One More Flyers Weekend?

A lot of people argue that J.J. Daigneault’s (That’s pronounced Dane-Yo) goal in game 6 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals against Edmonton was the loudest moment in the history of the Spectrum. It’s certainly one of the most famous goals in Flyers history, and like some others (Keith Primeau comes to mind, JR against Toronto) the goal was scored for one of the Flyers teams that failed to win the Stanley Cup. I remember 1987, and yet I don’t really at all. The games, the series against Edmonton, I have no memory of, and I’m reasonably sure I didn’t watch them. Perhaps they were on too late, perhaps I was watching The Cosby Show, I’m not really sure, but one thing that sticks in my mind about 1987 was it the first time that someone asked me if I was a Flyers fan.

It happened on the school bus of all places. The bus that took me home every day from elementary school was lightly populated. Not many kids lived out in far reaches of the school district like me, and so the handful of kids on the bus managed to exist without the usual age governed boundaries. I don’t remember the older kids names, or anything about them really. I think were generally entertained by me, asking me questions on topics I had no idea about to amuse themselves and pass the time. It was pretty harmless stuff, but I remember clearly one time being asked if I liked the Flyers. It was a question that implied the person asking certainly did like the Flyers, and so I just said that I did as well.

I knew who the Flyers were, and I didn’t dislike them, but I guess at seven, I hadn’t really thought about it that much. Something about the question though, and the following conversation where I was given the thumbnail sketch of this series against Edmonton, acted as a trigger for my Flyers fandom. Like I said, I didn’t watch the games, on too late and there were no hockey fans in my house, but I suddenly knew what was happening in that series. Down three games to one. The Flyers were devastated by injuries and were playing without Tim Kerr. Ron Hextall was otherworldly. I became aware of all these details, many after the fact, but I remember them coming back. Three games to two, then the improbable game six that tied the series.

I don’t remember being that down when the Flyers lost game seven in Edmonton. I bounced back pretty quickly, but that was the year that has led to every year since then, which sees me watching the Flyers spend most springs in the playoffs with varying levels of success. I’ve still never seen them finish off a run, but I’ve seen my share of great games and then this year perhaps a new peak with the comeback against the Bruins. It’d be nice to see them cap one of these runs off, but being a true Flyers fan comes with some trepidation. I’m sure there were bandwagon people that tuned in last night and said, “What the Bleep was that?” The veteran doesn’t flinch at a game like that. You just swallow hard, and hope they come out better in game four.

I think it is a huge game four for the Flyers. It needs to be a Flyers weekend. Montreal is an exceedingly difficult place to play, but the Flyers are no juggernaut. They need to keep the advantage, and try to maintain the momentum. Their advantage over Montreal is razor thin, if it exists at all. To come back to Philly tied 2-2 is to tempt fate, and to conjure up too much past history. Six wins away from the ultimate goal, and yet it still feels so far out of reach. Win or lose, I’ll be there though, my fate sealed that afternoon on the bus when I decided I was a Flyers fan.

And if you just want to watch 2 minutes of absolute insanity…Seriously watch it if you have the time, it is to this point probably my favorite hockey moment.

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All These Years Later, Do You Still Care About Interleague Play?

Terry Francona is in Town.

Or maybe the question should be, did you ever care about interleague play?  It started way back in 1997, and the Phillies were so terrible at that point that it didn’t matter too much who they played.  I guess it was nice to see New York or Boston come into town, and Phillies fans were given yet another reason to go to Camden Yards, but was there a buzz?  I don’t really think so, at least not until the Phillies put a decent team together.  If you can project a series as a potential World Series match-up, it creates a little more interest, and five/six years ago when the Phillies stopped getting blown off the field every time by Boston and New York, I suppose that was a stepping stone of some kind.

The thing is, the Phils have had about the best possible interleague set up, and I’m still pretty unimpressed with the whole thing.  Before they opened it up, you just played the opposite division, which gave Philly the Yankees, Jays, Orioles, Rays and Red Sox.  Not a bad list, but I don’t think we ever thought of the people in Houston who were stuck with, Twins, Royals, Tigers, White Sox, and Indians.  It didn’t take MLB long to pick up on that significant differential in glamor, and now everyone eventually plays everyone.  The somewhat arbitrary “natural rivalries” created by MLB remain intact.

As I see it, the good things about interleague play are it can give small market teams an occasional attendance boost, it provides a little bit of a change-up in always long regular season, and perhaps it increases a fan’s impetus to go travel to see their team play in different ball parks, which is always a positive in my mind.  The negatives are that it is still inherently unfair in some ways, for teams that don’t have attendance problems it doesn’t provide much benefit, and I think in small ways it detracts from divisional rivalries and the World Series.

Whether you like it or not, interleague play is sticking around for a while I’m sure, and it starts again this weekend.  The Phillies have the Red Sox in town.  Again, the Phillies really get the best of this, and now that they are a good team they can actually return the favor.  I think this series probably isn’t quite as big as it looked on the schedule back in March.  A couple of things working against it, the first being Boston got blitzed out of the gate by Tampa and New York.  They’re sitting a couple of games over .500, but drastic changes are going to have to occur for Boston to make the playoffs.  That takes some shine away from the possible World Series preview angle.  Also, the pitching match-ups didn’t line up well at all.  Kendrick/Matsuzaka on Saturday is a real shame, tonight’s Hamels/Lackey is probably the best of the bunch as Halladay gets Wakefield on Sunday.  Better than Wakefield/Moyer, I suppose.

Aside from the constant monitoring of Cole Hamels, Sunday is the only game that really matters in this series.  We get a look at Halladay against the American League.  We get to see how he’s handled and how he bounces back from all these pitches everyone is so concerned about.  It sounds odd to say this, but Roy could really use a win.  Rough around the edges no-decision against Colorado, and then a hard luck loss against Pittsburgh where he maybe still wasn’t 100% sharp?  Ubaldo Jimenez is getting away in the Cy Young race, that’s all I’m saying right now.

Anyway, the 3rd hottest team in Boston is in town, enjoy.