I have no clever title for this one

Barkley Jail BasketballI certainly have been bragging enough about it the past few days, but, yes, I got to stand on the roof of the Spectrum to watch the Harlem Globetrotters play the Washington Generals on Thursday afternoon.

Apparently, it made the papers and everything.

Nevertheless, since a blog is supposed to be like the director’s cut of the DVD (at least that’s what I say it’s supposed to be), I figured to fill in the blanks from the published version(s) of the Globetrotters outing.

Firstly, it was clear this wasn’t the typical pro sporting event. Yeah, there was the whole roof bit and climbing out onto a catwalk before traversing a narrow ladder through an open hatch to get on top of the building, but I have never been asked to carry in part of the equipment for a Phillies, Eagles or Sixers game before. This time, as I was working my way up to the hatch, I was handed the net.

“Here’s the net,” someone said as I climbed. “Don’t lose it.”

The net? Yep, it was the net that had to be laced into the portable hoops already standing at either end of the roof.

A couple minutes later while just standing around and taking in the view before “Sweet Georgia Brown” started playing and all the capering began, Globie, the Globetrotters’ mascot, chucked a snowball at me.

Seriously! The damn mascot!

Worse, it wasn’t even a proper snowball… it was an ice ball. And, I bet the Globe-headed freak loaded it up with rocks before he threw it.

Needless to say, that mascot got his when he slipped and fell off an exhaust out-cropping aside of the court. The Globe Head went down like he was shot by a sniper, too. Serves him right.

Otherwise, Gonz pretty much nailed it, though there was one moment where I was laughing that obnoxious laugh of mine during the game and one of the Globetrotters looked at out of the corner of his eye with that, “What’s with this dude?” look.

Good times.

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Elsewhere, Charles Barkley heads off for his three-day stint in jail following a night of drinking with Steve Urkel. Isn’t that the way it always happens? … A-Rod is going to get scoped and could miss six-to-nine weeks. Start your speculation about the source of the injury now. … The new Neko Case record is very good. … Terrell Owens was sent to Buffalo to finish out his NFL career. We’ll have more on that in the latest edition of the Center City column, so get ready.

Locking up Sir Charles

For awhile I thought Milwaukee was the worse city in America. I had a good reason to think this, too. No, it had nothing to do with those toughs always messing around with Richie Cunningham, Potsie and Ralph Malph that the Fonz always had to straighten out. It also didn’t have to do with those geeks Lenny and Squiggy or Milwaukee natives Latrell Sprewell, Heather Graham or Liberace.

Nope, those folks didn’t get me riled up one way or another, though it was difficult not to be a big fan of Heather Graham as Roller Girl in “Boogie Nights.”

There was one reason why I thought Milwaukee was the worst city in America…

Charles Barkey.

Yes, Sir Charles almost ruined Milwaukee for me and here’s why – he kept getting arrested there. In fact, it got to the point where it seemed as if the police were waiting for Big Chuck at the airport to pick him up for some trumped up charge.

Charles, of course, was arrested in Milwaukee in December of 1991 when he punched some dude named Joseph McCarthy in the nose. Apparently McCarthy and his pals saw Charles hanging out in a Milwaukee bar early one morning and yelled, “Hey Barkley, show me how tough you are.”

That was followed by an invitation to fight which was RSVP’d with the right to the nose.

A few hours later, Charles was arrested and held in the local lockdown for four hours before posting $500 bond. Eventually, the case went to trial before Barkley beat the rap because of self defense.

Barkley didn’t only have trouble in the local bars in Milwaukee, either. Sometimes he even had trouble on the basketball court, like that time at the Mecca during the mid-‘80s when he brawled with Paul Mokeski.

Then again, ol’ Chuck mixed it up in a lot of cities, like that time he tossed a guy through a window in Orlando in 1996. That was one incident that Barkley says he regrets.

“I regret we weren’t on the second floor,” he said.

Anyway, just because Barkley got arrested in Milwaukee doesn’t make it all bad. The thing that makes it bad is that the police in Milwaukee have no trouble rousting Sir Charles when he hits town, but they just can’t seem to figure out the caper of the guy who is killing and eating people.

Yep, in Milwaukee Charles Barkley goes to trial for bopping some lout in the nose, all while Jeffrey Dahmer was walking the streets.

So if you are looking for a reason to dislike the Brewers when they face the Phillies in the NLDS this week, there it is.

Ol’ Charlie Barkley coming through for Philadelphia again.

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Gettin’ back…

Speaking of coming through for Philadelphia and Chicago, how about that Jim Thome?

For those that missed it, Big Jim launched a 461-foot bomb well over the center field fence in the seventh inning to give the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Twins in the playoff game to determine the winner of the AL Central.

With Thome’s homer, the White Sox go on to play the Rays in the ALDS. Better yet, the win got Thome back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001 when he and Charlie Manuel went in with the Cleveland Indians.

On another note, it’s hard to believe it’s been more than three years since Thome last played in Philadelphia. Actually, it’s 111 homers ago.

Who knows… maybe Thome will take a trip back to Philly in late October. Hey crazier things have happened.

The playoff predictions are coming on Wednesday morning… be ready.

(Late) Morning appreciation

CusackThere is a line in the movie High Fidelity (it’s probably in the book, too) where John Cusack’s character, Rob, defends the highly refined tastes of he and his pals Barry (Jack Black) and Dick (Todd Louiso) by declaring that they are “professional appreciators.”

Isn’t that a nice sentiment? An appreciator… that’s like a fan only better. An appreciator accepts the effort and understands nuance. They search for the sublime and revel in it whether it’s a tiny strummed chord of a guitar, an understated sense of style or an unspoken acknowledgment.

It’s kind of like that scene in Pulp Fiction where Winston Wolf turns and gives Jimmy a quick nod after the first sip of coffee that was crassly called the “gourmet [bleep]” by Jules.

I’ve always believed that the success of something like “American Idol” was because Americans, generally, are not appreciators. Instead, we enjoy watching the failure of others. We enjoy feeling like we are better than others and laugh at people when they put themselves out for public consumption and fail.

That combined with spiraling, out-of-control credit card debt, low-brow culture and all-you-can-eat buffets are what Americans do better than almost anyone else.

I’d say Americans do sports and sports fandom better than any nation in the world, too, but that would just be crass jingoism. The fact is that most of the world has caught up with us in athletics, but then again I usually just base this notion on how well the U.S. team performs in Olympic basketball. Charles Barkley said prior to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona that the U.S. can play basketball and drop bombs better than any country in the world. Sadly, I don’t Sir Chuck’s boast holds up any more.

But it appears as if Charles is singlehandedly proving the buffet theory.

Nevertheless, the rest of the world has seen our version of football and baseball and, frankly, they aren’t very impressed. American Football, as it’s called everywhere else, appears to be the one sport that captures no imagination whatsoever. They all have their own football and all the ancillary stuff that go along with it, thank you very much. In fact, a good old soccer hooligan makes the standard 700-level Eagles’ fan look like a choirgirl.

Certain soccer fans actually are detained at the border when attempting to enter most foreign countries. The fear is that if soccer fans go to, say, Belgium, an international incident could occur, leaders will stop talking to one another and the Euro will drop lower than the dollar.

All that for what? Soccer?

Meanwhile, certain Eagles fans are sometimes prevented from purchasing more than two $8 beers at a concession stand at the Linc. As a result, Joe Banner won’t be able to make the numbers work on the spreadsheet and the team won’t be able to afford that much-needed wide receiver.

So drink up, folks, but do it with a certain decorum. That means when you are sitting at the tax-payer funded football stadium, compress your opera hat and put away the monocle before attempting to dry heave on the patron in front of you.

After all, we are a society and the team needs that special receiver with the ability to dig out passes thrown to the shoe tops.

But you know what else we can do better than anyone else? We can wax on about baseball. Yes, it’s true. It’s also true that there are companies that exist solely to produce that saccharine sweet baseball-as-a-metaphor-for-life bullbleep. You know, that NPR/Field of Dreams tripe about ghosts walking out of the corn or holding your dad’s hand as you walk into Fenway or something like that. Man, it just makes me want to throw up.

implosionWhy, you ask (or even if you didn’t I’m going to write it anyway)? Perhaps it’s because the reality of life has made a bigger impression than the fairy tale. For instance, my first exposure to baseball came at Veterans Stadium and Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. At the Vet the design was so bad that nearly every seat in the house sucked. I can remember walking in there for the first time in 1976 and thinking that we’d be better off watching the game at home on TV – at least then I’d be able to see what the players looked like. At least then I wouldn’t have some jackass spill beer down my back as I nursed a nose bleed brought on from the altitude of the crappy seats.

Or in Baltimore, a neighborhood stadium with sardine-styled parking, National Bohemian beer ads everywhere, and drunk cab driver on the dugout leading the cheers for the weeded crowd that needed to yank out the ganja one last time so that the he would be numb for when the police billy clubs rained down on him after being tackled for running out on the field.

You’re crazy if you think going to places like that doesn’t have an affect on a kid prone to over-thinking everything.

Even now it seems as if baseball is personified by odd behavior. Like Billy Wagner exposing himself after being asked about throwing a slider or Brett Myers just being Brett Myers.

The truth is I prefer the reality to the produced fairy tales. I appreciate it. Just like the put on part – you know, the crap about how time starts on Opening Day – the truth is so different from real life. Accepted behavior and norms are pulverized with a fungo and no one goes to jail for it.

Who doesn’t appreciate that?

So let’s wax on…

A few years ago the Vet was closed and mercifully blown up. Personally, I think the park got off easy. I would have preferred torture instead of implosion, but it all worked out in the end. Nevertheless, Yankee Stadium is closing at the end of this season and already the odes are hitting the ether. Here, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times gets into the off-limits areas of The Stadium.

Ron Guidry played the drums before taking the mound? Cool.

Meanwhile, The Times has a whole page for Stadium stories.

Also in New York, former Phillie (and all-around solid dude) Nelson Figueroa’s Quixotic or Coste-ian (yes) journey across the globe to find work as a baseball could end with a gig in the Mets’ bullpen. If Figgy doesn’t start the season at Shea, it could be New Orleans, which, obviously, is better than Taiwan.

Finally, CBS college hoops announcer Billy Packer doesn’t care much for… well, anything. Especially sports.
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Top 5 songs mentioned or heard in High Fidelity
Suspect Device – Stiff Little Fingers
Janie JonesThe Clash
Let’s Get It On – Barry Jive & The Uptown Five
Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam – The Vaselines
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves