Editor’s Note: Upon receiving this month’s Esquire magazine, it occurred to me that I had been unconsciously lifting the “Endorsement” tag from this great publication I respect so much. So, while imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, it can also be a harbinger of unoriginality and plagiarism. Therefore, from hence forth, I will be titling all of my endorsements with the tag “Let Us Now Praise…” I know you were all losing sleep over that one. So, on to the praise…
Little Bits of World Series Joy:
—John Oates’ Rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”: Maybe it was the pre-game buzz of being on the verge of a possible Phillies championship victory. Maybe it was the post-beer buzz of a few stellar IPAs at National Mechanics Bar in Old City. Or maybe it was just the welling up of a general soft spot I’ve had for Daryl Hall’s better half ever since I interviewed him for South Jersey Magazine last summer. (Did you know he breeds Alpacas in Colorado, or that he was a fairly close acquaintance of the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson?) Regardless, there was an understated quality to Mr. Oates’ “SSB” I found severely likeable. As both an unyielding patriot (hmm…) and amateur student of professional sports, I’ve become quite familiar with this little ditty we call our National Anthem, and in doing so I have realized the most significant sin most crooners commit in singing the song is that they simply overdo it. To be sure, the “Star Spangled Banner” is not an easy tune to render. In fact, I’ve heard many musician friends of mine muse that it is “one of the hardest songs to sing” due to its wide range and awkward phrasing. In short, it’s no “Happy Birthday.” But this doesn’t have to be so problematic if only more would take a cue from Philly’s own J.O. and play it down.
Look, the lyrics don’t require all that much bravado. You’ve already got rockets with red glare, bombs bursting in the flippin’ air, and one hell of a perilous fight. You don’t need a voice competing with that imagery. Moreover, let us not forget the more tender moments of the hymn. A dawn in its earliest light. A twilight in its last moments of gleaming. A flag that is still barely there. Like the overall narrative of our country’s Revolution, “The Star Spangled Banner” is not a call to arms but instead a quiet moment of triumph, a possible hint through the haze and horrors of war that maybe, just maybe, we will prevail after all. It is in this interpretation that we will realize the song’s poetry, and it is in this discovery of our anthem’s inherent humility that we will continue to understand why it is so befitting a nation that should always be mindful of its fragile grip on the righteousness of its foundation. Thank you John.
—Joe Buck: At first it was a small, innocent comment made by an acquaintance of mine. “Aw man, I hate Joe Buck.” Um…what? Then it was the dude next to me a Brentons, a semi-dirt rocker bar off 206 South in Shamong. “That asshole doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” He was referring, of course, to Joe. The final straw was a chant that spontaneously erupted at National Mechanics in Old City on Monday night somewhere between the first pitch and the first monsoon. “Fuck Joe Buck! Fuck Joe Buck! Fuck Joe Buck!” I think you know to whom they were referring.
Look everyone, stop hating on Joe. What, exactly, is the problem? I know some of you think he wanted the Phils to lose against the Dodgers in the NLCS. I know some of you think he wants us to lose now. And I know some of you think he’s just too polished and expensive-suited to be endearing to the rough-edged, sweat-panted Philadelphia sports fan sensibility. Well, get over it. I don’t really give a toss about these (quite absurd) speculations because guess what? Buck is one hell of a good sportscaster. As the son of Hall of Fame sportscaster Jack Buck, Joe has been covering baseball since 1991 when he was a play-by-play man for the then-Louisville Redbirds, a minor league affiliate of the Cardinals. He’s the thinking man’s caster, a guy who knows that sometimes what isn’t said can be just as powerful as what is. He lets the best moments just happen; and by the way, he could probably run baseball knowledge circles around those daft Philadelphia critics shouting their displeasure down Passyunk Avenue.
—At Least It Wasn’t An Earthquake: Sure, it’s a weird World Series. Sure, it sucked to get rained out on Monday night. But guess what, it could have been the ’89 series, wherein play was put on hold for 10 days due to the Loma Prieta earthquake. Now that would really suck.
—Watching Sports In A Bar: Typically, I shun the sports-in-bar experience. The drink are overpriced, the fans potentially obnoxious, and the food cold and mediocre. Nine times out of ten, I’ll take the couch. But I’ve watched every game of this thrilling series in some sort of watering hole, from the opening game at the Manayunk Tavern with my best pal Red Dog to the (potentially final) game tonight at National Mechanics. And I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When the series is complete, I intend on composing a retrospect here of my total experience (which came to me in a feverish, collage flash of imagery last night as I was falling asleep), so I will save many of the detail until then. The bottom line is this: You will meet more characters and feel more raw energy in watching an important sporting showdown in a bar than you will at Burning Man. I’m hoping to be in the eye of the storm tonight…
—Watching Sports At Home: Because there are always a few drunk assholes ready to wreck the experience.
—This Guy’s Face:
I found this on the New York Times’ Web, and I think it speak for itself. Isn’t there a little of him in us all?