A Fan's Dilemma: Union or United?

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In every major American sport, I root for the team from Philadelphia. Flyers? Orange and Black courses through my veins. Phillies? I wore a Phillies cap to elementary school in the midwest when everyone else was wearing a Royals cap (that should date me somewhat). Sixers and Eagles? Love me some Mo Cheeks and Doc and Jaws.

But soccer? Other than the defunct NASL Atoms and Fury, I had no specific allegiance, because there was no team from Philadelphia.

That changed this year. Philadelphia Union begins play this season as the latest Major League Soccer expansion team, and given Movement Point‘s focus on the Philadelphian, it should be easy for me to root for this team, to be a fan of Union. Not so simple, though.

But they sound so similar. Do I have to choose?

When MLS started up in the 1990s with a franchise in DC, where I’ve lived for some two decades, I followed DC United in the absence of a Philadelphia entrant in the league. I was happy when United won, I kept track of the scores and the players, went to a few games over the years, and even tailgated with the Screaming Eagles and sat in their nest occasionally, courtesy of Movement Point buddy Jan Spoor.

And yet, I’m considering abandoning them.

Am I a faithless fan of DC United, or just a fickle follower? How do I reconcile my support for United over the years with a new, arguably more valid, contender for my cheers in Union?

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The Best Video Game Movie Ever

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It’s something of a truism that movies based on video games are, well, terrible. Really, truly, unabashedly terrible. I’m still trying to get my money back for having sat through Wing Commander (USA, 1999), even though it was a matinee. And I went on a free pass.

The attempt to transfer the experience of playing a game, interacting as an active participant, to the decidedly passive experience of watching a film, fails, without fail, time and time again (cf. Uwe Boll). Not to assign value to the various modes of culture consumption—film, at its best, offers a transcendent experience and forces active mental participation, while the mere fact of interactivity in video games does not guarantee a worthwhile, active thinking experience—but the basic expectations one brings to playing games differ from those one brings to watching a film.

Choices, options, paths are, of course, constrained by the game as readily as a director positions actors in a scene, but the illusion of choice, of agency, remains, and this sense of being in control appeals to the gamer—and it’s this sense that doesn’t translate across genres.

Video game films fail most often because they attempt to portray figures from the games that the gamers themselves control. If the long delayed Halo film ever comes to fruition, it will fail, because what the screen Master Chief does is not necessarily what I would have done; his thoughts, given voice on the screen, as he mows through the Covenant forces, were not my thoughts as I did the same in the game.

But they finally did it. I finally saw not just a good video game movie, but the best video game movie ever.

Best Video Game Movie. Ever!

What is it? The Damned United (UK, 2009). But, you protest, that’s not a video game movie! Isn’t, it, though?

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Fan-a-Delphia: An Analysis of Philadelphia Sports Fans

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Phillies World Series Pep Rally: Franklin Square by Vincent J. Brown on flickr.com, via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives license.With all four of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams in action at present, Philadelphia sports fandom is in full swing, pass, dribble, and slap shot. And with most eyes on the Phillies and their quest for a repeat World Series championship against the Yankees, the New York Times has posted a nice piece on the essential character of the Philadelphia fan.

Mike Tanier’s “In Philadelphia, Heroes With a Lunch Pail” (Saturday, October 31, 2009) proposes the “Schmidt-Schultz Fan Appreciation Axis,” with the cooly reliable Mike Schmidt, a star by any measure, less appreciated than Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, who helped the Flyers win consecutive Stanley Cups with his grit (and his fists):

Most cities would treasure Mike Schmidt, a three-time most valuable player who led the Phillies to their first World Series title. Philly old-timers, however, swear that Schmidt stank in the clutch, his 548 home runs somehow producing only 274 runs batted in.

Philly fans preferred Greg Luzinski, a portly slugger who played left field like a brontosaurus flailing in a tar pit. Schmidt was aloof and sensitive, Luzinski flabby and fun.

While Mike Tanier interjects a few incendiary jabs typical of most writing about Philadelphia sports fans—”Philadelphia’s most beloved sports legends provided hooliganism and success”—the article nonetheless provides a fair look at the social and emotional context surrounding sports’ finest, most passionate fans.

(Image courtesy of Vincent J. Brown via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives licence.)

Rainmaker Redux

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The Washington, DC, area finally got rain yesterday after a very dry July. You’re welcome.

Downpour in the Lights on flickr.com by Cathalain Carter via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license.

For you see, I, along with two brave compadres, went to the baseball game between the Nationals and the Cardinals last night, triggering the deluge, just like we ushered in the serious rain this past May by going to a game. And this game, a 4-1 rain-shortened win for the Cards, was the make-up date for that game.

Sitting in the right field upper deck, under the overhang, we watched the rain stream down in sheets, steaming as it hit the large banks of floodlights (notice all the water imagery here?). Frankly, the rain provided a more enjoyable experience than the baseball, but we can’t really complain, as we went to the park twice on $10 tickets.

So, for the price of a ticket and some cash for concessions, I’m available for all your rainmaking needs.

(Image courtesy of Cathalain Carter via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license.)

Rainmaker in a Nationals Hat

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I would just like to publicly apologize for this rain-soaked week the Washington area has borne. My fault. Sorry.

See, I decided to go to a baseball game for the first time since I visited the “new” Comiskey back in its inaugural season in 1991. So you can forgive me for thinking that the baseball gods would offer up good weather for my first game in eighteen years.

Nationals Park on flickr.com by afagen via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license.

Instead, it rained all day and the Nats game against the Cards was eventually postponed, but not until we’d sat there, noshing on half-smokes from a Ben’s Chili Bowl outpost (apparently not as good as the real thing) and drinking not-too-overpriced beers, for two hours. And it has rained pretty much ever since.

Still, the rain sparsened out the crowd (not that the Nats are drawing huge these days anyway), giving me and my compadres run of the house.

The park’s physical dimensions are quite human-scaled, and while it holds over forty thousand, it doesn’t seem that large. For six hundred million in taxpayer dollars, you kind of want imposing, but I digress. Our upper right terrace seats, at $10 each (plus almost that weight in fees), offered very good views of the field, barely even worthy of the nosebleed moniker.

While we were split over the aesthetic merits of the new in-motion statues of former Washington players, and the art in general at the park, it was, on the whole, a decent way to spend a rainy afternoon, even if we didn’t see any baseball. After eighteen years of waiting, another season without won’t kill me.

(Image courtesy of afagen via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license.)

Bill Lyon on Harry Kalas

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For as long as I’ve been alive, one man has called Philadelphia Phillies games, a voice I remember from a tinny bedside radio on summer nights visiting my grandmother in South Philly, the play-by-play competing with the sounds from the narrow street below the rowhouse. He called every one of “Michael Jack” Schmidt’s 548 home runs. He was the voice of the Phillies for several generations of fans.

The Parade on Flickr.com by thewestend, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives Licence.

Harry Kalas passed away yesterday before the Phils took the field against the Washington Nationals in the Nats home opener. And, as is often the case, Bill Lyon returns to print in the Inquirer to help the city come to terms with another momentous event:

Harry the K did play-by-play, and he not only did it uncommonly well, he spared us the histrionics and the shrieking and the rudeness that pollute far too many airways these days.

Harry the K was an oasis of calm in a roiling sea of nastiness and raging negativity.

He was, of course, the property of the Phillies, but he never played the role of fawning company shill. It was the Fightin’s he wanted to win, but he credited the opponent when it was deserved.

I’m the first person to admit that I’m not much of a baseball fan and that I haven’t listened to Harry Kalas call a game in years. But even I know that Philadelphia has lost just a little bit of its soul and that Bill Lyon has helped by putting it right back.

(Image courtesy of thewestend, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives Licence.)