ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Every city's fans react differently to a World Series.
In New York, they manage to balance blasé and arrogant. In St. Louis or Milwaukee, they see it as some sort of civic validation. In Philly, we get drunk.
Here in Tampa-St. Petersburg, they've apparently confused the event with Smurf Night at the county fair.
They ring cowbells and get blue mohawks.
I am trying to fathom what might drive a Floridian to get a mohawk, let alone a blue one. Perhaps it's the traffic. Or maybe Katherine Harris.
Regardless, the pro-sports experience here tends to be as shallow and insubstantial as a local TV newscast. So it's probably not surprising that the area's television and radio people were absolutely gaga yesterday over the decade-old Rays' first World Series appearance.
The level of talk-radio discourse here made WIP seem like an adjunct to the Sorbonne.
One host spent most of his show ripping Philadelphia for its ugly women, its crime, its nasty fans, and the fact that unlike Tampa, "nobody goes there in the winter for vacations."
He then turned to baseball, where he was equally profound: "The people of Tampa Bay," he said, "appreciate baseball more than the people in New York City."
He failed to explain why - if that is so - the Rays until this season were regularly outdrawn by dog shows.
On the morning TV shows, one lengthy segment was devoted to cowbell etiquette. Apparently, it's OK to ring them when the Rays get a hit or score a run. But not when there is no reason.
(Note to Tampa: It's baseball. There's never a reason to (a) ring, (b) bring, or (c) own a cowbell - unless you own a cow, which considering all the blue mohawks, might be an explanation.)
Another morning host spent considerable time eating Tastykakes, after which the heretical witch said she preferred Hostess products.
This could explain why the rolls here taste as if they've been made with saltwater.
What has happened to baseball?
Remember when general managers used to be hard-drinking old men who smelled of tobacco, wore cheap suits, conducted their business in hotel bars, and spent a lifetime ascending to the position?
Well, the Tampa Bay GM, Andrew Friedman, is 31.
Before Bill James and his Seamhead Revolution, 31 used to be the average age of bat boys.
In Friedman's defense, he did work his way to the top. He got the job when an investment-banking buddy on Wall Street bought the Rays.
1. Admittedly, the Tropicana Field interior decorators didn't have a long or glorious Rays tradition to use, but they could have come up with something a little more fetching for the décor on the stadium's suite level. The walls there are adorned with large photos of Rays players, most of whom wouldn't be recognized by their parents.
2. A local TV cameraman outside Tropicana Field before the game gathered a group of Phillies fans for a live shot. At one point, he instructed them to "jump up and down and act like idiots." Another example of overdirecting. That's like telling Andy Reid to act hungry.
Rays manager Joe Maddon walked into his pregame news conference carrying a black bat, perhaps anticipating retribution for admitting that Gene Mauch was a boyhood idol.
It's difficult to compare Maddon's managerial attributes with Charlie Manuel's. But the contrasts between the two men's news-conference styles couldn't be more pronounced.
During his session with the media, Maddon quoted from a biography of Branch Rickey, referred to Bruce Springsteen's music, and spoke a little Spanish.
The Phillies manager, meanwhile, relied on his typical Shenandoah rap.
Early on, Phillies fans were more focused than their Rays counterparts.
As soon as the Tropicana Field gates opened at 6 p.m., a red-clad horde rushed to a spot behind the Phillies' dugout like locusts descending on a field of sorghum.
They were so eager to cheer that pitching coach Rich Dubee's appearance produced a roar, something not likely to happen again in this millennium.
Take a walk around Tropicana Field (bring Lysol spray, please), and you wonder what civic leaders were thinking when they built this place to attract a baseball team.
To the average baseball team, this place has all the appeal of a tax increase. It's got hard turf, no sunlight, catwalks that come into play, and a gigantic Tropicana orange in right field.
Not sure what else you'd call it, but the outfield track is definitely not a warning track. Though the track appears to be dirt, it's actually just a continuation of the outfield NeXturf painted brown.
A white roof is never a good backdrop for pop-ups. Fortunately, this one is so dirty it's not a problem.
1. Two Philly TV guys behind me spent five minutes determining whether fever was spelled with an f or a ph. Left unsaid was why this matters in television.
2. At one point, the main press box's public-address announcer left his mike open. When the Fox broadcasters brought up the stadium's network of catwalks and the complex rules that apply when batted balls hit them, his gasp was audible and understandable. "Oh no," he said, "they're going to try to explain the catwalk rules."
3. The seat-assigners were heartless. From mine, the foul pole obstructs my view of the giant orange.