All right, Philadelphia. We can do this.
We’ve done it before. Remember when we surrounded Jim Thome with an electricians union and he felt so welcomed that he played here for three years? And Cliff Lee; remember how he found us so appealing that he left the Yankees standing there with money in their hands, crying out to him, an image embroidered on the tapestries of our city’s holy sites?
Well, once again, a big name free agent is visiting Philadelphia, and this time, his name is Manny Machado. He has close to no history with or attachment to this city, and it’s widely accepted that he’d rather play in New York. But he met with the Yankees yesterday, and the meeting only lasted 90 minutes. Could that have been because he already knows he wants to play there and they all just stood around fist bumping for an hour and a half? Yes. But on the other hand, if the Yankees have only 90 minutes worth of money to show him, then the Phillies clearly have the upper hand.
Because that’s what Manny is doing here today, really. Without their thriving cash reserves, the Phillies aren’t in the conversation about signing Machado or Bryce Harper at all, as neither has shown more than a casual politeness about playing here. So it’s on us, Philadelphia, to look so good that the idea of playing in a lifeless pinstriped uniform for a team with puritanical regulations about facial hair becomes even less appealing than it sounds.
What do the Phillies have planned as far as pitching Machado the city of Philadelphia? Well, let’s hope it’s better than the truth.
“You like New York? Well this is like that, but smaller, so the anger is more concentrated, but also somehow gets more intense as you move further out into the suburbs. Hot meat on bread? Yeah, we got that. What shape do you want it in? Don’t know yet? Well, now a local is going to scream at you. Hey, let me ask you something; who’s better, Carson Wentz or Nick Foles? Not having an answer is the same thing as committing murder, as is having an answer that is different from my own. I’ll hang up and listen.”
Look, we all know Philadelphia is the greatest city. This town’s personality has attracted dozens of sports stars while repulsing thousands. It’s called natural selection. As we say around here, “Only the smartest rats live in the shopping center.”
But occasionally, we have to turn our more endearing qualities up a few levels—while stifling some of our more primal urges—to grovel at the feet of a millionaire so that he will come here, and play here, and be close enough that he can hear us when we yell at him for not running fast enough.
So here’s what we’re going to do.
- Tailgate. We want the athletes who will play in this city to ask questions like, “Is this the type of town where people can use a full weekday to linger in a parking lot?” And we want that answer to be a hotly whispered, “YES.”
- Involve Gritty. Anyone playing or watching sports in Philadelphia in this age should understand that his shadow looms over every event in the Sports Complex. The sooner the image of Gritty becomes ingrained in Machado’s mind—his stringy, silent face slowly growing closer each time Machado closes his eyes—the better.
- Bring up the money Machado could make here. Again, it’s kind of the main point. We can act like he will look at a sea of people holding photo shopped images of him with the Phanatic’s body in another cold city in the northeast and that will be enough to convince him to spend the rest of his twenties and thirties here, but for some reason, I have a feeling the hundreds of millions of dollars will play a part.
- Block his travel route so that he has to at least see the World’s Biggest Wawa. It has all the impaled receipts, bread smells, and snorting, yawning people of a regular Wawa, but in a way bigger space located in the cradle of America. One look at that epicenter of our nation’s made-to-order sandwiches and Machado will forget all about the cavernous condo with the hot tub grotto behind the fake book shelf he put an offer on in New York.
- Mention casually, in case Machado is nearby eavesdropping, that Philadelphia is GQ’s City of the Year. Did somebody around here literally kidnap Jesus? Yes. But they gave him back with nary a ransom demand. And isn’t that the true meaning of the holiday season?
- Wear a ski mask and chant “BIG DICK NICK” at his car as it drives by. Manny does not know who that is, or who you are, and probably doesn’t know about how people wearing masks around here are Eagles fans and not extremely loud domestic terrorists.
- Mention the enormous rabbits that were “leaving feces on sidewalks and chewing through car wires” in North Philly.
- Throw anything, thereby giving permission to all outsiders to bring up that we come out of the womb throwing whatever it is and would do so at a church choir if given the opportunity.
- You know, something about being told not to do these things makes me want to exclusively do them. Who does this Manny Machado think he is, anyway? Thinks he’s too good to play third base, the position of Mike Schmidt? This guy thinks he’s better than Mike Schmidt?? And he thinks he can step into Citizens Bank Park, breathing in the lingering Veterans Stadium dust particles in the air that could be the very dust on which Schmidt played third base?? I don’t think so, buddy. [Hoists entire cornhole board overhead to hurl at passing Uber driver].
NO. No. That’s not who we are. We are a fiery, unreasonable people, but we are fun to play for. Especially when John Middleton’s millions are picking up the check. So we welcome you, Manny Machado, to a place of only only the most intelligent rodent infestations; a place where we are rewarded with food scraps when our opponents fail. We hope you’re here for more than 90 minutes.