View From the Top: Playoff Hockey From Some of the Best Seats in the House

View From the Top: Playoff Hockey From Some of the Best Seats in the House

When the then-CoreStates Center was built, one thing I often heard was that there wasn't a bad seat in the house. As opposed to the original Spectrum (god rest its soul), which had some obstructed-view areas and generally tough angles from which to see a game, both the upper and lower bowls of the new building were full of great seats and unimpeded vantages. 

Being down in the lower bowl definitely has its advantages. The seats right on the glass provide an amazing in-game experience that will change even the way a lifelong fan views the game, and midway through the section, you get a good mix of the close action and ability to see more of the ice. Upstairs, obviously you'll pay less, and the game is farther away. But the upper deck too has its advantages, particularly the 15th row—the last ring of seats before the rafters. That's where I often find myself when I head down to the now Wells Fargo Center for Flyers games, and where I sat on Saturday night.  

The following are some of my thoughts and recollections from the uppermost reaches of the upper deck. 

Being at the game at all, you miss some of the details, explanations, and extra replay angles. With today's HD telecasts, many cameras, and explanations of game play by guys like Jim Jackson, Bill Clement, and Keith Jones, the fan at home will most often be better able to describe exactly what happened on the ice in a game than the fan in the stands, and sometimes even the media, who are nestled even higher than the highest fan seats. 

For this and other reasons, I was ecstatic to return home Saturday night and see that Rev had put together the recap of the Flyers' 5-4 win to even the series with the Sabres at 1-1. It was a huge game that deserved some specificity, and I didn't feel like watching the DVR'd version right away in order to do it. What follows isn't a recap. More so just a series of small and large experiences from one of my favorite things in life to do—go to a Flyers playoff game. I don't care where I'm sitting. But, I often find myself in the very top row, which has advantages that to me far outweigh the distance from the ice. 

It's probably somewhat appropriate that a writer for a site named after the upper level at Veterans Stadium would feel comfortable in the relative nosebleeds at the Wells Fargo Center. The environment is for the most part entirely different though, and even though you're at the top of the building, you can see a hell of a lot better than the upper deck at the Vet or even Citizens Bank Park (which is also a fine place to catch a game). 

What makes the 15th row feel like home to me is that you can do one thing there that you can't do anywhere else in the building—stand for the whole game. Due in part to some good friends having season tickets up there for the past few seasons, I've been in row 15 for most of the Flyers games I've seen in person lately. Sometimes the faces around us are familiar, others not, but there always seems to be a pretty good bond between the fans up there, especially the standers. I almost don't want to say all this for fear of making it harder for me to get the top row in sold-out games, but if you like to be on your feet the whole game without annoying everyone around you, I highly recommend going all the way up. 

So, on to Saturday night itself. 

WELCOME, SABRES FANS
Although there weren't as many opposing fans as you'd see if a closer geographic rival were in town, there were definitely some Sabres supporters sprinkled among the crowd, wearing some variation of Buffalo's jerseys over the years. It's gotta suck to have that red and black nonsense now, or the Slugres logo as opposed to the classic look they've re-adopted or simply an old Sabres jersey. The interaction was pretty tame in the concourses. Some boos and chants, but no big deal that I saw. 

Our section, however, had a firestarter. A younger guy in a Hasek shirsey was actin' a fool, taunting the people behind him well before the game even started. Needless to say, this resulted in some vocal exchanges. Most of his crew seemed to want nothing to do with it, though they did nothing to stop him from trying to get them all escorted down the steps in some fashion or another. Fortunately, it didn't escalate (ie, no violence etc.), although there maaayyy have been a beer toss that missed its target, and as is often the case, the events on the ice had a certain quieting effect on the visiting fans.

We had a few folks down from Buffalo in our row, and aside from not knowing they were in the wrong section for the first 20 minutes, they were exactly what you'd hope for from visiting fans—silent, polite. Then they left, which was even better. 

GOALS [penalties] GOALS [penalties] GOALS 
Rev's recap noted that the flow of the game was broken up by the ridiculous amount of penalties called in it. Interesting in that the penalties are called for things like obstruction, and what ultimately happened is the game was obstructed by all the stops and starts, which are immediately followed by one team feverishly trying only to clear while the other attempts to take its time and set up the perfect shot.

From high atop the building with a few beers flowing, I wasn't quite as bothered by the intrusiveness of all the calls. We noticed them for sure, and the replays definitely reinforced the ticky-tackiness, but it was a very entertaining game, particularly that six-goal first period. 

How about that JVR? No matter where you were sitting in the tri-state area, you could see this kid becoming a man out there. Overall I liked the intensity I saw from the Flyers. Lots of bodies on the ice going for blocks and selling out to get a poke check. This is what the team was missing down the stretch, and they seem to have found it. Giroux's huge hit was topped only by his sick moves through four guys to beat Ryan Miller.

This after I bemoaned him trying to do too much with the puck… I was happy to be wrong. The place was going nuts and the players seemed to be responding. 

At one point a bird was flying above the ice, and I swore it was the reincarnation of the bat from the Fog Game at the Aud in 1975. 

DOOP
We mentioned on Thursday that there was a good chance the Flyers would be changing their goal song from Bro Hymn to the Doop Song. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear it in game 1 because they got shut out. But on Saturday, the song rang out early and often. Knowing in advance that it was coming, I was watching and listening for fan reactions to what I consider a pretty substantial change for a crowd with a lot of season ticket holders and regulars. Maybe it was the elation of the Flyers scoring a goal for the first time in the series, but I didn't actually see anyone notice there was different goal music. Then, the same was true for the next goal. And the next after that. 

At the intermission, I asked a few fans what they thought of the new goal song. Not one had noticed. I did the same at the second intermission with the same result. The song seemed to be played a bit quietly compared to Bro Hymn, and without the crowd knowing their role in the celebratory song, I guess it could easily go unnoticed the first few times it's played amidst the hysteria of a Flyers playoff goal. Later though, it seemed a b
it louder, and at least in my memory, they played an extra cut of it following the Flyers' fifth goal after things had settled a bit. 

I'd say it went pretty well all things considered. Changes to things like the goal song can be met with disapproval, especially a change to something the crowd doesn't already love or at least know very well. Doop seemed to be introduced pretty cleanly and without too jarring an effect. Hopefully, as the crowd learns the cadence of the chant, the response will be loud and in unison. Check this one out.

ON TO THE NEXT ONE
With any luck, I'll be in row 15 of some 200-level section this Friday night. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you're on the fence about getting down to a playoff game, I for one have never regretted it, even after a loss. At least that's the way I remember it after walking the concourses amidst a proper post-game celebration.  

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

MIAMI -- Yordano Ventura escaped two threats while pitching six innings, and the Kansas City Royals extended their winning streak to nine games by beating the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Ventura (9-9), who reached 101 mph on the scoreboard radar gun, allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six. Royals starters have an ERA of 1.69 during the winning streak, Kansas City's longest since June 2014.

Three relievers closed out the win and extended the bullpen's streak of 32 consecutive shutout innings since Aug. 10. Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.

The Marlins had won three straight but were shut out despite totaling seven hits. They went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position (see full recap).

Nova, Pirates beat Astros to snap 4-game skid
PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova took a shutout into the ninth inning and finished with a six-hitter while Gregory Polanco hit two home runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Nova (10-6) struck out six, walked one and threw 69 of his 98 pitches for strikes while improving to 3-0 in four starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in an Aug. 1 trade.

It was the fourth complete game of the right-hander's seven-year career with the others coming in 2013.

His bid for his third career shutout ended when Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve led off the ninth with consecutive doubles.

After the Pirates scored four runs in the first inning, Polanco hit solo shots in the third and fifth off Joe Musgrove and Tony Sipp to extend the lead to 6-0 and raise his season total to a team-high 19 homers (see full recap).

Gausman, Jones help Orioles roll over Nationals
BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman scattered six hits over six shutout innings, Adam Jones went 4 for 5 and the Baltimore Orioles breezed past the Washington Nationals 8-1 on Tuesday night.

Chris Davis hit his 30th home run for the Orioles, who won two straight over Washington to conclude a 3-5 homestand.

Baltimore is 34-24 against the Nationals in a rivalry that began in 2006. The series shifts 38 miles south to Nationals Park on Wednesday for the first of two games.

Gausman (5-10) walked two, struck out two and permitted only one runner past second base. He's 5-1 at home and 0-9 on the road.

The 25-year-old Gausman outpitched Nationals rookie Reynaldo Lopez, a 22-year-old making his fifth major league start. Lopez (2-2) yielded six runs, four earned, and seven hits in 2 2/3 rocky innings (see full recap).

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — Jake Thompson’s difficult big-league baptism continued in the Phillies’ 9-1 interleague loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
 
The rookie right-hander was tagged for seven runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits and walked four as his ERA in four starts since coming up from Triple A swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
Offensively, the Phillies did little against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon. They had just five hits for the game.
 
The Phillies have lost five of their last seven and are 58-68 on the season. They have been outscored 18-1 in their last two games.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson, 22, has been a much different pitcher since coming to the majors than he was in his last 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
Two of the four walks that Thompson gave up in this game became runs.
 
Five of the eight hits he allowed were for extra bases, including a pair of homers.
 
Rodon, 23, was the third pick in the 2014 draft, four ahead of Aaron Nola. The lefty held the Phillies to three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He walked one.
 
Bullpen report
David Hernandez was tagged for two runs.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis broke up the White Sox’s shutout bid with a solo homer off reliever Chris Beck in the seventh. Galvis has 13 homers.
 
Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau hit back-to-back homers against Thompson in the fifth inning to help the Sox pull away.
 
Abreu has homered in three straight games.
 
Minor matters
Pitcher Alec Asher, who serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a PED, has begun a minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League team. Asher is expected to be activated by the big club during the second week of September and he could make several starts down the stretch as the club watches the workload of several pitchers.
 
Up next
The two-game series concludes on Wednesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.91) opposes right-hander James Shields (5-15, 5.98).

Phillies will take a peek at Tim Tebow, mostly out of curiosity

Phillies will take a peek at Tim Tebow, mostly out of curiosity

CHICAGO — The Phillies will send a scout to watch Tim Tebow’s baseball showcase next Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Now, before you start clearing a space in your closet for a red-pinstriped Tebow jersey — you know, right next to the midnight green Tebow jersey — keep this in mind: the Phillies, and every other team that stops by Tebow’s workout, are merely practicing due diligence by taking a look at an accomplished athlete who long ago showed some baseball aptitude. Tebow’s chances of ever playing in a major-league game are extremely thin.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national championship quarterback from the University of Florida has not played baseball since 2005, his junior year in high school. He has been training as a baseball player for several months in Arizona. Next week’s showcase was arranged by Tebow’s representatives. Southern California is loaded with amateur baseball talent so many scouts live there. It makes sense that most teams would have a set of eyes on hand for curiosity if nothing else.

Tebow, who turned 29 earlier this month, was a left-handed hitting outfielder/pitcher in high school. He hit .494 with four homers and 30 RBIs as a junior at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, before giving up baseball to focus on football. That was a good move as he enjoyed a storied run at Florida. But Tebow has not been able to stick in the NFL.

Tebow played for the Denver Broncos in 2010 and 2011 and the New York Jets in 2012. He attended training camp with the Eagles in 2015, but failed to make the team. He spent last year working as a broadcaster for ESPN.

Obviously, Tebow’s competitive juices still run hot. His athletic résumé alone will attract scouts to his baseball showcase, which, by the way, will be closed to the public.