Weekend roundup: Money in the Bank, UFC’s Forest of Fear, Incubus

It was an eventful weekend for SportsAngle’s Esoteric and Epstein, who headed south down the GSP – not Georges St. Pierre, the Garden State Parkway – for a birthday celebration. (I won’t say how many years, but it’s rounder than I’d like) The highlight of the trip was a visit to Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night for the Phillies-Marlins game with Cole Hamels on the hill.

PHILADELPHIA – Though I’ve long heard its virtues extolled, I didn’t want to like Citizens Bank – mainly because I don’t like the Phillies – but at the end of my first trip to the park, I couldn’t help but admit that it’s a great place to take in a ballgame.

A big reason the park is such a success is that the atmosphere is fantastic. It makes an enormous difference that the Phillies won the World Series last year and look to be a strong contender again this year – fans gravitate to winners. The guest services booth told me the game was a sellout, as most games have been since May, and it creates a special environment when the seats are completely filled.

Mets fans probably won’t like to hear this, but though Citi Field was an attempt to mimic the vibe of Citizens Bank, the Mets’ lack of success and inability to develop stars have left them far behind their neighbors to the south. Even when Reyes, Delgado and Beltran are healthy, they simply don’t generate the trust that Utley, Howard, Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Ibanez do.

Philly fans get a tough rap for being hard on their stars – just ask Donovan McNabb, or for that matter, Santa Claus – but the Phillies’ title has earned them serious capital with the fans, especially if they keep winning. I even saw someone in a Greg Dobbs jersey. Since I wore no baseball attire whatsoever, opting for a Kelly Pavlik t-shirt, I was not heckled.

The stadium itself, which is aesthetically very nice, is built in the recent vintage, which means that they encourage fans to walk around and visit attractions such as Greg Luzinski’s barbecue place (though the Bull was not around, disappointingly). Sight lines were pretty decent from all around the park, though it’s difficult to see the scoreboard from some areas.

Though the Phillies lost to the Marlins that night, the main point I took away is that the Phillies have created a winning model for ballparks and franchises alike to emulate. Build a good team with likeable players – and a nice stadium – and the fans will come, bringing a great atmosphere with them.

PHILADELPHIA/BARNEGAT, NJ – Also in Philadelphia that night – which seemed like the city to be on Saturday night – was an Incubus concert which I did not attend (more on them in a minute) and the UFC 101 event. I’m not a huge fan of Ultimate Fighting, but I’ve been watching it lately since, well, it’s hot right now. And as someone who trains for races at times, I respect the hardcore workout regime and physical conditioning these athletes possess.

Since scalped tickets to the event were going for astronomical amounts, I opted to watch the card on television despite being in the city, and though it came off a bit flat compared to UFC 100 – which featured big wins for Brock Lesnar and GSP – I still enjoyed it. The big attraction was clearly talented Brazilian fighter Anderson Silva vs. fan favorite Forest Griffin.

Unfortunately, Griffin did not live up to advance billing. Silva toyed with him, actually approaching him with his hands down and allowing Griffin to throw easily dodged punches before he finished him with… a jab while retreating. Griffin went down like a ton of bricks, and then promptly got up and ran out out of the ring to the back without offering a postmatch comment.

It was a very strange way for this to go down, as Griffin could have saved face from his horrible knockout by taking some accountability and explaining how exactly he was caught so unprepared. Instead, you’ll get people speculating that he took a fall. Though the fight was a star-maker for Silva, who was in command, Griffin’s credibility is completely shot to me.

As for the B.J. Penn-Kenny Florian matchup, Penn was fairly dominant, though the fight lasted much longer than the Griffin debacle and Florian has nothing to be ashamed of for his effort. Still, you’re not going to beat a guy who can jump out of three feet of water. I was in a pool this weekend and didn’t think to try this, but I think it’s fairly impossible for most mortals. Penn was just as impressive in the ring and I look forward to seeing him again.

Overall, though the event didn’t live up to UFC 100 – which is a high bar to reach – the sport is definitely where it’s at right now. The brand itself is becoming the draw. Sadly for me as a boxing fan, I have to admit that UFC has essentially taken its place as the big Saturday night party event, except for maybe 2-3 big fights per year. But they can’t afford to have too many more hyped fighters go the way of Griffin.

HOLMDEL, NJ – Not sports related, but I still have to highly recommend seeing Incubus live in concert. When I heard Incubus, who is my favorite contemporary rock band, was playing in my state the night before my birthday, I figured it just made sense to go. I even sprung for 14th-row seats, which I admit is completely unlike me.

After a stopover at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank – the world’s greatest comic store, owned by Kevin Smith, director of movies such as my personal favorite, Chasing Amy – I headed to PNC Bank Arts Center to see Incubus. Thanks to some amazing directions from the very nice family next to us at dinner, we avoided all traffic and parked for free, a nice touch.
(If you’re going to go there, ask me how)

I had last seen them as part of an ensemble concert the night Lennox beat Tyson, but only for about a half-hour set. With two hours to play a good amount of their catalog, including a three-song acoustic set (including the performance of my favorite song, Dig, to the right), they really put on a great show. Frontman Brandon Boyd is highly underrated, in my opinion. The guy is the epitome of cool.

Like I said, nothing to do with sports, but I’d be remiss not to recommend going to a show.

To sum up:

  • Though I hate the team, I begrudgingly admit that I love the Phillies’ stadium.

  • UFC 101 didn’t stack up to No. 100, but was still entertaining despite the Forest Griffin debacle.

  • It has nothing to do with sports, but Incubus puts on a great show and comes highly endorsed by this Web site.

Esoteric

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