Historically brutal night for Philly sports last night. It was the kind of night you sit there and wonder if you are wasting your time. I shot off a text that said perhaps it was time for me to take up vegetable gardening. But then you see Josh Hamilton ripping four home runs for the Rangers in Baltimore. It’s a feat rarer than a perfect game, and it makes you realize you watch sports for the chance of seeing great performances like Hamilton’s last night. You’ve got to slog through a lot of garbage, a lot of losses, but you never know—tonight could be the night your favorite player or your favorite team does something spectacular. In some ways, it’s like the mailbag. Every Tuesday you’re probably like, “why I am reading this garbage,” but then Wednesday rolls around and all is redeemed.
Q: Why haven’t deli counters adopted the Wawa touch screen? Some places have it if you want to order ahead of time and then wander around the store for 20 minutes, but at the counter, most places still have the “take a number,” system, which I think we can all agree is not efficient or effective. Pepper Ham, Reading, PA.
A: I’ve got countless problems with deli counters. I hate when they have 30 slicers lined up back there, but only one is designated for cheese so you have to wait while the soccer mom gets her weekly 4lbs of American. That’s horsebleep. But let’s get back to order of service. The only time “take a number” works is when the deli is packed. If there is so much chaos in front of the counter that you really have no idea who is next—then the number is MAGIC. I’ve found that this is rarely the case. Generally if you walk in and take a number it will say “73” and the number on the big board will be in the neighborhood of “47.” At some point during the day the number system is going to be abandoned and everything will go to hell. The worst scenario with the number is you walk up and one person is being helped. It’s obvious you are next. You don’t take a number. Then some dipsh*t strolls up and pulls a number. Are you suddenly BEHIND them in line? This scenario requires the stare down. You look at them and with your eyes you say, “I don’t care that you have a number. I’m next.” They’ll usually back down. The screen seems like a great solution to these problems, the only drawback being loss of personal interaction, and really WHO CARES about that? Just give me my damn cheese.
Q: Predictable loss for the Flyers last night, what’s the official post-mortem on this team? Flyers Kitten, Media, PA.
A: One of the ignored outcomes of having 16 teams make the playoffs in the NHL is that you often add a post-season loss to a year that wasn’t going anywhere. I think of the Sixers, do they have ANY CHANCE? No. Their eventual playoff dismissal will be just another sour note. The Flyers, who almost always make the playoffs, are experts at giving their fans that last bitter taste to end the year. If we were operating in the pre-2012 MLB, the Flyers wouldn’t have even made the playoffs this season—and maybe that’s a more accurate representation of the team they had than the one that sent everyone home pissed off last night. If you look at the defense the Flyers was sending out there, if you remember how much they were relying on young players, if you admit they still have goalie questions—it’s impossible to cast them as a Cup contender. A 2nd round loss feels about par for the course. But, the NHL lets almost everyone in the post-season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are notoriously wide-open. Get in and you can win. Blitzing the Penguins fanned a suddenly roaring fire and made most Flyers fans forget about the team’s flaws. The Devils exposed them. As far as a post-mortem goes for this team, there’s two ways to look at it. You can be positive and say the team is young and loaded with offensive fire power, or you can be negative and say there’s still no goalie or enough talent on defense. Since this was the 1st year post-Richie/Carts, and Claude Giroux has emerged as an MVP caliber player, I’m going to choose to be positive—now that 12 hours have passed. Honestly, in terms of truly disappointing Flyers’ seasons, this one hardly scratches the surface.
Q: I hear a lot about “dad strength.” I hear people talk about it and they say that lugging and/or chasing your kid around is a contributing factor. I’d always thought that “dad strength” was in our imaginations, but if having a kid actually makes you stronger, don’t you think it’d be a good idea to set up a workout where you toss around a 30 lb toddler dummy? It could be the new exercise craze. Billy Blanks, Toledo, OH.
A: Very interesting. Babies, toddlers—they’re extremely heavy. If someone hands you their kid, you’re like OK this isn’t so bad…then after a minute it hits you. Is this kid wearing LEAD DRAWERS? My god, the agony. You give that hoss back to its momma or daddy IMMEDIATELY. When it’s your kid, though, the chances for the hand-off are minimal. You’re stuck lugging that sack of potatoes around and as a result I suppose you get stronger. And that’s natural strength. It’s not like doing a few sets of curls. Once the kid can start moving around, I imagine it only gets worse. Containing a toddler is probably like trying to wrestle an eager young hog all day. I honestly think you could turn this into an exercise class. People LOVE to mix up their workouts. This would have to be popular with expecting moms at the very least, right? Instead of a kettlebell, I’m seeing the dummy you describe. Imagine walking by a room at your gym and seeing 20 people whip around a lifelike toddler dummy—quite the sight.
Q: Are you concerned at all about dessert portions? I’m not too broken up about it, but I want the manufacturers to know that I know what they’re up to. This skinny-ass ice cream sandwich isn’t fooling anyone. Slim Klondike, Anchorage, AK
A: It’s interesting, because in some areas the portion is getting out of control. Think about the 2lb ballpark dog in Texas, your everyday 44 oz fountain soda, or the large movie popcorn. Yum. Giving people more is one way to lure them in— your basic any size coffee for 99 cents promotion, for example. This hasn’t crossed over to desserts, though. The store bought dessert is definitely shrinking. It’s the Girl Scout cookie phenomenon. The price of Girl Scout cookies stays in the same neighborhood, but now there are about 12 cookies in a box instead of 40. I guess desserts are more expensive to make than coffee or popcorn, but also people have strict price ceilings in their head for tasty treats. If people are accustomed to paying $4 for a container of ice cream, it’s easier to have them keep paying $4 for less ice cream than jacking the price up to $6 for the same size carton. Plus, in the store, you have that moment where your conscience kicks in and you say, “You know what, it’s good the ice cream sandwich is tiny. That’s all I need.” Then you go home and eat three of them. As far as being concerned? I’m a little concerned, because I think we’ve reached a critical point with dessert portions. They can’t get any smaller. I got a Dove bar the other day and it looked like a mini peppermint patty on the end of a stick. That’s BULLSH*T
Q: Do you ever worry that the clothes or shoes you like to wear will cease to exist? I don’t really roll with the trends anymore, I’m just afraid I’m my hand will eventually be forced. X.S. Flannel, Concord, NH.
A: This has happened to me—with baseball hats. I’m going to say that from approximately 1998 to 2004 hats became so “low profile” that they didn’t fit my GIGANTIC Polanco head. I also have a tendency to let my hair get a bit long so that would only exacerbate the problem. I went to work at a golf course once during this time period and they gave me a “staff hat.” That was a NO GO. It just perched awkwardly on top of my head. I NEVER wore it. I’ve experienced similar problems with golf shirts and sneakers, but it’s never gotten to the point where I thought I had no options. Even if you think you avoid the trends, you probably play into a bit without knowing. I’ve been wearing jeans for twenty-five years, but they’ve been different styles, colors, etc. You can always be a jean and T-shirt guy, but they’ll just look slightly different. As long as your tastes aren’t TOO specific, I think you’ll be OK, but if you are really worried that you won’t be able to find your cuff and crease khakis—you can always stockpile.
Q: Do you think Tim Kurkjian’s man crushes on certain baseball players ever go over line to actual crushes? Jason Starke, Radnor, PA.
A: An actual crush? No. Hero worship? Perhaps. One of the best things about guys like Kurkjian, compared to your every day beat writer is that Timmy loves baseball. I’m not sure how many of the younger writers are that into the game, and I think that influences their coverage. A lot of writers keep a sarcastic, eye-rolling type of distance from the sports they cover. You’d never get “snark” out of Kurkjian. Part of that is because he’s not on a daily beat, but he still seems to regard the players with a child-like awe. Here’s a guy who could give you ten minutes on the beauty of Josh Hamilton in batting practice. The reason he can do that is because it still impresses him and amazes him—watching these feats of athleticism. I don’t know for a fact, but I imagine Timmy wasn’t a dominant athlete in his day, and there was probably a part of him that wanted to be hitting the towering home runs himself, but instead of producing bitterness, it seems to have produced an absolute appreciation. That’s why you’ve got to love Timmy K.
Q: How far into the past do you think you could go and not be disappointed by the lack of technology? I grew up without a cell phone and wasn’t a regular on the internet until I got to college, but now I don’t know how I did it. Doc Brown, Norman, OK.
A: I was watching Sportscenter the other day and it struck me that I used to watch that show and not know the outcomes of the games. I’d be watching a highlight and it would be DRAMATIC, because I wasn’t sure which team won. We’re talking about games I cared about. In 1993 I would get up and flip on Sportscenter to see if the Phillies won. It’s hard to imagine doing that now. But the question is, how much technology do I need? If you observed me for a few minutes you’d probably think I would be uncomfortable going back to 2008. I’ve become the kind of person that has to look at their phone while they’re waiting for the computer to boot up. It’s disappointing. I’ve got to separate what I NEED from what I use just because IT’S THERE. Like you said, I too survived without a cell phone and without constant internet access. I could go back before that, but I wouldn’t want to go back too much farther. I definitely don’t want three TV channels. I’d like to have at least original Nintendo level video game technology. I’d want to have a nice set of perimeter weighted golf clubs. So, as sad as it sounds, I don’t think I could make it much earlier than 1986-7 or so. I think most people would have a similar response. As soon as you were old enough to realize what is going on, that’s your bare minimum. Plus, that’d be like living in a nostalgic version of your youth, which I think would make it more tolerable.