After stepping off the plane late Sunday night, I smiled wide. I was so glad to be home, I even rolled down the cab window and inhaled some of that good refinery stink as the cab took me over the Platt Memorial Bridge.
At my request, the driver put the Phils game on the radio. The Fightin's were already down by four runs at that point, but no big deal, right?
Wrong. When I woke up yesterday morning, panic had spread through the city like a terrible communicable disease. The infected - newspaper columnists, radio hosts, TV pretty boys, bloggers, and some fans - foamed at the mouth while recapping all the disappointing things that happened at the opener.
On their list of complaints: The Phils didn't hit. A lefthanded reliever ended the game by striking out the left-hand-heavy Fightin's lineup. New Skinny Brett didn't pitch as well as Old Chubby Brett. Charlie Manuel had a hard time hoisting the championship banner to the top of the flagpole. And some parachute dude landed in the parking lot instead of on the field.
Bad omens all. Run for the Poconos. No time to save the women and children. Loot what you can and flee the city posthaste. Etc.
To the alarmists and fearmongers: Relax. Deep breath. In case you've forgotten - and you clearly have - we've seen this before. A lot. The Phils have lost six of their last nine season openers. The last time the Fightin's won on opening day was in 2005. Those who are confused should note that the string of first-game defeats includes 2008, which despite the bad beginning had a pretty great ending.
"It's just one game," Manuel told everyone after his boys fell to Atlanta.
"It's one game," Ryan Howard echoed.
"It's game one," Shane Victorino added. (I like how he flipped "one game" and made it "game one." He's such an individualist.)
Their point, I believe, was that on Sunday, there was was only one game. There will be a lot more of them - 161 more, in fact, including a rematch with Atlanta this evening. Maybe the season will go really well and the Phils will win another NL East title. Or maybe they'll crater. Right now, we don't know - and we won't for a while, so it's probably best if everyone would just calm down until we do.
Remember: They're still the world champs. And if that doesn't put a smile on your face, take a quick trip to Detroit. Rock City is great for perspective.
So much for keeping up with the Joneses. I was reading the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (who doesn't?) when I came across this nauseating nugget courtesy of the Cowboys' executive vice president, who also happens to be the son of Botox victim Jerry Jones: "It cost $40 million to build Texas Stadium," Stephen Jones said. At the new team's new stadium, "the scoreboards alone cost more than $40 million."
Well, la-di-da. Some men compensate for their inadequacies by buying sports cars. Others build giant scoreboards for absurd amounts of money, then brag to local media outlets about their fat wallets.
A little advice for the knucklehead down in Texas: As long as Americans keep pulling Chance cards that instruct us to advance to the nearest unemployment line without passing Go, it's probably best to ease up on your Rich Uncle Pennybags impersonation.
Not really digging the Phils' new gold-trimmed uniforms. . . . The New York Post reported that Lenny Dykstra was pretty much broke and in danger of losing his $18 million home and private jet. Nails has proven to be a crummy person, but I wouldn't wish bankruptcy on anyone - except maybe the Jones family. . . . Congrats to C. Vivian Stringer for making the hoops Hall of Fame. . . . I wrote one little note in my column about Tyler Hansbrough being "spastic and annoying," and I haven't heard the end of it. It makes me glad that Hansbrough is done at UNC. No one will have to deal with his overprotective fans any longer. . . . Associated Press sportswriter Rob Maadi is apparently looking for an opponent for the May 16 celebrity boxing event at World Gym on the Boulevard. Since Maadi covers the Fightin's, I think he should throw down with one of the other Phils beat writers - say, Randy Miller from the Bucks County Courier Times. If the organizers are reading this, you need to make that happen. I promise you'd get more media coverage for that fight than the Sixers have gotten all season.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.