That collective “meh” you heard reverberating through Philadelphia on Monday signified the beginning of the baseball season.
Yes, the longest and probably the most painful part of the sportsball calendar, given the infinitesimal odds for Phillies success, is upon us. The good news for you, person who knows nothing about Philadelphia sports, is that this Phillies baseball season will be so long and so painful that by June people will likely have given up. True sportsball fans will partake in other, less-excruciating activities and on the nights they do choose to watch the games they won’t be so intense. Yay for hot weather and mediocrity!
So start planning that vacation — let Billy Penn explain everything you need to know. This month, we’re covering the Phillies, the last few games of the #LOLSixers and the reason why everyone will be talking about golf this weekend.
Update: The season started on Monday, Opening Day — sun, tailgating, baseball, America woohoo! And the Phillies… lost. Cole Hamels, the Phillies’ No. 1 pitcher by the way, gave up four home runs in an 8-0 loss to the Red Sox. The Phillies were supposed to trade Hamels months ago. Meanwhile, a former star player who was traded, Jimmy Rollins, hit a go-ahead three-run home run in a victory for his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then on Wednesday, the Phillies won their second game, thanks to a home run from a guy, Jeff Francoeur, who hadn’t hit a home run in two years. Consistency!
What you can praise: The Phillies are ridiculously self-aware, and that’s not a bad trait to have these days. Unlike with most baseball teams, the front office knows the team won’t be any good. You might not be able to tell from their words, but you can plainly see this through Citizens Bank Park’s alcohol prices and selection. The Phillies have become the first team in recent MLB history to sell hard liquor (quite the feat considering beer stores can’t even sell hard liquor in this state). On top of the liquor, beer costs 37 cents per ounce at Citizens Bank Park. Only a handful of teams offer a better rate.
The Phillies have realized their strength as an organization this season: Get us drunk. Because sure, there are betting things to do than watch Ryan Howard whiff fastballs. But better things to do than watch Ryan Howard whiff fastballs while you’re drunk for a relatively small amount of money? Not so much.
What you can criticize: A group of college kids in Arizona figured out how to trade Hamels for the best value, but the Phillies still can’t. As mentioned above, Hamels was supposed to be out of Philadelphia as part of the team’s rebuilding plan. But GM Ruben Amara never pulled the trigger. Fortunately for Amaro, some college kids at Arizona State know how to do his job for him. They used computer models and statistical metrics to decide where Hamels should go and who the Phillies should ask for and won a contest at a Research Analytics Conference.
Update: The #LOLSixers have just three games left. Crazy how time flies when you’re tanking! Though Philadelphia won’t have the worst record in the NBA, a late losing streak, including a loss to the terrible Knicks, should ensure the team the third-worst record. No small feat considering several teams tried cramming into the NBA cellar this year.
Key to the #LOLSixers’ place in this cellar was a game in late March against the awful Los Angeles Lakers. Were the #LOLSixers halfway decent, the loss to Los Angeles on a buzzer beater in overtime, would have been crushing (days later, they also lost to the Charlotte Hornets at the last second). Instead, it acted as a saving grace. The #LOLSixers get the Lakers’ first round draft pick if it is not among the top five picks. The Lakers’ victory helped and #LOLSixers’ loss created more space between them and increased the Lakers’ chances of earning a first round pick outside of the top five that would go to Philadelphia. Talk about losing the battle but winning the war.
What you can praise: Center Nerlens Noel has been one of the best rookies in the NBA this season. He’s leading all rookies in blocks, steals and rebounds and is fourth in scoring, and he’s done while maintaining his signature flat-top.
What you can criticize: Did you go to an #LOLSixers game this season and wonder why they were missing so many shots, even for a team that’s not any good? Well, it wasn’t you. It was definitely them. For most of this year, Philadelphia had two of the worst shooters in the entire league playing almost every night in Noel and Michael Carter-Williams (Carter-Williams was traded to the Bucks in February). Noel — for all his great work on D — has made just 27 percent of his mid-range shots, those that are close to the basket but not quite gimmees. No other NBA player has as bad of a percentage. Carter-Williams has an even worse statistic when it comes to 3-point shooting and plenty terrible at mid-range jump shots. Grantland stat-extraordinaire Kirk Goldsberry argues that Carter-Williams is the “least efficient volume shooter” in the NBA.
Learn more about Joel Embiid: If Embiid never plays a game for the #LOLSixers, he’ll still be the best Sam Hinkie roster move of all time. As if his tweets about Rihanna and not knowing what the hell was going on with his team after the trade deadline weren’t enough, he has become even more of a national treasure. Case in point: Embiid has made three YouTube videos for the GameOn app in which he responds to fan’s questions about Chipotle, candy, girls who aren’t loyal and more, all while lounging on his bed in pajamas like a true king.
Update: With football and March’s annual excuse for betting the mortgage on a basketball game over, the boring sports take hold. When it comes to watching boring sports, there’s nothing quite like golf. And when it comes to golf, there’s nothing quite like the Masters. Some mix of azaleas, pimento cheese sandwiches and institutionalized sexism have made the Masters “a tradition unlike any other” and guarantee your sportsball-loving friends will be watching on Sunday afternoon.
Who you can cheer for: Ever since that whole cheat-on-his-wife with many, many women thing, Tiger Woods has not won a major golf tournament. Don’t expect him to win on Sunday, either. He’s not even among the top 100 golfers in the world any more. You’ll sound a lot cooler cheering for one of two young golfers in the Masters: Rory McIlroy, a 25-year-old who has won four major tournaments but not yet the Masters, and Jordan Spieth, a 21-year-old who might be the best golfer at that age since Woods.
Where you can golf in Philly and play terribly and not have to pay a ton of money: Whereas watching golf is considered a form of torture in 43 countries, playing it is quite the delight. Golf is the lone sport where you actually improve if you’re smoking cigars and drinking Coors Light. These are the three best places for playing golf in Philly on the cheap:
- Cobbs Creek Golf Club: A round of 18 can cost as little as $18.
- Golf Land, Voorhees, N.J.: Out of the way but features an 18-hole pitch-and-putt course perfect for newcomers.
- Walnut Lane Golf Club: A Par 3 course that caters to people new to the game.
Try this golf drink: The John Daly. It’s an Arnold Palmer — another golf drink, lemonade with iced tea for the uninitiated — mixed with vodka. Really helps you get through the last day of having to watch the Masters.