In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as in Boston, there's a serious obsession with baseball. And, as in Boston, there's near-universal disgust with the team. The Phillies are in last place, 12 games behind first in their National League division — in other words, sucking even worse than the Red Sox are. At the moment. So the mood is eerily familiar, as are the commentary and epithets hurled at the screen.
Still, it was refreshing to watch a different team lose spectacularly for a change. My father is particularly annoyed with management for various reasons — for example, keeping pitchers in after they've proven disastrous. "Why don't they just take him out and shoot him?" he suggested at one point, about one of his least-favorite pitchers. I know exactly how he feels, so perhaps I'm a chip off the old steel ingot after all.
When the Phillies become too hard to bear, as they are now, everyone is thrilled to tune in to their own Lehigh Valley IronPigs,* the local Triple-A affliliate of the Phillies. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Phillies stars, are currently rehabbing with the Pigs. And they're in first place, so it's a relief to watch players who have a clue about what they're doing and seem genuinely passionate about the game. Everyone loves the Pigs' manager and hopes he'll become the next Phillies GM after the current one spontaneously combusts, or whatever. It's also easy to go to a Pigs game; their fancy new Coca Cola stadium is just one town over. The Pigs are very cool.
When we were visiting, they were playing the Pawtucket Red Sox, and we were treated to the spectacle of Daniel Bard screwing up once again. Go Pigs!
* "IronPigs" refers to pig iron, a crappy kind of metal that is nevertheless an ingredient in making certain kinds of steel. (You would know this if you grew up in Bethlehem.) Hot iron was** poured into rounded molds, or "pigs," and the ingots were called "pig iron." I asked my steelworker father, "Why are they called 'pigs'?" He said, "You got a bunch of guys working there, who speak all kinds of different languages, and they gotta call them something. I guess the molds sorta look like pigs." You can satisfy all of your pig-iron curiosity here.
** The Bethlehem Steel Company is no longer active in Bethlehem and the mills and machine shops were converted to a Sands Casino complex, of all things.