Because I am an American, one of my favorite scenes in cinema history occurs about a quarter of the way through Old School. At a fratty party at his friend’s house, newlywed Frank Ricard (Will Ferrell) is waylaid in the kitchen by some young scholars. After boring them to near tears with his disquisitions on the “pretty nice little Saturday” he and his wife have planned (“Maybe Bed, Bath and Beyond. I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll have enough time”), his underage interlocutors exchange a look, then, quite rightly, offer Frank the receiving end of a beer bong. Frank demurs, but only momentarily. I think we all know what happens next.
This quick escalation from staid, conservative moderation to drunken debauchery should be familiar to any fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. Until five years ago, we were a downcast lot, conditioned to an unloved life of failure and mediocrity. The team was always rebuilding, but nothing was ever built. We were content to cheer for Rico Brogna and eat at the Olive Garden. Yet one improbable run to the playoffs and an even more improbable world championship later, we found ourselves fat, drunk, and happy. A coterie of homegrown, lovable stars had suddenly coalesced into exactly the sort of successful nucleus that seemed only to happen in other, less self-loathing cities. These were the good times, and the team — and its suddenly ascendent fan base — spent the ensuing seasons streaking through the National League. The line of free agents hoping to pledge membership snaked all the way to the Jersey Shore and, desperate to avoid a comedown, Ruben “The Godfather” Amaro Jr. started handing out nine-figure contracts like Jell-O shots. That’s the thing about success: it’s so good when it hits your lips!
1. Roy Halladay returned from a back strain last night to pitch five solid innings in a 3-2 Phillies win over the Dodgers. In only 80 pitches, he managed six strikeouts and seven swinging strikes. His fastball wasn't very lively (he threw the cutter and the two-seam a combined 52 times, producing zero whiffs and topping out below 92 mph), but since the injury wasn't to his arm, the velocity of the two-seam in particular should go up as he gains strength.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points and James Harden nailed two clutch fourth-quarter 3s to give the Thunder a 108-103 win over the Spurs and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals. "We couldn't hit the big shots," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "It's too bad we couldn't get a Harden of our own. We're a little old, and let's face it, it's not easy to get a Harden anyway. Hey, why is everyone giggling? It's not funny. When things got close and the pressure was on, we were soft. Maybe we were anxious, maybe it was a physical issue. But I can't put it any more bluntly: We needed a Harden. We're not the first team to face this problem, and we won't be the last. But I'll tell you this much — we're not getting a Harden this year. We definitely won't get one Wednesday in Oklahoma. In fact, we'll have to face one, which is terrifyi— OK, seriously, guys, what's the joke?"
1. Chris Paul: !!!!!
Chris Paul! Unstoppable! Unforgettable! Probably some other "Un-s", too! Chris Ryan, whom you might remember as your regular Rankonia writer, nominates our hometown hero for this week's top spot:
"I've watched every minute of the Grizzlies-Clippers series. I've seen Tony Allen try to stop Chris Paul. I've seen Mike Conley, Jr. try to stop Chris Paul. I've seen Allen, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol try to stop Chris Paul together. I've seen O.J. Mayo try to stop Chris Paul for 90 feet and I've seen Quincy Pondexter try to stop him at the last second. It just doesn't matter. I don't think I ever really knew what it meant for an athlete to be unstoppable until I saw Chris Paul play basketball in the fourth quarter and overtime. Now that I do, I certainly won't forget it."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Sources indicate that Peyton Manning, released by the Colts on Wednesday, is planning to pick a new team within the week. "Have you totally ruled out evil coaches who would sign you just to bury you on the bench and demean you in front of your peers?" asked Bill Belichick. "Have you totally ruled out a coach who made a few bad impulse purchases and can only pay you in gumballs?" asked Rex Ryan. "Same question, but with butter," said Andy Reid.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Jeremy Lin continued to amaze and electrify, dishing out a career-high 13 assists to go along with 10 points in a 100-85 Knicks win over the Sacramento Kings. After the game, in an attempt to reclaim his status as America's basketball darling, Kings guard Jimmer Fredette released a series of adorable pictures with puppies. I'm not saying it worked, and I'm not saying it didn't work, but I'll trade a "Jimmer With Labradoodle on Sofa" print for anything from the Black Lab Cuddle Sessions.
Two days ago, when the Phillies appeared on the verge of handing Ryan Madson a lucrative, four-year contract, I started teeing up a detailed post about long-term deals for relief pitchers, complete with data showing how more often than not, those deals didn't work out. Then ESPN SweetSpot maestro Dave Schoenfield beat me to it.
With the Phillies choosing to sign Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal with a vesting option instead of retaining Madson, the opinion stays the same: This wasn't the best way to spend their money.