Now 100 games into the 2015 season, there have been a grand total of two must-watch Phillies games. The first came last week when Aaron Nola made his major league debut against the Rays. Even though I was down the shore with my family and had to sacrifice a night of miniature golf and
Mack Manco and Manco's pizza to do so, I positioned myself in front of a television at 7pm to watch another piece of the Phillies future be put into place.
The second such game came on Saturday when Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs. Despite being heralded as the MOST IMPORTANT START EVER MADE BY A PITCHER IN BASEBALL HISTORY by a couple national talking heads, I didn't feel too bad about going to WXPN's annual music festival on Saturday. I mean, what could I possibly miss that would be so important? If Hamels's struggles continued, I wouldn't want to watch it or be exposed to the #takes that would accompany that performance. If he threw a typical Hamels start of 7 innings, 2 runs, 8 strikeouts, well, I've seen that dozens of times before. I've had plenty of opportunities to appreciate Cole Hamels: Really Freaking Good Starting Pitcher; what was one more?
Turns out I couldn't have made a worse decision.
By this point, the reader is undoubtedly familiar with Verizon's 4G LTE service map in comparison to that of its competitors. What that map does not reveal is that there is a gaping hole in Verizon's coverage in the area of the Camden Waterfront around Wiggins Park and the Susquehanna Bank Center. So, not only was I without video access to (probably) Cole Hamels' final start as a Phillie, I was also without timely Twitter updates.
My first sense that something was happening came while listening to Lord Huron when my Twitter finally decided there was sufficient service to load. At first, looking through older tweets, I saw people saying Hamels was throwing 97. Some, I think even said 98. This struck me as odd since the Hamels I know and love typically "only" throws 93-94 mph. 97 is out there.
Scrolling up a bit, I saw that he had yet to surrender a hit through 4 innings. Now, for most, that would be a relatively unremarkable fact. Four innings is less than halfway through a game, and, unless you're walking a lot of batters, a prospective thrower of a no-hitter hasn't even gone two times through the order. Nothing to get excited about here. But, I'm an idiot. Four innings is typically when I start my no-hitter/perfect game watches. I acknowledge this is way too early and that I am only setting myself up for disappointment, but it's how my brain processes these things.
So, with four no-hit innings in the books, I began the process of refreshing my twitter feed as frantically as the service blackhole in which I found myself would allow. Hamels made it through the Lord Huron set, which was quite good, by the way. Not as good as Cole, but what is?
We (my girlfriend and I) then moved over to the other stage to see Gina Chavez, who I had never heard of prior to that moment. I remember her being good, but I couldn't tell you any more about her. That's how engrossed I was in attempting to refresh my Twitter, being frustrated with the poor internet, and nervously (and silently) celebrating each update that came to my phone by way of magical internet-infused air particles.
At this point, as far as I knew, I was the only person following Cole Hamels is Awesome Day. I mean, who else could possibly so sadistic as to interrupt a great weekend of music by checking Phillies scores? For about seven innings, I was entirely alone in my excitement, which, because I'm a moron, had been building for about an hour since the fourth inning.
When you're refreshing your Twitter obsessively while, at the same time, experiencing poor connectivity, it is frequently the case that your phone will lose charge at an accelerated rate. So, about 5 minutes into the last set at Wiggins Park--Delta Rae--I had to avail myself of the charging station at the back of the concourse area of the festival. It was here that I found a people. As I arrived at the station--a pillar of the Subaru tent adorned with all manner of cell phone chargers--I saw a crowd of (mostly) men charging their phones.
Fortunately, most of them were chumps with iPhones, so I was able to find a charger for my phone despite being late to the parade. What ensued was an extremely Digital Age gathering of people standing in proximity to each other staring at their phones and not interacting with each other.
Among my fellow smart phone addicts were one or two others fighting through poor service to follow Cole Hamels's no-hitter. We never said a word acknowledging each other, but, from the muted cheers and subtle fist-pumps, it was clear we were sharing a similar experience of eagerly anticipating the next moment Verizon, or AT&T, or Sprint would allow an update to filter through to their phones.
After we received words that Kris Bryant had flown out for the last out of the no-hitter, one of my compatriots turned to his partner and reported that Cole Hamels had thrown a no-hitter. Whispers began to spread around the Subaru tent carrying the news. One clear thinker informed us of a deal through Domino's to receive a free pizza. There was excitement--a player on a team we care about did a good thing--but also a bit of sadness in the air. The Domino's promotion man expressed to me his sadness that that might have been Hamels's final start as a Phillie.
The talk was brief, though, as we all had to part ways to watch the conclusion of Delta Rae before packing our things and heading over to the Susquehanna Bank Center to see St. Vincent. I returned to my girlfriend giddy over what I had just followed on Twitter and informed her of the reason for my excitement. She responded by dismissively saying something like that was very nice.
And with that, I was once again alone in my Phillies and Cole Hamels fandom without a reliable line of communication to the rest of the world. For a fleeting moment, Cole's no-hitter brought a couple crazy people together and generated a little bit of excitement for a largely unexciting team.
Experiencing that moment with the sort of anticipation fostered by fragmentary information made the no-hitter take on a mythic character. Cole Hamels emerged as a giant, intimidating flamethrower. Mowing down hitters with 97 mph fastballs and nabbing hard-hit grounders. There was no TV to tell me he hadn't transformed into a more physically-formidable power pitcher. The legend of super-saiyan Cole Hamels demolishing the Cubs in his last hurrah will forever exist in my mind only because I followed that performance in isolation from any information to disabuse me of that image.
If I knew Cole Hamels was going to throw a no-hitter, I certainly would not have chosen to take it in as I did. I still have not watched the game, or even highlights of it. Somehow, receiving sparse, 140 character updates at irregular interviews made the Cole Hamels no-hitter more impressive and memorable than it would have been otherwise.