Monday, May 21, 2012

Philly’s the Place to Get Showered with Brotherly Love -- and F Bombs

Citizens Bank Park
1 Citizens Bank Way
Philadelphia, PA

Phillies fans don’t deserve Citizens Bank Park.

If they had any self respect, they’d insist on playing in some rat infested relic of a park in the shadow of the Navy Yard to better reflect their blue collar sensibilities.

Not here. Not in a gleaming, fan-friendly facility built for comfort like Citizens Bank Park.

I mean, these are the fans who just days earlier heckled Washington Nationals outfielder Jason Werth at his home ballpark while he was being helped off the field with a broken wrist.

“You deserve it!”


Of course these are the same fans who infamously booed Santa Claus and pelted him with snowballs at an Eagles game in 1968.

Welcome to “The City of Brotherly Love”.

But don’t worry about Suit757. I can take it.

In fact, I found Phillies fans to be quite entertaining. Between the chain smoking Jersey girls in tight jeans loitering outside the park and the creative heckling of the opposing bullpen pitcher, I learned a whole bunch of new innovative uses for the “F” word.

What else do you want on a Tuesday night?

As it turns out you get a lot more than just that infamous Philly charm at Citizens Bank Park.

The seats are nice, the isles wide and the concourses clean. Even in the nose bleed seats in Center Field where I sat thanks to a ten dollar bill and the entrepreneurial spirit of a scalper.

Like most of the modern nouveau ballparks, this one prides itself on the local flavor of its concessions.

Out beyond Center Field, you’ll find “Ashburn Alley” named after the Phillies Hall of Fame center fielder and broadcaster.

This is where the twenty and third year olds congregate. And where all the outposts of Philadelphia’s famous culinary institutions can be found.

The longest line was for Chickie’s and Pete’s, stretching all the way to Left Field. I mean, their famous “crab fries” are okay, but not worth missing half the game -- for some crinkle fries sprinkled with Old Bay.

Been there, done that and didn’t buy the shirt at the New Jersey location.

The second longest line belonged to Tony Luke’s, another Philadelphia institution I’ve patronized in original form.

I still dream of their roast pork, spinach rabe and hot dog fries when I go to sleep at night in my Tony Luke’s shirt.

The only problem with this new trend toward world famous shirt-buying worthy concessions at ball parks is that nagging concern in the back of my mind: can a staff of frazzled ballpark employees really duplicate the real thing for the sports-watching masses?

Well, sometimes yes. And sometimes no.

That’s a heck of a gamble to take considering you’ll be paying about double the already inflated prices for standard ballpark fare.

The most tempting concession was Bull’s BBQ, where the smoke of sizzling kielbasa wafts appetizingly into Center Field. I almost pulled the trigger and gave my hard earned dough to Phillies slugger-turned-pit-master Greg “The Bull” Luzinski.

But then I came to my senses. I’m in Philadelphia. How can I get any thing but the city’s namesake sandwich?

So I opted to try the Philly cheesesteak from Campo’s, an “Old City” Philly institution for six decades.

Is it as good as the original?

I have no idea. The reason I picked it was because I had never tried Campo’s before. Something new and different!

And the line was short.

Maybe not a good sign.

The problem with judging “authentic” Philly Cheesesteaks is that the original concept wasn’t that great to begin with.

Cheap, low quality beef and cheap, low quality cheese on an Italian roll.

Now you can find significantly upgraded Philly cheesesteak sandwiches with tender seasoned beef, sautéed onions, peppers and assorted fancy sauces.

Almost every corner sports bar in America has figured out a way to improve upon the concept.

But just as you savor your first bite of one of those upgraded cheesesteaks, some drunk guy in a Chase Utley jersey will start dropping F bombs on you for not staying “authentic.”

For better or worse, my Campo’s Philly cheesesteak was “authentic”.

Even with all the peppers, onions and mushrooms I paid an extra buck and a half for, the meat could have used more seasoning. The cheese was hard to discern.

I know some Philly fanatic will want to snap my wrist for saying it, but I’ve had better at Hooters.

The greatest challenge was finding a place to eat it among the crowd of 43,000. I had no interest in hauling my meal back up into the upper atmosphere of my assigned 300 level seat.

I just needed some standing room with a small ledge where a man and his cheesesteak could be alone for a few moments.

So I opted for the “Budweiser Rooftop” behind Ashburn Alley.

I guess the folks at Citizens Bank Park were trying to recreate the “rooftop” vibe at Wrigley, only within the confines of their own park.

Except this version isn’t as much fun.

Or as close to the action.

Even “The Bull” couldn’t dream about hitting a home run this far.

If it sounds like I’m complaining about the Phillies ballpark, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great place to see a game.

Best of all is the beer selection.

Top notch microbrews can be found at virtually every concession stand. And for the same price as a similar sized Budweiser!

At $7.75 a pop, beers are no bargain, but at least you feel like you are getting something good in return for all the cash you hand over every time you get thirsty.

As it turned out, I got thirsty three times.

That thirst was quenched by a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and two different flavors from Pennsylvania’s own microbrewery, Victory Brewing Company.

My Victory Hop Devil lived up to its name, overflowing in floral hop aroma and flavor.

I expected the Victory Prima Pils to be a major step down.

It wasn’t. At all.

Virtually just as hoppy as the Hop Devil, but with a lighter, more effervescing pilsner feel, the Prima Pils was one of the best “light” colored beers I’ve ever had.

Remember when a day at the ball park meant consuming massive quantities of overpriced mass-produced light beer?

Citizens Bank Park proves that those dark days are over. At least for the discerning few with good taste.

While I was having a great time drinking good beer and watching baseball, I can’t say the same for my 43,000 colleagues.

Despite running up a four run lead, the Phillies blew it in the Seventh Inning on a throwing error by Pete Orr and bad pitching by Chad Qualls. The hated Mets stormed back with seven unanswered runs to send the Phillies to three games under .500.

F bombs rained down from the 300 level – along with empty Bud Light cans.

Like youth, both good beer selection and nice ballparks are wasted on all the wrong people.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

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