The Phils Without Ryan Howard Would Be Like Gluten-Free Cat Food

The Joy of a Phillies Game, Even When They Stink: What's nice about baseball is it's a picnic. The Phillies may have given up three home runs to Ryan Braun in a 10-4 loss in their home opener, but I still had a good time at the game yesterday. I tailgated with friends in the parking lot beforehand. I met my uncle, a man who's taken me to scores of Phillies games in my life, and we sat in his season ticket seats. I listened to him wax nostalgic on Phillies teams in games past — "Since the Vet opened, I've only missed about three home openers," he bragged — and we drank beers and sighed as the Brewers scored another run. I ran into friends I hadn't seen in forever. I updated an old boss on my life. I actually walked back to downtown up 10th Street because it was nice out, and a friend suggested we walk. Why has no one asked me to do this before? I wondered aloud. (Dan McQuade)

My husband Doug and I were toggling between preseason football and yet another extra-innings Phillies game the other night when we lighted upon a cat food commercial. We don’t have a cat (though we did recently acquire a grand-kitten), so there was no reason to pause. Yet we did. Because the narrator of the commercial was proudly declaring that the cat food in question was gluten-free.

“Is this a commercial for gluten-free cat food?” Doug asked incredulously, just as I said, “Was that a gluten-free cat food commercial?” Because no matter how you feel about the current human gluten-free craze, it seems off the wall to extend it to our feline friends. The ones I’ve had in my lifetime haven’t been big bread eaters, generally. Nor were they particularly fond of pasta. But I never noticed any ill effects from the occasional noodle or cookie crumb. And I’ve had a lot of cats. Read more »

Philly Has Taney Dragons Fever

It’s official: Philly is Dragon-crazy.

The Taney Dragons beat Delaware’s Newark National team on Sunday, 8-0, giving them a trip to the Little League World Series that starts Friday. They were led, again, by Mo’Ne Davis, who threw six strikeouts during the victory.

Philadelphia’s Twitter exploded in delight Sunday evening.

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Philly Dancer Joins L.A. Clippers Dance Team

jennifer jones clippers 2Local dancer Jennifer Jones was just hired to join the L.A. Clippers Spirit Dance Team.

The 22-year-old tells me she moved to Los Angeles on July 11th, and began auditioning for the team only seven days later, on the 18th.”I got there at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave until about 5 p.m. … We went through three rounds of auditioning. The competition was intense. All of the girls who came to that audition were beautiful and phenomenal dancers.”

She soared through that day, and then moved on to finals, which consisted of three more rounds: jazz, hip-hop, and solo sections. After that, family and friends had a week to vote online. In the end she was one of the 18 dancers chosen—out of around 200 people.

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Stephen A. Smith Apologizes for Domestic Violence Comments

Stephen A. Smith, the former Inky sports columnist, has apologized for comments he made on ESPN last week that seemed to excuse men who had been “provoked” by women into committing domestic violence. The comments came after the NFL suspended Baltimore’s Ray Rice just two games for violence committed against his wife.

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The Top Ten Philly Sports Announcers of All Time

MASTERS OF THE MIC: From left, Kalas, Hart, Reese, Andersen, Ashburn and Franzke.

MASTERS OF THE MIC: From left, Kalas, Hart, Reese, Andersen, Ashburn and Franzke.

The voices carried me home. Dating back to high school, on most weekends in the summer I’d drive to the Jersey Shore and relax with friends and family who owned or rented houses there (see: mooching). Seaside Heights, Ocean City, Sea Isle, Avalon, Wildwood — I’ve slept on porches and tight couches and in sheets decorated with conch shells. Sundays meant the dreaded trip home, and the worst stretch was usually where the Garden State Parkway meets the Atlantic City Expressway. Traffic crawled. The air conditioner in my black 1994 Chevy Cavalier was broken. It’s a safe bet I was dehydrated, from the sun or booze or both.

Far more important to me than a cool blast of air was my radio. Music was the soundtrack for the ride to the Shore; Sundays were for the Phillies, and for Harry. As the heat and my stress level rose, Harry Kalas turned my sweatbox-on-wheels into a Buddhist monastery where baseball was peace and Harry the K’s play-by-play was a Zen koan. You can still hear his voice, like that of a grandfather or dad who told stories that held you rapt, or a friend who could talk sports for hours: “Struck’im ouuuuut!” During that long drought between 1993 and 2007, when the Fightins mostly stunk like a Vet Stadium bathroom, you tuned in not just for baseball, but for a version of the game as described by Harry. It was often better than what you’d see with your own eyes.

By contrast, a lousy broadcaster can ruin the experience. Like former Sixers color man Eric Snow, who was so dull he once apparently put himself to sleep. On the air. Or the current Phillies television crew, who should begin each inning with a narcolepsy warning. (Google “Matt Stairs Wing Bowl” for proof of a far more entertaining guy than you’ve heard so far. Jamie Moyer? I think he may have a future on NPR.)

With the window now officially closed on the Phillies’ ’08 championship era, and with no basketball, hockey or meaningful football till the fall, it feels like we’re all stuck in a hot car on the Philadelphia sports highway — going nowhere and not happy about it. Which makes this the perfect time to recognize the local TV and radio play-by-play men and color analysts who’ve made our best sports memories better and helped us survive the lean years. To rank them, I’ve looked at three categories: voice (smooth delivery, unmistakable sound), calls (moments that will live in Philly sports history), and general awesomeness (would you want to have a beer or play a round of golf with this guy?).

What makes a broadcaster special is more than the ability to interpret the infield fly rule or describe the action; it’s the weird, deeply personal one-sided relationships that fans develop with him over time. These broadcasters will likely never know you, but they’re part of your family for the big game and your co-pilot on long drives home.
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America’s World Cup Dream Is Dead. So What?

Where to Watch the World Cup ... By Country

No, America won’t be playing when the World Cup resumes this afternoon. But who cares?

I’m still watching the World Cup because I want to see Germany’s colossal back line pummel Brazilian strikers. I still tune in because I want to watch a disciplined Dutch team try to keep up with the creativity of Argentina. I’m still watching because I cannot wait to see who steps onto the pitch in Rio this Sunday to take home the title.

Like me, a record-breaking number of Americans have continued to watch matches after our team’s tragic loss — but look closely and you can call the bluff. Moments after our loss, I could hear American fans saying, “Does this mean I can stop pretending to care about soccer?”

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