True story. I was living in Tampa, Fla. in the autumn of 2006 when the Eagles arrived in town to play a game against the Buccaneers. The weekend ended with Matt Bryant kicking a 62-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bucs a 23-21 victory. A healthy contingent of Eagles fans was in town that weekend to watch the game and enjoy a mini-vacation. And by healthy contingent, I mean a swarm of Philadelphians that over-ran Tampa like it was the scene of one of those Capital One credit card commercials. Everywhere you went that weekend -- except, probably, the local library -- there were Eagles fans with sun-burnt faces and beers in each hand. One night, I was talking with some friends at an outdoor bar when a petrified Floridian interrupted our conversation.
"An Eagles fan just peed on my foot in the bathroom!" he said.
My friends laughed.
"You're lucky," I replied, "that he waited until you were in the bathroom."
Now, before everybody arches their back and starts to squeal, let me assure you that this is not going to be another lecture on fan behavior. I'm not condemning or condoning anything. Where one might see a drunken adult jumping up and down on the uniform of another grown man, another might see an exercise in the type of freedom of expression that our founding fathers strove to protect when they established this great city called Washington, D.C. I say potato, you say give me a beer. I get it.
Fact is, Philly sports fans tend to leave an impression wherever they go. Whether they actually behave any differently from other fans is irrelevant. In this case, perception trumps reality. And, let me assure you, the massive amounts of Phillies fans who flooded Nationals Park on Monday left an impression.
For the second day in a row, the Washington Post featured a couple of stories on what is sometimes being referred to as "The Invasion," including an examination of why so many Phillies fans were able to score tickets to Opening Day.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, one prominent fan blog called the day "one of the low points in the brief history of the Nationals."
Keep in mind, this is a team that lost 103 games last season and has never finished with a winning season.
Nationals fans are irate that so many Phillies fans were able to get into the game, while many hometown fans were unable to purchase tickets. In an email to the Post, team President Stan Kasten explained that several factions of Phillies fans took advantage of the Nationals' group ticket policy, which allows groups of 25 or more to purchase tickets before they go on sale to the general public.
But in his carefully worded email, Kasten also suggested that the reason why Nationals fans seemed to be so out-numbered wasn't merely a product of quantity of Phillies fans.
Kasten pointed to the Nationals' home exhibition game against Boston on Saturday, which attracted a large number of Red Sox fans.
Kasten said there was a "tangible, qualitative difference in the two crowds."
Here is the Post story.
When Cole Hamels steps onto the pitcher's mound at Nationals Park for his 2010 debut, he will already be well ahead of where he was last season. Hamels, who was plagued by tightness in his elbow during spring training in 2009, didn't make his debut until April 10 last season. Already three days ahead of that time line, Hamels will now try to avoid the rough start that plagued him last year -- he allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings in his first start, five runs in 6.0 innings in his second start, then was knocked out of his next two starts early after A) being hit with a Prince Fielder line drive and B) spraining his ankle while trying to field a bunt against the Nationals.
Here is a quick breakdown of tonight's game:
3 Match ups to Watch:
Jimmy Rollins vs. Jason Marquis: Rollins reached base four times in the season-opener against John Lannan, but he enters today's game with just four hits in 34 at-bats against the sinker-balling Nationals righty.
Jayson Werth vs. Jason Marquis: Werth is 6-for-9 with two home runs and two walks against Marquis.
Cole Hamels vs. Ryan Zimmerman: Hamels has faced Zimmerman more than any other hitter in the majors, and the two have had some decent battles. Zimmerman is 12-for-46 (.261) with two home runs off of Hamels, but Hamels has struck him out 10 times in 47 plate appearances.
Placido Polanco: The new third baseman went 3-for-5 with six RBIs on Monday in his Phillies re-debut.
Cole Hamels: The lefty is coming off a 2009 season in which he went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA.
Thursday at Washington: RHP Kyle Kendrick at RHP Craig Stammen
Friday at Houston: LHP J.A. Happ at RHP Bud Norris
Saturday at Houston: LHP Jamie Moyer at TBA