A double downer for a Philly sports fan

Vince Domenico of Hammonton (center) stuck it out for the Eagles and Phillies games. Vince's brother John (left) and friend Brian Ritz went home after the Birds loss.
Vince Domenico of Hammonton (center) stuck it out for the Eagles and Phillies games. Vince's brother John (left) and friend Brian Ritz went home after the Birds loss. (MICHAEL VITEZ / Staff)
Posted: October 03, 2011

Sunday morning began with such promise.

The eggs and steak were on the griddle. The beer was on ice. SportsCenter was on the wide screen. Spirits soared inside The Early Bird Special, the custom-made pleasure mobile parked in Lot P of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.

It was just after 6 a.m.

"Best thing coming to games is tailgating," said Vince Domenico, 30, of Hammonton. "Come as early as you can. Throw some back. Play some games."

This was going to be a big day for Vince, potentially one of the greatest sports days in his life.

In his own words:

"My plan is to tailgate, drink some beer, head out to the stadium, watch the Eagles, come back here, change my clothes, drink some more beer, and go into the Phillies game."

And all with his wife's blessing. The perfect day.

By 9 a.m., he was sitting in the RV, spinning a football in his lap, warm, well-fed, sipping suds, friends all around. Vince is a laborer, works long and hard during the week, and sports are his escape. He gives his heart to these teams, these players. Vince describes himself as a "four-for-four guy," referring to Philadelphia's four major sports teams.

"I go all out for them all," he said.

He'd been up since 3:30 a.m., loading the RV, and he knew that the Phillies wouldn't even throw the first pitch until 8:37 p.m.

Still, he never wavered.

His brother, John, had Phillies tickets for Sunday night but sold them.

"He can't handle a double dip," Vince said. "He's in bed by 7."

John, 36, protested, then added weakly: "My girlfriend would probably shoot me if I stayed out 'til midnight."

Vince is married, and his wife, Kris, is pregnant. She, according to the crew, has no problem with Vince's marathon of sports madness.

"My wife, she's good with it," he said. "Even as she's pregnant, she knows things slow down for us once the baby comes. So go do it. She's all for it."

How was he going to pace himself?

"There's no pace," he said. "You just go and enjoy yourself for as long as you can."

He tossed his fourth beer can into the trash bucket and called out, "Refill, refill."

It was 9:30 a.m.

Crying in his beer

Vince returned to the RV about 4:30 p.m., after another Eagles collapse.

John wanted to pack in a hurry, so, disgusted, he threw Vince a bungee cord intended to pack up the portable generator. But Vince wrapped the bungee around his neck and pretended to hook it on the roof of the RV. "Hang me," he said. "Put me out of my misery. How did we lose this game?"

He and thousands of Eagles fans pouring into the parking lot vented their rage and anger, mostly unprintable and mostly directed at Andy Reid. One fan in an RV next to Vince's - Rod Comuso, 58, of Sicklerville, a 40-year season-ticket holder - crossed himself on his father's grave and swore that his RV would never be back, that he was finished.

"This really hurts," Vince said of the 24-23 49ers victory.

Vince quickly threw off his Eagles hat and pulled off his Michael Vick jersey, as if they were on fire, and put on his Phillies cap and Ryan Howard jersey, hoping they would be a balm, a remedy.

"I work every day for my money. Dirty. Twelve hours a day. What kills me most is it's almost like they don't care. They lose, and they still make their millions. As a fan, you give everything to your team. To be let down year in and year out takes a toll on you.

"If the Phillies lose," he said, "I may not make it back over the bridge."

The Early Bird Special headed home about 5 p.m.

Vince stood in the drizzle. The gates to Citizens Bank Park wouldn't open until 6.

Dread and frustration

Vince came in from the cold, had dinner at Harry the K's, and his spirits improved. He was in his seat by game time, deep in the left-field bleachers, Section 143, Row 19. His phone had died, so no more texting his wife.

He loved the early lead, but even with the Phillies up, 3-0, in the second inning, he wasn't comfortable. When Hunter Pence knocked in Jimmy Rollins to make it 4-0, he didn't get out of his seat, when everyone around him was standing and stomping and cheering. He didn't wave a rally towel. He clapped.

"St Louis was up, 3-0, on us last night, and we came back," he said.

You had to forgive him. He had spent the afternoon at the Eagles game.

He sat, and he got tenser as the Cardinals battled back to tie the game in the sixth. He was simply glum, silent, when Albert Pujols knocked in Allen Craig in the seventh to give St. Louis a 5-4 lead.

Cliff Lee was replaced by Brad Lidge. Not a good sign.

At nearly 11 p.m., in the top of the seventh inning, Vince had been up for nearly 20 hours.

He felt dread and frustration and anxiety, but not surrender. Not yet. And he sure didn't feel like sleeping.

At midnight, a second crushing loss.

The worst part: He had to get up for work at 4 a.m.

Contact columnist Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or mvitez@phillynews.com, on Facebook or @michaelvitez on Twitter.

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