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A Loss to Remember

 Cole_hamelssi_medium

Dedicated to Cole Hamels. And RememberThePhitans. But mostly RememberThePhitans.

In a way that only seemed sort of sleazy upon much deeper reflection, and in the sense that we had only ever really met via the Internet, and seen each other just once in a minor-league town in central New Jersey, we met again in an emergency room lobby and set off for the ballpark, a crazy ride past the sewage treatment plant and the scrap metal yard, talking that mad crazy nerd talk of stats and NPR and the economy. 

We watched and muttered, shoving the only warm sandwiches Planet Hoagie offered that cold and blustery night, as Cole Hamels walked from the bullpen to the dugout, as the PA announcer declared his name in pregame introductions for the first time since he let Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, and Aaron Rowand stomp on our hearts during Game 3 of the 2010 National League Championship Series

We fiddled with the wireless modem and the laptop as we endeavored to post on the game thread when he threw a strike to Jose Reyes that bounced through the left side right on a line toward us, the first batter faced on this night of dreamy dreamboating. 

We thereupon tried to begin a meme about how public perceptions of Hamels wobble on a strange hair-trigger "pussy versus assassin" continuum, but it was lost in the chilly wireless wind amidst many, many .gifs posted by nomadic racist Eagles fans. We murmured with approval as he wriggled out of a first inning jam and then set the Mets down in order in the second, hoping against hope for the chance to express our brotherly love for him again, and unabashedly.

Heck, had the weather been only about 15 degrees warmer, and the drives much shorter, we would have stepped out of our left field seats between innings to scratch a beery itch, maybe with an over-the-railing sawbuck bribe of a waitress at Harry the K's, whereupon we would have celebrated his impending improbable collapse in the third while comforting ourselves with humor and sarcasm.

Six runs on and seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings pitched despite not allowing very many hard hit balls. Three strikeouts and two walks. A 20.25 ERA. All of those numbers were far exceeded by the amount of hits by a downsloping Chris Young, heretofore only appreciated by Mrs. WL for foresaking a year of Princeton basketball to enter the baseball draft, and some contrived bloviation on postgame radio shows about the booing Hamels received by the fans as he came up with a pair of twos instead of the ace-high, cool-hand Cole we anticipated in his return to Citizens Bank Park.

This was the night about two months in the making. This was the date entered on my synched-up Outlook calendar until my dad, who was kind of non-committal given April night weather in the first place, bagged out on me the weekend before. So that Monday I put it out the the assemblage of bloglords on e-mail. The Opening Week t-shirt to me is as perennial a giveaway event as tax time. And it seemed a pretty fair bet that we wouldn't have to endure Kyle Kendrick, as we both had many times the year before.

There were many mysteries to speculate on last night. The relievers appeared to engage in competitve stretching in the bullpen, and we were feted to a parade of depth chartery: Kendrick. Herndon. Romero. Baez. Bastardo. After weeks of waiting, my beloved giveaway t-shirt was wrapped tightly around my neck like a needed extra scarf. The guy in front of us in the Ruiz jersey seemed incapable of forming a sentence without the verb "to suck." And we wondered, after these months of waiting, what we should say to Raul Ibanez in the top of the 9th, as even in the back of section 142, our voices could have easily been borne on the northwest wind. And then, before anything was effable, the inning ended, a will-of-the-wisp, an ephemera.     

We lost about every other game that night. I came to find out when I got home that my one rooting interest in the Final Four couldn't follow up their improbable upset of UConn to get another title. So desperate for saving graces were we that we found them in dollar hot dogs, vended successfully en route to the pissoir. We continue to be haunted by painful regret - that we did not follow through on our plan to send one of them to WholeCamels' father's attic. 

If not for the crack, we might have been more lucid on the game thread.

We arrived at our seats well before the starting lineups were announced, and stayed, mystifyingly, for every pitch, as we surveyed the acres of improbably empty blue seats that had been so full of life, and cotton hoodies, just a scant few hours before.  No matter the craving for rapidly cooling curly fries or the urgency to express ourselves on the game thread, we stayed seated as our internal body temperatures fell to hypothermic levels as Victorino flied out to center to put a bullet, at long last, into this lame hag of a game.

What seemed so full of hope on that cold December night not so long ago became somehow poetic with one loss on a numbingly cold April evening. Cole Hamels - the only homegrown talent on this fabled Phillies pitching staff - coughed up a hairball of a game. And, really, it had to be that way. 

When we think about another person, we may not remember what they said or did, but we always remember how they made us feel. Years from now, we will overlook how genuinely terrible the 2011 Mets were. We will even forget how the Phillies offense couldn't seem to hit a big gooney nerd guy who doesn't throw hard anymore.

But we will never forget how we felt on April 5th, 2011 - how Cole Hamels drove us right back to our uneasy pussy/assassin relationship with him not with his talent, but with his mere presence, in less than one hour. I now believe, by the way, that miracles can happen.

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