I was in a neighborhood store the other day so I could purchase rock salt. This was necessary due to the relentless onslaught of snow this area has received, combined with my urge to be a considerate neighbor and sidewalk provider. While putting my change away, a grizzly, older man asked the cashier for a pack of Newports. He wanted to confirm the price as advertised outside.

“The Newports cost what it says outside, right?”

The cashier looked at the sign in the window and said, “Yes. Plus tax. So it will be $5.89.”

The grizzly, older man sucked his teeth and said, “Damn taxes.” Then he looked at me. We made eye contact and he said, “These taxes are killing me!”

He was calling out The Man and he was looking for me to provide some kind of agreement or nod of approval. I’m pretty sure he wanted my support in creating a Roxborough Tea Party, where we dress up like people from Manayunk and dump all of the newly purchased rock salt and cigarettes into a giant pile of snow in front of the store. We would conclude our victory over the oppressive forces above us by high fiving and writing a Declaration of Independence or Constitution, and then having a parade while HBO makes a mini-series about us.

Standing in the store with my change put away, I didn’t smile or nod, or reply in any way. I was busy daydreaming about tea parties and contemplating my options. I wanted to say, “No, I’m pretty sure it’s the cigarettes that are responsible for the killing. We can’t pin this one on the taxes.” I was mostly trying to figure out if there was a way to convey that message without sounding like a complete smart ass.

There isn’t.

I have a list of things I want to blog about, which will happen regularly throughout these next few weeks (I hope Sean’s RSS feeder heard that!). What makes it difficult to blog is when Philly sports teams do well in the playoffs.

With that in mind, here is an excellent screenshot of ESPN’s website after the latest playoff success:

Screenshot of ESPN.com main page

Screenshot of ESPN.com main page

I moved back to my hometown of Philly in May with my wife, who grew up in California with only a passing interest in professional sports.  I now can follow my favorite sports teams very closely, and I also am fortunate enough to have a wife who wants to become a fan of the local teams.  It is fun to watch Ali slowly falling in love with with the Philly sports scene.  It is even more fun watching her understanding of sports develop; before moving to Philly, “sports” meant watching a game and seeing who scored more goals, points, or runs.  Her definition of “sports” still involves watching the games, but has developed to include the joy of identifying with the players and learning each of their individual stories.

She knows all about the Jimmy Rollins’ yearly predictions; Pat Burrell’s rise, fall, and eventual rise again, before his departure and subsequent signing with the Tampa Bay Rays; that Jamie Moyer ditched school to watch the championship parade in 1980; Carlos Ruiz steady defensive play as a catcher after lying to accepting a challenge from a scout who said he’d only be interested in him if he was a catcher (he was a 2B at the time; he told the scout he would try catcher, despite never playing there in his life), and even that his nickname is “Chooch”; that Brian Dawkins responded to being criticized earlier this season for being too old and slow by taking it out on the Eagles’ opponents throughout the rest of the season and post-season; that the Flyers are a tough team and there is nothing more exciting than Game 7 in the NHL playoffs than overtime in Game 7 in the NHL playoffs — especially when your team wins, like the Flyers did in May; the agony of waiting 25 years to see a championship; and the joy we take in watching our rivals suffer.  Especially the Cowboys, Mets, and Giants.  Ali has truly become a Philadelphia sports fan.  Her development in this area probably received a boost by the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series and the Eagles recent, unexpected run in the 2009 Playoffs.  But I digress…

Ali’s education in Philadelphia sports included a whole section on the Curse of Billy Penn. I even updated the lesson to include the actions of workers building the Comcast Building, which is now the tallest building in Philadelphia. For those who don’t know, the workers wanted to break the curse so they placed a tiny statue of William Penn on the top beam in the building, restoring him to the tallest point in the city.  The Phillies then win the 2008 World Series, so some argue that it worked.

I would like to propose another reason for the Phillies victory in 2008, and it is one that can be confirmed in a few short weeks.  During the Phillies’ run, Ali noticed that Pat Burrell has very oddly shaped eyebrows.  Three weeks later, the Phillies won the World Series.  Then, during yesterday’s game, she noticed that Donovan McNabb also has oddly shaped eyebrows.  Not only are his eyebrows weird, but they are the exact same triangular shape as Pat Burrell’s eyebrows (see picture below)!!!  Even more amazing is that Ali noticed this about McNabb on January 11 — exactly three weeks before the Super Bowl!  That’s right, I am dubbing this phenomenon “Charm of the Eyebrows!”

Burrell and McNabb also share the fact they were first round picks by Phillies and Eagles in their respective sport’s drafts.  If the Eagles win the Super Bowl (I can’t believe I just typed that; 3 months ago I would be chastised for jinxing them by typing that!), you’d better believe that we will spend time in May checking the eyebrows of the Flyers players who were first round picks!!!

The Charm of the Eyebrows

The Charm of the Eyebrows

I have a Samson Zoom H4 – Handy Recorder, a little toy that I spent too much money on and use too little. With that being said, I am always looking for opportunities to use it so that I can both exercise my creativity as well as provide a little entertainment for friends, family, and anyone else who reads my blog or listens to my podcasts (Hello!). The 2008 World Series provided one of those opportunities.

My house became the unofficial World Series headquarters for my tight circle of friends — I’d like to think that my company is the reason, but the appeal is more likely that my wife likes to bake delicious Phillies-inspired cakes (see picture 1 below), cookies, and muffins for our guests. We had many friends and family members over for each of the 5 games, but it was Aaron, Adam, Ryan, and Jarad who joined Ali and me for both portions of Game 5. Eric was supposed to join us, but he was fortunate enough to be in the stadium for all three games in Philadelphia!

Ali's Phillies Cake

Ali’s Phillies cake — the true reason our friends came over

As the tension built in our house, we discussed the poor leadership of Bud Selig, the idea that we may finally witness one of our beloved teams win a championship, and the exciting possibility of a season ending without someone saying, “Well, maybe next year is our year.” I wanted to document the approaching historic moment as naturally as possible, so I turned on my little microphone during the 8th inning of Game 5b of the World Series. I placed it on a shelf in our living room and left it on to record our reactions and experience with a potential championship. We now know that the Phillies won the World Series and, two months later, I just listed to the captured audio for the first time.

I found a lot of interesting dialogue captured in the audio: we debate and discuss everything from the ideal time to listen to mute the TV and turn on 610WIP (to listen to the Phillies’ announcer, the legendary Harry Kalas), to the challenge of playing with mitochondria, to Scott Eyre warming up in the bullpen just so he can get some air time when the cameraman pans over to see what Brad Lidge is up to. Oh, and I also heard our reactions to the glorious moment itself! The attached audio may be dull at times, but it is a snapshot of pure, natural emotion and happiness.

I would ultimately like to edit the audio into something interesting, intermixed with interviews from each of those present (and Eric, who can provide his perspective of being in the ballpark) and with pictures laid over the top. For now, I have edited down the 1 hour of audio to the best 3 minutes*; essentially, the 3 minutes are the audio of Hinkse’s at-bat and our reaction for a minute or so afterward.

A guide to the recording below: the magic happens at 1:47 (WARNING: It gets VERY loud at this point of the audio!). Then, it’s about a minute of us reacting in absolute glee and exuberance. Finally, Jarad makes a very revealing declaration at 2:54 — be sure to listen =) The audio is below, so enjoy!

Just before the big moment

The gang, seconds before the big moment

Hinske just swung through strike 3!

Hinske just swung through strike 3!

No caption necessary

No caption necessary

*Note: I edited some of the dead time out of the Hinske at bat, just to make the file a little shorter. Just wanted to let you know in case you notice that some filler dialogue from Harry and Wheels is missing.

I just left the poll, having cast my votes for the various officials hoping to be elected today.  I feel that I was well-informed regarding the different candidates for whom I could vote: President, state treasurer, attorney general, representative, etc.

I am quite bothered, however, by the referendums/items that appear on the ballot.  There were four in my district — one about the commonwealth borrowing $400 million for utilities, one about combining the Fairmount Park Commission and Department of Recreation, one about the city incurring a debt of $53 million for capital improvements, and one about giving preferential treatment for civil service jobs to people who have lived in Philly for at least one year prior to their civil service examination.

What bothers me is that the only item I had even heard of prior to just now is the item proposing the formation of a new Department of Parks and Recreation.  I am a pretty plugged in person who reads the newspaper every day and otherwise is able to get information promptly and accurately.  If I know nothing about these items, then I am going to assume that neither do the majority of voters in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania — and I’m sure there are similar items on the ballot today in cities and states throughout the US.

My decisions and vote about each item were based on reading the difficult language on the ballot and trying to figure out the Pros and Cons of each, doing so uninformed and while under pressure to expedite my turn in the voting booth.  Since I assume most of Philly and Pennsylvania is in a similar situation in terms of familiarity with these items, this means that $453 million dollars, employment decisions, and management of the largest park system in the world (as well as recreation sites) are being decided based on…nothing!

Individual candidates spend a lot of money on advertisements to make sure their messages are heard and their faces are seen.  It is understandable that a ballot item cannot raise money, but there has to be some other way to make sure voters are aware of the items and their issues.  I saw only the aforementioned Parks and Recreation item even mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but no information about other than “Mayor Nutter says we should vote ‘yes’ on this question.”

Does this bother anyone else?

I finally found a resource with more information for those in Philly.  The Committee of Seventy, which describes itself as “Political watchdog group and nonpartisan research and election information source for the Philadelphia metropolitan area,” offers a resource on the different Philadelphia ballot questions.