2008 National League Champions - Philadelphia Phillies!
We’re different creatures. Philadelphians and me. It’s manifest at this moment in time.
Last evening, in the warm Southern California gloaming, the Phillies captured their first pennant in 15 years, the sixth in the franchise’s woeful 126 year history. As I watched Brad Lidge put the finishing touches on yet another sure thing – the Phils are an amazing 86 and 0 when leading after 8 innings this year – I felt a sense of relief for the franchise, its fans and mostly the players. This has been a long time coming. The seeds were sewn over a decade ago when the franchise hired Mike Arbuckle to lead its player development. Many players who were once thought of as building blocks were moved either because they became impatient with the process (think Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling) while others were dealt away in hopes of getting some value in return (Bobby Abreu and Gavin Floyd.) Either way, the final product took nearly a decade as two managers fell by the wayside. Terry Francona went on to better things I guess. He was canned for being too laid back. Larry Bowa – who has since landed in some nifty places such as the Bronx and LA – was fired for being too high strung. The players and the manager that finally found the right stuff to bring home a pennant have given me that sense of joy and relief in equal measure. And though I’d like to see this team bring home the World Series trophy in a few weeks, I won’t be too disappointed if they do not. That’s what makes me a different creature from those Philadelphians. Not better, just different. (Well OK, I probably am a bit better but that’s a topic for another time.)
I am not a native of William Penn’s fair city and quite frankly, I really don’t like their abrasive personality (we’re accepting generalizations here.) What’s more, I really dislike the way they revel in their national image as being an unruly, angry and generally unhappy town. I understand why they choose to live up to this unflattering stereotype; I just don’t like it. Philadelphians will not be happy unless the Phils bring home the hardware. That’s because for them, a championship will exercise the ghosts, expel the demons and pile drive the monkey off their collective back. It will assuage the inferiority complex they so shamefully display before their brethren in NY and Boston. And therein lies the rub.
Philly needs a championship to rebuild a sense of civic pride. Their suffering kindred souls in Boston and Chicago did not. BoSox fans had as much pride in their star-crossed history as Yanks fans had in their gluttonous good fortune. Cub fans, I fear, actually prefer losing so they can go on concentrating on what they do best, drinking Old Style. ChiSox fans, completely unlike Phillies fans, reveled in their anonymity both within the Windy City and the Nation. Granted, fans in Boston and Chicago had the good fortune of being able to hang their hat on the championships won by their other sports teams and that probably accounts for why Philly is different. Philly is a big town. It’s an old town. It has as much rich history as any town in America, maybe more. It is the birthplace of the American Revolution. The past 25 years though, have been awfully quiet and the city doesn’t exactly come to mind in conversations about the truly great cities of this country. Drive on up I-95 from DC toward Baltimore and take notice that the signs display the distance to Baltimore and New York as if there is nothing but farmland in between the two. That sums up what Philadelphians are so damn pissed off about.
I’m not about that however. Oh, I have an inferiority complex alright. It’s just not the same one as these clowns have. That’s why as incomprehensible as it may seem to them, I am contentedly giddy today. I feel good and regardless of how the World Series plays out, I will look back on this season like I did on ’93 and ’83. That is, this team played up to its potential and gave me no regrets. Memories of pennants lost in the horrid Aprils of the past 7 years are fading. This club has finally done it.
Hard to believe Harry.
(This post is a result of my initial reaction. We have a lot of down time until the World Series gets underway. I hope to post something a little livelier by then!)