When I hear Phillies fans bellyaching about Brad Lidge, I want to tell them to relax.
It ought to be illegal to frown during this remarkable era of Phillies baseball.
After all, these runs of sustained baseball excellence come as infrequently to Philadelphia as good government. In the franchise's 126-year history, there's been just one other, really - 1976 through 1983.
There were other seasons - many, many other seasons - when fans gladly would have watched Lidge blow saves. Instead they had to endure Wally Ritchie or Jim Owens or Jerry Spradlin or Heathcliff Slocumb coughing up late leads.
Many of the costumed throngs at Citizens Bank Park are too young or too new to baseball to possess the proper Phillies fan's perspective, which can best be summarized as, "Bad times are just around the corner."
They expect 92 wins and postseason glory, MVPs and Gold Glove winners, sellouts, and nationally televised games. These naifs assume this kind of success, like a bus, will be passing through town regularly.
My grandfather knew better.
John Y. Radcliff was, by the time I came along, a grumpy old man.
He can be excused. He was also a lifelong Phillies fan.
I always believed he rooted for the Phils because he was fiercely contrarian and, throughout much of his life, most of this city's baseball fans were devoted to Connie Mack's A's.
Of course, he really had no choice. Born in 1888, just five years after the Phils, he was already 13 by the time the American League A's arrived in 1901. His allegiance, his flawed fate, had already been shaped.
He was 27 when the Phillies won the 1915 pennant, 62 when they captured their second in 1950. I don't know if he was one of the 19,343 fans at Baker Bowl on Oct. 8, 1915, when the Phillies beat Boston in Game 1, but if he wasn't, he never got to see them win a World Series game.
Talk about long-suffering. Not only didn't he experience a Phillies World Series championship in his 78 years on Earth, he also went through 31 consecutive years of adulthood (1918-48) in which they finished above .500 only once (1932).
On summer nights, my grandfather would sit on the porch of his North Lawrence Street rowhouse, a quart of beer at his side, shaking his head in disgust as the Phillies' latest pratfall was described on the radio.
"Bums" was his usual, all-purpose response.
He was a typical Phils fan. All those years of unrequited devotion had embittered him. It was easier to hide his hurt behind cynicism than to admit they'd broken his heart.
Once, it may have been in 1964 - I ought to know exactly, since I probably could count our substantive conversations on the fingers of both hands - he told me he didn't expect to see his favorite team win a championship in his lifetime.
The Phillies didn't disappoint him. He died in August 1966, on a day when Atlanta's Tony Cloninger shut out the fourth-place Phils on five hits.
In 1978, author James Michener, himself a longtime Phillies fan, summed up his rooting philosophy. My grandfather, had he been inclined to speak in more than annoyed grunts, surely would have confirmed it as his own:
"Since 1915 I have been cheering for the Philadelphia Phillies," Michener told the New York Times, "and if that doesn't take character, what does? In such circumstances it is traditional to say, 'I supported them in good years and bad.' There were no good years. I cheered in bad and worse."
So sit back, pop open a Frank's Black Cherry Wishniak, unwrap a pack of Krimpets, and savor this delicious Phillies era.
It's possible you might not live to see another.
Translation, please. An e-mail invitation I received this week from PhilliesBlog.Com:
"On Friday, if you haven't been able to score tickets to the game [Phils-Red Sox] but are in Philly, come to the Grey Lodge in the Northeast. Our friends will be serving cask-conditioned Racer 5 from the Bear Republic Brewing Co. - an all-American hoppy IPA."
Thanks for the offer, but I prefer an imported hoppy IPA.
Blah, blah, blog. Excuse me for a minute while I don my blogger's cap. OK, all set:
Babe Ruth was gay. Muhammad Ali has been dead for 12 years. And I'm dating Anna Kournikova.
None of that is true, but, hey, I'm a blogger. I'm the future. Try to stifle me or set some standards and I'll lie about you, too.
NASCAR Note of the Week
Being in Nashville, the sponsors of a recent Nationwide Series race thought it appropriate to present the winner with what the Associated Press described as a "revered Gibson Les Paul guitar that had been hand-painted by longtime NASCAR artist Sam Bass."
So how did Kyle Busch react after receiving this thoughtful trophy?
The driver smashed it into the ground three times, then hurled it away.
Look for Busch at a Woodstock reunion this summer.