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Archive for October, 2007

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Like most God fearing Americans, I like my fat people to be jolly and simple. Think Santa. Vern Tessio from Stand By Me. That obese dancing feedbag with a boom box from the WMMR commercials in the late 80s.

Andy Reid, while plenty plump, however, is seemingly joyless and endlessly complex. Which is not to say I don’t like him. It is to say that I just don’t get him.

The man is a study in contradictions. He’s notoriously stubborn, yet his teams always perform better as the season progresses, suggesting that he makes adjustments. He absolutely worships the pass, yet he’s a former offensive lineman, a position that typically loves the run game, since it means aggressive blocking instead of the defensive stance of pass blocking. He takes every bit of blame for his team’s in-game failures, suggesting player loyalty, but will quickly cut ties with a player he feels is even slightly past their prime (Troy Vincent, Hugh Douglas, Duce Staley, etc.). He’s a devout Mormon, but his kid’s lives are an After School Special that not even Meredith Baxter Birney could fix (it’s also a topic I don’t think should be covered by the media any more).

He’s been the team’s most successful coach ever, but it always feels like he could be better.

Well, that last one might be because we’re Philadelphia fans. But regardless, even Andy’s fans–of which I am one–go through stretches of intense doubt of his abilities. Yes, we point to the 4 NFC Championship games, the near Super Bowl win and the nearly annual playoff appearances. But there’s a lingering sense that his game planning is often suspect, his clock management is sub-moronic and he undervalues key positions, such as wide receiver and linebacker.

Indeed, the man is an enigma wrapped in a cruller.

As the Birds now sit at 3-4 (though two plays from 5-2), the region is calling for his head. But let’s remember that the guy typically does his best coaching when his back is to the wall. After McNabb’s first injury, when a completely inexperienced AJ Feeley took them to the playoffs. When they started 0-2 and looked positively atrocious the year after the Tampa Bay NFC Championship Game (on a side note, isn’t it funny how you delineate years in the early 2000s by NFC Championship Game losses?). Then again last year, when McNabb went down and Mr. Carmella Decesare piloted us to some of our proudest moments in recent years.

The only time he failed to rally the team was the famed TO year, which was the perfect storm of clusterfuck-up-nessed that would have made Lombardi cry, Walsh weep, and Belichick’s cyborg circuits fry.

So shouldn’t we know by now not to call for Andy’s head? Shouldn’t we know that these are the exact moments of the season that we all block out when we look back on our 10+ win seasons? Doesn’t the most successful coach in the organization’s history deserve a bit of slack?

I say yes. But couldn’t the guy just make it easier on us? And by “easier on us” I mean “run the goddamned motherfucking ball every once in a while?”

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This much is true:

If I sit down at a table and there are six glasses of wine sitting in front of me, I am almost certain to enjoy myself.

That’s the first thing you experience with Tria’s Fermentation School, and it is, quite frankly, a wonderful introduction. But the entire experience is not simply about pumping people full of wine, though that thankfully does happen; it’s about teaching the history, traditions and cultures of various wine regions. It’s all part of these classes put on by Tria, the wildly popular cafe at 18th & Sansom (and new location at 12th & Spruce), which focus on their three (all fermented) specialties: wine, cheese and beer.

I attended the “Taste of Tuscany” class because I generally know as much about Italian wines as I do about shoe polish, and figured that an Italian wine class would be far more entertaining than a shoe polish lecture. I have a decent grasp on California wines, and Australian wines as well, but the Italian wines confused me more than a David Lynch movie. On a recent Friday evening, I went to the class with my mom, since my wife now has a child growing daily in her stomach, and I would hate to waste quality wine on my unborn son or daughter’s unrefined palate.

I kid. I kid.

Walking into Tria’s Fermentation School is probably the only non-awesome thing about the experience. The classes don’t take place in a Tria restaurant, but rather the sixth floor of a fairly nondescript office building on Walnut Street. After signing in at the front desk, heading up an elevator and then wandering through a maze of hallways straight out of Being John Malkovich, you wind up in a tiny corner room, where a friendly face hands you a glass of white wine. This is reassuring.

You take your seat and see six glasses of wine, a bruschetta (ours was fig and blue cheese), a wedge of cheese (we had an awesome truffled pecorino), several pieces of bread, a biscotti and a glass of water. They had me at hello.

The class was roughly 25 people, and the room was a bit tightly packed, though tastefully decorated. The class began with an introduction by Michael McCaulley, sommelier and beverage director for Tria. Within a few minutes of the class beginning, it was easy to see how his personality translates to Tria. He clearly enjoyed his job, which–seeing as how he drinks all day–makes sense. But what makes him, and Tria, unique is that they make wine approachable. There was no pretense, no snobbery, none of the general dickheadednish that alienates rugged blokes like myself and has us reaching for ales at dinner parties. McCaulley seems like a guy who probably could talk about Super Tuscans as easily as he could about Larry Johnson’s tragic fantasy football tailspin.

On top of that, he knows his stuff. With a slide show guiding him, he walked us through the history and sub-regions of Tuscany, as well as the rankings, ratings and laws of Italian wine (I learned that, as a quick rule, I should buy wines marked DCOG on them). After a detailed set up, we began tasting. Our first glass was a Carmignano “Barco Reale,” Capezzana, ’04, which was a great, earthy start. We began the whole swirl, smell, taste ritual. As we progressed through several glasses, the class, not surprisingly, became bolder in describing smells and tastes. A girl behind me, who was knocking back glasses at an unwise pace, yelled out that her glass of Brunello smelled like pineapples. Then a guy who described a wine as smelling like Budweiser knocked over two of his glasses. This, apparently, is the height of wine humor.

I would describe some of the wines in more detail, but my notes become slightly less legible towards the bottom of the page. But I was able to take down some really helpful advice for my next time in the liquor store, such as “only buy Chianti that is labeled Chianti Classico” and “1999, ’01 and ’04 are years to buy,” as well as a less useful “I wonder if Italian men ignore mustached women or if they are simply too drunk to no [sic].”

The entire experience was truly one of the best experiences I’ve had at a Philadelphia dining establishment. They didn’t skimp on wine, as one of the bottles we tasted retails for around $50 (it was the Le Serre Nuove Tenuta Dell’ornellaia, 04). They made things fun. They taught me something. They got my mom bombed.

The classes sell out very quickly, so I’m clearly not the first person to find them. But there are enough interesting topics to keep me coming back. I am, after all, a lowly drunk at heart.

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This will be an ongoing series that documents various outlandish fan behavior, and then compares how the story would be treated had it happened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In Game 1 of the NLDS last night, Arizona fans, who finally bought the last 16,000 seats to their game, got a little South Philly on the umps, who made a judgment call on a takeout slide during a double play. The crowd, no doubt angered by both the call and the $4 they played for Aquafina bottled tap water, began showering the field with plastic bottles. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, whose face may or may not be made of clay, had to pull his team off the field.

So, what would the reaction be if this happened in Philly? Let’s guess:

  • Bob Ley wakes up with a swollen mound in his flannel PJs, knowing that he can once again dust off his “Have Philly Fans Gone Too Far?” episode of Outside the Lines. He calls his secretary, says he won’t be in today, and asks her to schedule a tee time and a facial. He promptly heads off to the dog track.
  • Frank Olivo, the famed Santa who was the target of Philadelphians’ snowballs so many moons ago, is contacted for interviews shot with an ultra soft-focus lens by ESPN, SI, and Lifetime. Frank, an Ocean City restaurant, parlays his reignited fame and heads to Atlantic City’s finest BYOB, Bare Exposure.
  • Over the course of 8 hours, the story of a few plastic water bottles being thrown on the field would morph into the entire 45,000 person crowd taking 40-ounce bottles of Mickey’s Malt Liquor and launching them, catapult-style, at players, with specific aim being taken at the players who either a) have young children and/or b) have expressed a devout Christian faith.

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This blog got off to a bit of a wacky start, since the Phillies surprised everyone by making the playoffs and then surprised no one by falling flat on their faces once they made it. Because of that, my main focus has been the Phightins. But I hope to do more than simply bitch and moan about the Phils–I want to bitch and moan about other things, grand things like the mid-afternoon destruction of my stomach caused by Five Guys Burgers, the lack of an honest-to-God sports bar in Center City, or Andy Reid’s mantitties, and his lack of the concealment thereof. Yes, there will be stories and food and drinks shared here on Sloth Street and I hope you join me for the ride. If not, at least it keeps me from going to the bar too much.

Anyway, I thought it might be nice to tell you what the hell this thing will be about, and what I believe in. So, here it goes:

I believe in Philadelphia. In its potential to be a great city and its quirks that simultaneously hinder it from being one, but in a way, contribute to its current awesomeness. I believe in yelling at the television, thinking it hears me. I believe that WIP is a scourge in this city and that it makes us all dumber. I believe in Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants, but think there are too many mediocre Italian ones around. I believe in the bars where they have food that is awesome, like North Third and New Wave and dozens of others scattered around the neighborhoods. I believe in the dive, the real dive, the one that has been there for years and gives not a shit that you inspected the glass that they served you because you’re not getting another one. I believe in Andy and Donovan, but Andy’s stubbornness and Donovan’s emotional and physical frailty often fray that faith. I believe in wine, a thought I couldn’t imagine thinking years ago, but now, goddamn, is that grape juice good. I believe that text messaging is a wildly underrated component of following sports. I believe every man, woman and child should see a Big 5 game at The Palestra, and feel the rickety bleachers shake and watch two student sections taunt one another for 2 hours. I believe in on-base percentage and making the pitcher work. I believe in good microbrews–the hoppy IPAs made by hippies in transient towns–but I don’t scoff at the watery domestics like true beer snobs do. I believe I nearly throw up every time I see a fantastically lazy national columnist write an article about Philly fans containing some combination of the following words: Santa, snowball, batteries, Michael Irvin, boo, JD Drew. I believe our fans get a bad rap, but sometimes, like a wildly drunk uncle at a wedding, they make me cringe. I believe playoff hockey is fourteen types of awesome, but man, does the regular season drag on. I believe shelled peanuts are the perfect food for a baseball game. I believe in a lot more things, really, and I hope you enjoy reading some of those beliefs.

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My mind right now is as conflicted as my stomach, which has taken a thorough beating the last few days from consuming midday baseball, griddled animal flesh and watery domestics. And while my stomach churns, my brain is having trouble wrapping its battered self around how to feel about the Phillies.

Part of it knows that this team plays best when we have left it for dead. After another jarringly bad April start. When they momentarily get it together and they swoon in June. Following moments like Tom Gordon and Brett Myers’ epic meltdown in Atlanta. This team needs doubters. It needs its disgruntled fans to begin the first few letters of a chant for the team that plays a Ryan Howard homer away. It needs us to think they’re the Mother Fucking Same Old Phillies.

So I almost want to feel that way, knowing that my doubt–my sense of impending doom–will somehow affect a baseball game half a continent away, because, surely, that would make sense. When I doubt, they win, right? But now does my awareness of this line of thinking mean that it isn’t real? That it would then become a manufactured sense of doubt that was actually created just to keep up some superstition of how these Phils have kept winning this year. Like I said, my brain hurts.

So you know what? Screw it. I’m going to enjoy the one, or two, or please-God-let-there-be three or more games left this year. Because the Phils are playing their one hundred and sixty-fifth game of the year tomorrow night, and I might as well enjoy the time leading up to it.

That said, if that fat fucking diaper stain Josa Mesa makes another appearance, I’m going to punt a puppy dog into the Schuylkill.

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I’m hungover from going to the game yesterday, so here’s my in-depth analysis of the game: The Schmitter is a tasty fucking sandwich.

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The entertainment value of a playoff series has a sharp relation to the level of hatred one feels for the opposition. Had the Phils hosted the Padres, that lather of hatred would have been well whipped. A tense mid-August series with the Pads featured a few near bench-clearing brawls, some inside pitching and the batshit crazy Milton Bradley egging on the well-lubricated and feisty leftfield crowd at CBP. But Colorado? They weren’t on the radar much all year. Or the year before that. Or the decade before that.

This series on the field comes down to two teams who are strikingly similar. The Good Phight does a great job breaking down how alike the teams are, so let’s focus on how we can actually hate the Rockies. This is difficult for me, as I actually spent nearly a year in Colorado, living as a ski bum, and it was one of the greatest times of my life. The people were super friendly. The weather, awesome. The skiing, unparalleled. The scenery, inspiring. The potent marijuana, plentiful.

Trying to dislike Colorado is like trying to hate the lovable stoner in the back of your social studies class–the dude who could play Bonham’s part in Moby Dick using two pencils, a lighter and an unread copy of On the Road. But alas, we shall try. Anyway, here are a few reasons that we Philadelphians, who specialize in spite, should hate Colorado and the Colorado Rockies:

For a land overflowing with hunger-inducing narcotics, the food pretty much sucks: A decent roll is nowhere to be found. Chains rule the landscape. Testicles are a delicacy. Let’s move on.

The Phils helped out the Colorado grounds crew as the Rockies collectively shaved Matt Holliday’s balls: I’m going on hearsay here, but I have it on good information that while the Phillies–helpers to the meek, assistants to the frail–helped the Colorado grounds crew from certain death, the Rockies felt the need to manscape Holliday.

Meanwhile, the Rockies were clubbing seals.

Their hippies ain’t no Oregonian hippies: Sure, Colorado has its fair share of the poorly bathed, the barely kept, the glassy eyed. But Oregon hippies are busy giving natural in-home bong water births to their babies while Colorado’s hippies fumble for their Graffix.

They’re stealing our thunder: We were the story of the team coming back from impossible odds to make the postseason for the first time since the Clinton era. We were the all slugging, no pitching squad that played in the park where homers are given out with each $7 beer. We were the team with the MVP candidate that no one saw coming months ago, and who ignited his team on the playoff-clinching win. We were the feel good story of the year. So piss up a rope, Colorado. It’s our time.

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