the Phillies couldn't win despite Lee hitting a home run and pitching 8 insane innings of one-run ball because the regulars couldn't hit as well as Lee himself. And Brian McCann put the capper on a three-run 11th for Atlanta, giving Michael Stutes his first career loss.

It just doesn't seem right that Lee should lose a game where he hits a home run and strikes out 9 over 8 innings while surrendering just 1 run. But that's the way this game works sometimes. At least Perez looked like the real deal again, pitching another perfect inning while striking out two.

Then there was yesterday. To be perfectly honest, the only sports I watched yesterday were the first two innings and the last two innings of the Phils game. I had planned on watching all 9 innings and watching the USA-Brazil game in the women's World Cup, but I instead decided to be a good grandson and hang out with all four of my grandparents.

However, I was kept up to date by silver fox, who let me know Raul made an awesome catch, saying he was going to lay off him for a while, and who also let me know that my girl Ali Krieger scored the winning PK to give the US the huge victory over Brazil.

The reason Ali Krieger is my girl is pretty simple: Not only did she go to Penn State at the same time as me, where she was a two-time All-American, but I also covered her and the Penn State women's soccer team back when they entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. So yeah, she's my girl, even if I have not talked to her once since our Penn State days.

Seeing her cap off that dramatic victory was simply awesome.

And to put a capper on the day and weekend, the Phillies went out and made a huge statement, the same way the US did, by obliterating the Braves 14-1 in an offensive explosion that overshadowed another brilliant performance by Cole Hamels.

After splitting the first two games in extra-inning affairs, the Phils did their best to assert their dominance before the all-star break by bashing a season-high 20 hits. Every starter except Hamels had at least one hit, and everyone else except Carlos Ruiz had at least two hits. Raul was a monster again, going 2-for-5 with 2 runs, a home run and a game-high 6 RBIs, proving the rumors of his demise a bit premature. John Mayberry, who absolutely has to stay on this roster the rest of the way, was 3-for-5 with a career-high three doubles and four RBIs. Michael Martinez had a career-high four hits. Jimmy Rollins continued his hot hitting with three hits. And Domonic Brown had three hits himself, scoring two runs (including scoring easily from first on a double to left by John Mayberry, damn) and driving in two runs.

But as good as the offense was and as fun as it was to see, Cole Hamels was the real reason the Phils go into the break with a 3.5 game lead. Cole went 8 innings of three-hit, one-run ball, striking out six in the process and keeping Atlanta completely off-balane. He lowered his NL-best WHIP to 0.93 and now has the lowest ERA of any starter on the Phils at 2.32. That's saying something being on a staff that includes Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

Like Mother Nature, Raul Ibanez, Ali Krieger and the Phillies did this weekend, Cole Hamels is making a statement this season. Yesterday was his statement game.

1 comment:

  1. Cliff Lee hitting a home run was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. It was great seeing him act like he just does it all the time, when we know that isn't the case. I miss that dude down here, man.

    I had no idea about Krieger being from your alma mater. Even more reason to tune in on Wednesday morning. Hopefully, you'll be able to watch it online at the job.