There we were, 40 dedicated fans, clad in sombreros and Phillies jerseys, dancing our way to Washington for a Saturday fiesta. It was Cinco de Mayo, and we were ready to party. Then our team showed up and put a quick end to the revelry.
The 2012 Phillies are party poopers. They are maddening in their inconsistency, frightening in their flaws. They are a long, long way from the deep and hungry championship team of four years ago. Their lineup is listless, their bullpen is terrible and their manager is lost. What began as Cinco de Mayo ended as Stinko de Mayo.
We marched on Washington (rolled, really, since we used a bus) to declare our superiority over the upstart Nationals and came home a few hours later with a sobering new perspective. The Nats are a better team than the Phillies right now. They might be a better team later, too, when Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return.
The precise moment when this sad reality struck me and my Phillie 40 was in the fifth inning, as Jayson Werth, of all people, lined a three-run homer to left field to give Washington a lead we were pretty sure the Nationals would never relinquish. These days, a two-run deficit is practically insurmountable for these Phillies.
What made our trek even more poignant was observing for ourselves that first blush of affection between a team and a city when years of waiting are rewarded with youth and talent, and winning. Washington is us in 2006, just as Utley and Howard, and Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels, were all reaching maturity together.
The Phillies avoided a sweep with a big win on Sunday night -- thanks to the indomitable will of Hamels -- but the message was already sent and received. This unprecedented era of success for the Phillies is nearing its inevitable conclusion, if it hasn't ended already. The standings don't lie. Our team is a bottom feeder.
Does anyone really believe the Utley and Howard we get back will resemble the superstars of three or four years ago? Is there one fan who honestly believes Michael Schwimer, Chad Qualls, Joe Savery, Brian Sanches and ancient Jose Contreras can be trusted? And who really believes Charlie Manuel is capable of masterminding one more World Series march?
Last winter, the Nationals decided to reclaim their ballpark from Phillies fans with a flamboyant promotion. Now it looks like they didn't need to organize anything. Their young and talented players have already done it for them.
Flyers lost their mojo
The Flyers are a lazy team. They say they'd like to keep playing the way they did in the first round, when they upset Pittsburgh, but they aren't willing to pay the price. Lazy. That's the worst four-letter word you can pin on an NHL team. And that's what the Flyers are.
After another lackluster effort in Game 4, the Flyers used shorthand for the word, but the meaning was obvious. They said New Jersey "wanted it more," and were "winning all the little battles for the puck." In short, the Devils are desperate to continue playing hockey. The Flyers are hoping for good tee times.
To a blue-collar city, there is nothing more maddening than a team that refuses to try as hard as it can. Heck, coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout five minutes into Game 4 because he saw his players mailing in another performance. They responded with two quick goals, before sleepwalking through the rest of a 4-2 loss.
Hockey is the least complicated of our major sports. If you work hard, good things happen. If you don't, you're down 3-1 in a series you're supposed to win.
The list of lollygaggers is long: Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, and maybe Claude Giroux. Most of those same names were the heroes versus Pittsburgh, and now they are goats. Why? No one seems to know.
Here's what I do know. The Flyers have one game left to find their hearts and their legs, and to change the mind of a city that is losing faith fast.
Sixers are frauds
The Sixers have already exceeded all expectations. They will have much to crow about this offseason. Most of it will be pure bunk.
I'm sorry to rain on the playoff parade, but I am a cynic when it comes to our resurgent basketball team and their Svengali, Doug Collins. Yes, with a 3-1 lead against Chicago, they are further along than they were last year. But what does this playoff success mean? Very little, actually.
First, these are not the No. 1 seed Bulls that the Sixers are beating. Without MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago is no threat to win the NBA title. The Sixers are merely feeding off the corpse of a real contender.
Second, the Sixers remain a muddle themselves, despite the current success. Evan Turner is again showing signs of emerging as a possible star, but at what cost? Can he co-exist with Jrue Holiday? Will the real Spencer Hawes please stand up? And Andre Iguodala is still on the roster, so failure is inevitable.
Enjoy this unexpected run if you are so inclined. I am not. The Sixers are really no closer to an NBA title. If you doubt me, stay tuned. The second round -- and a harsh dose of reality -- will provide all the convincing you need.
- Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP's Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 to 10 a.m.