Mercury Rising. I saw it in the theater and by the thirty minute mark I started running through scenarios in my head wherein I would have to escape the theater in an emergency (fire, wall collapse, etc.). Also, it was the nail in the coffin of Alec Baldwin’s film career, which is by no means a positive development.
Joe Buck and Tim McCarver have ruined their last World Series for me. Buck is well-established as a corporate shill who most distinguishes himself by trying to be as inoffensive as possible. Witness his underreaction to the Tyree Helmet Catch and his overreaction to Randy Moss’s pantomime moon. And McCarver is most renowned for a) pretending his audience is a lobotomy ward and b) being so self-involved that he released this CD. Fed up with the duo, in the second inning of this World Series I decided I had had enough and followed the game on the radio. And here’s why I won’t watch a World Series telecast until 2013 (that’s when FOX’s MLB contract runs out) at the earliest:
- Radio announcers can’t use live action as a crutch, and do a splendid job describing the game. And they need to sound excited since you can’t tell on radio if a batted ball is a home run once it leaves the bat. Unlike Buck, Juan Uribe’s home run doesn’t sound like it’s coming in the third inning of a July interleague game. Further, Buck and McCarver never second guess an umpire’s call, even when replay shows John Hirshbeck’s strike zone stretches to the edge of the batter’s jersey. In part it’s because of Buck’s desire to stay as inoffensive as possible, but they can justify their timidity because the viewer can see the replay and judge for himself. But the radio announcers need to convey all the action to you; including missed calls.
- Radio announcers can’t waste time. Radio announcers are better at pacing the game. Baseball will never be as breathless as hockey or basketball, which means a lot of dead time for football announcers to fill. McCarver fills this time by noting that Elvis Andrus is not related to Elvis Presley. Radio announcers fill this time by describing the actual game. If not current action, then their own reflections on what they have seen, because they have that advantage over you and must convey it. And unless you’re listening to Hawk Harrelson, the radio guy will be more incisive than McCarver.
- If you want to see a play, you can catch a replay by putting the game on your TV temporarily. The biggest justification for watching the game on TV is that there is still something to be said for actually seeing the action. I agree, for the great plays. For the mundane grounder to short, the radio is more than adequate. But if you hear that there was an amazing play, you can easily switch the channel to the baseball game and catch a replay. You can even mute the replay so you can continue listening to the radio announcers. I did this for the Uribe home run last night, and now I’ll remember it with “URIBE…LINE DRIVE…LEFT FIELD…OUT OF HERE!!!!” Joe Buck only gets that animated when he’s talking about Lowe’s.
As a young kid, I had a very strict bedtime, and no TV in my room. Which means I listened to Gene Larkin’s single, Sid Bream’s miracle and Joe Carter’s home run on the radio. When I see tape of those plays, I never feel like I missed out because I was forced to listen on the radio. If you’re a fan, you don’t need video to set up a situation for you. You know how a home run in the Skydome looks in your head. I hope my kids feel the same way, because Joe Buck will probably still be calling the World Series in 20 years.
In early June, New York Magazine posted its list of the Top 101 Sandwiches in New York. I love food, I’m cheap, and I don’t cook, so the list was naturally alluring to me. A friend suggested I try to eat all 101, but that was never feasible. I work long hours so I can’t devote too much time to the quest. And I’m a picky eater who both is lactose intolerant and doesn’t really like cheese to begin with (I realize this makes me persona non grata in some quarters, please bear with me). Thus, many items on the list are less than appetizing. But I decided I’d devote myself to eating as many sandwiches as I wanted. And here are the 31 I got to:
100. The Elvis, Peanut Butter & Co. This was one of four sandwiches I had actually eaten before the list came out. A restaurant devoted to peanut butter and jelly is one of those things that looks ludicrous on paper, but people love going to kitschy places like this just to say they did. Still, I’m not spending $7 on a PB&J again.
99. Sesame Pancake on Beef, Vanessa’s Dumplings. Some sandwiches were put on this list as red herrings. The authors wanted you to discover certain establishments that were cheap, but the highlght of the menu isn’t necessarily the sandwich. This dish tasted like the bottom of a Chinese takeout box, but the dumplings here are divine.
97. Chacarero Completo, Barros Luco. This was the first sandwich I ate after I saw the list. I had just gotten back into town after going to Connecticut for the weekend, and wanted a place near Grand Central. The sandwich was divine, but I recommend ordering it take-out. They have table service upstairs, and nothing makes you feel dumb like having to tip on a sandwich you could have just taken to a nearby park.
92. Pulled Pork Sandwich; Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. Dickson is a bunch of cockteases. Don’t get me wrong, this sandwich was great. The chiles really make it pop. But they’re only open for lunch, during the week. I had to go on my week off because I don’t work anywhere near Chelsea Market. Dickson’s, please get a food truck and come by my office once a week. Our firm cafeteria is hit-or-miss; you’d do great business.
91. Cheesesteak, 99 Miles to Philly. The second sandwich on the list I had already had. There’s no real art to making Philly cheesesteaks; as long as they’re juicy and you’re drunk, it’s heaven. 99 Miles to Philly makes them juicy, and is near a lot of good bars. Mission accomplished.
81. Crispy Pork Sandwich, Bark Hot Dogs. I’m a Manhattan person. Brooklyn is fine, but I never have much of a reason to go there. But any time I do go there, I go to Bark. This sandwich is near perfect; the only problem is that when you bite into it too soon after it’s made, you might spray hot oil on yourself. Nevertheless, if I move to Brooklyn some day, I’ll be able to put Bark down as a credit reference.
78. Chicken Sandwich, Chick-fil-A. Had this one before too, and not at the location in the NYU student union. Proof that anyone who lives his entire life in New York is missing out.
73. Oyster Po Boy, Cheeky Sandwiches. I imagine someone at New York magazine said “hey, we should put a po boy on here,” saw that there was a po boy place on the Lower East Side, and threw these guys in by default. But the sandwich I had here defiles the good name of the po boys I ate at New Orleans staples like Parasol, Mahony’s and Guy’s. A po boy should not come swimming in ketchup. If you know where I can get a cheap, good po boy in New York, you have my e-mail.
72. Fried Chicken Sandwich, Georgia’s Eastside BBQ. Again, the fried chicken sandwich here is fine, but New York magazine wants you to try the rest of the menu here. They have the best fried chicken platter and barbecue I’ve had in New York City. I’d love to try their dessert, but I always stuff myself during the meal. Seriously, the helpings are MASSIVE. You’ll need to bring a friend.
70. That Way, This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef. A passable roast beef with gravy and muzz. But if you want the area’s best, you need to take the PATH over to Hoboken on a Saturday afternoon and walk half a mile to Fiore’s. That was the sandwich the Teamsters hid from Liz on 30 Rock. I told you I don’t like cheese, but I love Fiore’s homemade mozzarella. Seriously, go to Hoboken for this sandwich. Sorry, This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, you’re out of your league.
69. Chicken Katsu Sandwich, Tebaya. Another fried chicken sandwich worthy of inclusion on the list. I’m just glad the Japanese don’t just do healthy food; you hear about their sushi all the time, but those dudes still know how to tempura.
66. Fried Whiting Sandwich, Famous Fish Market. I think this was included for the sake of geographical diversity. I have a friend that attends Columbia who was willing to go here with me. This is tasty, but less than ideal for your digestive system. I recommend the pollock sandwich at A Salt and Battery instead. But New York Mag’s list was already West Village-heavy.
65. Saltimbocca, Keste. They only have the sandwiches on the lunch menu, and I came here for dinner. Oops. But while most pizza places in the city try to make the perfect New York slice, these guys make some fantastic Neapolitan pies. Put Keste on your list of places that are inexpensive but impressive. Again, it’s not about the sandwich, it’s about the journey.
60. Tea Sandwiches, Fatty Crab. Fatty Crab feels like the restaurant that you would open with your friends in your dreams. It’s laid back, it’s unpretentious, and the food is fantastic. The tea sandwiches are certainly fine, but there isn’t a thing on the menu that you wouldn’t want to eat.
59. Shrimp Roll, Luke’s Lobster. Buttery, warm, perfect. There’s a Luke’s Lobster in the East Village, so it’s an ideal pre-drinking spot. I took a preppy girl here once before we spent the night in Alphabet City, and I like to think Luke’s helped me out that night. Girls that wear Vineyard Vines are a sucker for this place.
58. Mackarel with Leeks, Num Pang. I tried, folks. I tried this sandwich, and I just couldn’t finish it. Too adventurous. They have a great shrimp sandwich for the less daring, though.
55. Picante Sandwich, Despana. I had been a Despana fan before this list, and was glad to see them make it. Sadly, their bocadillos aren’t near as good as the ones you find in Spain. I remember having a transcendent bocadillo in the Barcelona train station. Could you imagine finding a great sandwich at the Port Authority? The best they have is Sbarro.
52. BBQ Rib Sandwich, Momofuku Ssam Bar. This was off the menu by the time I went to Momofuku. But at least I got to eat at Momofuku for the first time, and they always have something delectable. This also led me to discover their cereal milk ice cream. That’s right, cereal milk ice cream. I’m moving to the East Village so I can have that shit nightly. And I’m going to stock up on Lactaid.
44. Tete de Cochon Sandwich, Resto. Order this as an appetizer. Then the moules frites with cajun remoulade as your main course. Do it before you move away from New York. Trust me.
38. Pork Burger, Xi’an Famous Foods. Very nice. The insane thing is that this is only two dollars. If I had gone to NYU, or if I end up working as a public defender, I’d stock up on these.
35. Pork Meatball Hero, The Meatball Shop. You have no idea how much planning this required. The Meatball Shop doesn’t take reservations and they always have a long wait. I needed to wait until there was a day I got out of work at 5:30, I had to find a friend who was willing to go with me, and I had to go there straight from the office. I got there at 6:00, and by the time I left the wait was already an hour. As for the food, the meatball sandwich was pretty good. But the ice cream sandwich…the ice cream sandwich is worth the wait.
34. Porchetta Calabrese, Salumeria Rosi. We all have friends who live on the Upper West Side. Let’s face it, they suck. They always want you to go up to meet them, but there’s nothing to do up there and you always regret the $20 cab ride back. At least Salumeria Rosi makes it possible for you to get some value out of your trip to the Upper West Side. A delightful sandwich.
26. Country Ham Biscuit, Egg. I don’t remember how this sandwich tasted. I saw my friend’s band play Trash Bar and we went to Egg afterward. I’m sure it was great, but I do remember the biscuit did a decent job of sopping up all the PBR in my stomach. And if you’re in Williamsburg, what else do you really need?
23. Porchetta Sandwich, Di Palo Bakery. Follow New York Magazine’s advice. Go at 1:00, when the porchetta has settled. If it’s a nice day, take your sandwich to a bench on Petrosino Square 2 blocks away. Then enjoy. This was the best sandwich on the list. I’m afraid to go back because it might not be as perfect the second time around.
21. Chicken Parm, Torrisi Italian Specialties. I get that they wanted a chicken parm on here, but a chicken parm is a pretty low-rent sandwich. Like a cheesteak, it’s usually good, never great. Torrisi does a fine chicken parm, but 21 on the list is a bit high.
20. Sloppy Bao, Baoguette. The fourth sandwich I had already eaten. I went back to Baoguette with a friend after the list came out, suggested that he try it, and snickered after he ordered it. If you ever want to make Drew’s mailbag with a Great Moment in Poop History, the Sloppy Bao is your ticket.
15. Duke’s Churasco, Island Burgers and Shakes. A churasco is a blackened chicken sandwich, and Island Burgers and Shakes have about fifty varieties of it. It’s cheap, it’s tasty, it’s worth it if you’re ever in the area. If you work in Midtown, you can even get it off SeamlessWeb. And the shakes are definitely Lactaid-worthy.
10. Porchetta Sandwich, Porchetta. Porchetta gets all the pub for their porchetta sandwich, but when I visited theirs was a little dry. It’s easier to get than Di Palo’s because they have longer hours and it’s a restaurant and not a bakery, but Di Palo is still best in the city.
9. Meatball Sub, Terroir Tribeca. My anti-cheese stance really hurt me here. The meatballs here are half mozzarella, which meant I wasn’t overly enamored with it. But the friend I went with, who loves cheese, gave it a hearty endorsement. Terroir also has a mean sausage and peppers, and it seems like a good first date place to boot.
8. Romeo, Alidoro. Again, this was a sandwich I ordered without cheese, so I’m not technically giving a review of the sandwich that made the list. But there’s a reason this surly storefront (cash only, closed for dinner) is a Soho staple. The best cold cut sandwich I had.
6. Uni Panini, El Quinto Pino. This is close to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, so after you watch your friend’s lame improv class perform, you can try to tackle this intimidating sub. Seriously, it’s got uni AND Korean mustard oil. I almost felt like I wasn’t good enough for this sandwich.
Eventually, I got tired of my quest. As much as I love food, I also like staying in Manhattan, eating at places near my apartment, and not spending too much (I didn’t get to many of the white tablecloth venues on the list). It was a fun diversion while it lasted, but New York has a lot of other food to discover that does not come between two slices of bread. Nevertheless, my summer of the sandwich brought me much joy, and for that I thank New York Magazine.
Now, do you have any sandwich recommendations that didn’t make the list?
When I was talking to my Internet life partner Mike about the Reds clinching, the main question I had for him was whether Cincinnati was pumped for the team. He said it was, and that’s terrific. There’s nothing like a town that gets behind a baseball team. I was just in San Francisco and I got the same vibe about the Giants. You start talking to strangers about the team, everyone is wearing team gear, and it puts everyone in a better mood. Obama better hope teams from swing states are doing well in 2012.
Of course, the Rays clinched the same night, and attendance figures would have you believe that nobody in Tampa cares about the team. I have never been to Tampa so I can’t tell if the town is behind the team or not, but I think the attendance failures of the Rays (and Marlins and Diamondbacks) is a function of their presence in a second chance state more than anything else.
Everything about the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays seems a folly in retrospect: the ill-advised name, the ill-advised uniforms, the ill-advised attempt to get Wade Boggs into the Hall of Fame with a Rays cap on. But most important, the ill-advised location. A white elephant of a dome in a retirement community. Putting the Rays in St. Pete was a product of our 90s hubris, which culminated in the country saying “fuck it” and allowing a dumb guy who lost the election to become president in 2000. The geniuses at Major League Baseball saw a booming area and plopped a team down in the city that had a white elephant stadium already built.
Florida is a second chance state. If you’re not descended from a pirate or, even worse, a land speculator, it’s because you or someone in your family wanted a new start somewhere else. But it’s hard to develop community institutions in a second chance state, harder to know your neighbors and develop a community. And one of the main reasons people go to baseball games is to be around other fans. Otherwise, seeing the game live isn’t fun unless you’re 10-years-old and trying to snag a foul ball, or are getting piss-ass drunk and eating crummy ballpark food.
So don’t blame Rays fans for not going to games. Without the sense of community in St. Petersburg, what’s the point? You get a better, cheaper view on your couch with your HDTV. Maybe if they’d put the stadium in Ybor City (Hold Steady shout outs are mandatory in this post), in the only city in the area with some history, and people could go out after the game, they’d attract more fans. But don’t chastise poor Tampans for not making the schlep to East Bumfuck.
Which brings me (of course) to the Whalers. Considering the size of Hartford, the team was a pretty good draw, even topping 90% capacity in their final season. And going to games was like seeing your friends in the club. In Connecticut, nobody’s from somewhere else. You have no reason to move to the state unless you already have some connection. Bob Pirsig said the communitarian feel, every town centered around a Congregationalist church, made the state seem more European than any other. At Whalers games, my father saw his work friends, I saw my school friends, and we’d get to watch a team that had an overworked goalie, indifferent defense and erratic offense.
The Whalers played in the Civic Center. Appropriately named, because living in Connecticut, contrived Matt Bai columns notwithstanding, means you need to take on some civic pride. There was a certain civic pride in going to those Whalers games. It’s too bad there wasn’t more of us to support the team. And there’s civic pride in Cincinnati and San Francisco right now, as their teams barrel toward the playoffs. But it’s hard to build civic pride from nothing, and it’s similarly hard to build a decent gameday experience in a St. Petersburg white elephant. So quit complaining about the fans, David Price.