BEHIND ENEMY LINES

Turns out Phillies media is only slightly detached from reality regarding Houston Astros, World Series

How quickly they forget. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Earlier this week I was watching the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. During his monologue, Colbert mentioned the upcoming World Series and called the Astros "cheaters." I hit rewind, taped his dumbass remark and posted it on Twitter. That lit a fuse. Right up top was this comment by Philadelphia media personality Glen Macnow.

"Because it's true."

Now you've gone and done it. Remember that song by Michael Jackson ... Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'?

Macnow is a big deal on the Philadelphia sports scene. He's been a sports columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, talk host on WIP and author of several books including The Great Philadelphia Fan Book. Up in Philly, they call him "The Professor" because he used to teach at St. Joseph's University. He's also part-owner of five Conshohocken Brewing Company pubs.

He's a friend. We started as rookie reporters together at Today newspaper in Cocoa, Florida. We lived in the same apartment building in Cape Canaveral. The ground shook and windows rattled during a launch. On slow news days, like hard-charging, ambitious reporters we often went out "into the field" to "beat the bushes for stories" ... and by that, I mean we drove down to Melbourne to bet on jai alai.

OK, Macnow, defend your tweet. And answer a few more questions to rile up Astros fans. Trust me, you're poking a bear that don't need poking.

SportsMap: Seriously, do you believe that the Astros are (present tense) cheaters?

Macnow: Do I think they're currently cheating? I don't know. But we all know they got caught cheating before, and that stink will stick to them through the ages. Always and forever when people look back at this franchise they'll think of cameras and buzzers and using trash cans as bass drums. Hey, the rest of the baseball world regards Mike Fiers as Karen Silkwood.

SportsMap: Weren't the Phillies the target of cheating accusations recently, too?

Macnow: Are you referring to Kevin Gross getting caught using sandpaper in 1987? Or to the 1901 Phillies running a wire from the outfield wall to the third baseman? Yeah, those are certainly relevant arguments these days. What else you got?

Editor's note: The Phillies were accused of cheating as recently as 2009 during the season and in the NLCS and World Series.

SportsMap: After the Phillies won the NLCS, their fans were chanting, "We want Houston." Think that was smart? How'd that work out for Yankees fans who chanted the same thing?

Macnow: The fans were chanting that because they knew the team was going to face the Astros. That was a foregone conclusion. What would you want them to be chanting at the time, "Dallas sucks?" Actually, they chanted that as well, but that's a football crossover that gets shouted at every sports and civic event in Philadelphia. Hey, if the Astros need this for bulletin board material, they're a sensitive lot.

SportsMap: Let's see, the Astros had a better record this year in a tougher league, they have the Cy Young winner going in Game One, they have more players with postseason experience, and they have home field advantage. What makes you think the Phillies will win the World Series?

Macnow: Well, I'm not going to tell you that the Phillies are a more talented team, because they're not. We're loud in this town, but we're not stupid. I do note, however, that the aforementioned Justin Verlander is 0-6 with a 5.68 earned run average in seven World Series starts, and that trend must mean something. The Phillies are suspect on defense. Their bullpen is shallow. They were the last team to make the playoffs and had just the 10th-best record in the Majors this year. But they were a team with high expectations going into the season, and they're gelling at just the right time. They can beat you with power and beat you with small ball. They've got Wheeler and Nola going four of the seven games, and both of those pitchers have been terrific recently. Underdogs frequently win in the postseason. I'll ride with the mojo.

SportsMap: For Astros fans flying up for Games 3 and 4 (get it?), where's the best Philly cheesesteak in Philly?

Macnow: You should avoid the usual tourist traps. Instead, find your way to Steve's Prince of Steaks, Dalessandro's, Sonny's Famous or Tony Luke's. Or, perhaps even better, get to John's Roast Pork in South Philadelphia, which not only has a terrific cheesesteak, but may have the best sandwich in town right in its name. Roast pork sandwiches - with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe - are a gastronomic specialty of this town and well worth the trip. Better than a cheesesteak. Just don't go in there - or anywhere - wearing one of those ugly Astros jerseys.

A step too far?

No wonder Astros fans might think it’s us against the world. I have an Echo smart speaker from Amazon. I asked “Alexa,” who’s going to win the World Series? Here’s her answer, and I’m not kidding.

“This year I'm a Philly Phanatic. The Astros might be the favorite but allow me a little name-dropping. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are two bona fide ace starting pitchers for the Phillies with magical right arms. So my pick goes to the underdog, the Philadelphia Phillies who are on a roll knocking off three tough opponents with strong pitching and timely hitting. Houston, you're going to have a problem.”

Hey “Alexa,” the Houston problem thing is tired and why am I arguing with you, you're just a stupid computer voice.
For the record, I asked “Siri” the same question. She said she didn’t know.

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