The 2012 Phillies will need somebody not named Ryan Howard to play first base the first 6 weeks of the season. They will need a slick third baseman with some pop in his bat. They will need either a fresh shortstop or a brand-new closer, one or the other, because they can't afford to re-up Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson, even if they start selling tickets atop Bull's barbecue stand.
What the 2012 Phillies will need most (drum roll, please) is a gesture. Uh-huh, a gesture, a quick, imaginative piece of pantomime, something to be performed at second base after the popup slide, the timeout call and the inevitable dust slapaways.
If you had the stomach to watch the league championships, you know what I mean. Those cuddly Milwaukee Brewers loved "Monsters, Inc." an animated flick. So, whenever they got to second base, they went into "Beast Mode." The outdoorsy Texas Rangers bent their fingers to resemble claws or wiggled their fingers like antlers, your basic wildlife mimickry.
I know, I know, it doesn't guarantee you an invitation to the Big Dance. Just ask the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came up with the clever right elbow in palm of left hand, right wrist cocked, then uncoiled, like a snake thrust. The pitching just wasn't venomous enough.
What do the Phillies have? They have Tom McCarthy reading a cue card as if it's a grim letter from the IRS or the parking-violations folks. "Safe and secure," T-Mac announces, glumly. Sounds like a commercial for Depends is what it sounds like.
Yo, the Fightins were in the forefront of the postgame pie-in-the-face ritual, never mind what it did to the on-the-field interview. Maybe Sarge nixed that one, weary of the dry-cleaning bills for his funky berets.
They still do the beat-down on guys who hit walkoff homers, but that's too dumb, too generic. What they need is something unique to Philadelphia, something iconic, ironic, and maybe a little gin-and-tonic, as a tribute to Harry Kalas.
SportsWeek is happy to oblige, offering 11 possible gestures, because you can't have a parade without a charade.
1 The Handout. Player puts out his right hand, palm up, slightly below the waist (under the table, get it), while looking the other way. A simple, yet effective way of symbolizing how business gets done in Philadelphia. Too cynical? Nah!
2 Eye of the Tiger. Batter gets to second base, he throws a right jab and then counters with a left hook, because this is a left-hook town and because the people love Rocky Balboa, a fictional palooka, more than they love Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins, real live champions.
3 The Schmear. Hitter gets to second base, he runs his right hand right-to-left, left-to-right, like a guy applying Philadelphia cream cheese to a sesame bagel or a guy slapping Cheez Whiz on an Amoroso roll. A nod to Joey Vento.
4 The Kite Yank. A hand over hand tugging on an imaginary string, manipulating an imaginary kite with a dangling key, your serious tribute to Ben Franklin.
5 The Ear Cup. Player puts right hand behind right ear, listening for the cheers for a guy in scoring position, a nice salute to Allen Iverson and a time when the Sixers were relevant.
6 The Crapshoot. Player squats, shakes his right hand, uncurls his fist, tossing imaginary dice. This one comes sponsored by Parx Casino, and the scoreboard shows a clip of dice rattling to a stop, coming up 7, every time.
7 The Scrawl. Player puts hands on hips defiantly, sticks right toe out and writes "15" in the dirt around second base. This Bud's for you, Dick Allen.
8 The Rifle Sighting. Player raises imaginary rifle to his cheek, squints down the barrel, squeezes imaginary trigger, blowing imaginary squirrel to kingdom come. NRA would love it, Charlie too, but maybe the wounds are too fresh?
9 The Signature. Player dips imaginary quill into imaginary inkpot and then pretends to write his name on imaginary parchment document, your basic Declaration of Independence. Good for tourism in this, the cradle of liberty.
10 The Embrace. Player runs over and grabs the shortstop and hugs him. This is the City of Brotherly Love, remember?
11 The Audubon. Player cups both hands around his mouth and groans, your basic imagery of the leather-lunged sapsucker boobird. Not the smartest gesture, but then again, when was the last time you saw smart and Phillies hitters in the same sentence?
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