Thursday, October 30, 2008

World Series Wrap-Up From an Unabashed Phillies Hater

I started writing this approximately 24 minutes after the Phillies had clinched the the 2008 World Series.  And approximately 23 and a half minutes after I got 2 separate emails (one from The Sports Authority and one from ESPN) offering to sell me Phillies World Series merchandise.  Ain't the Internet grand?

I've got a bunch of thoughts bouncing around in my head.  The only way I can translate those thought racquetballs into reasonably coherent text is with a list. Enjoy.


I gotta give props to the Philadelphia Phillies who are deserving champs.  They were clearly the best team I saw these playoffs.  They had the unhittable #1 starter, the marquee guys who actually produce, a lights-out closer and a never-ending stream of guys stepping up. I don't know what the #s say, but it seemed like Victorino or Ruiz were getting big hits every inning.  It's the perfect recipe for a champion. 

It doesn't detract from what they did, but I would have loved to see them go up against a deeper, more experienced team like the Red Sox teams of recent years, or the Yankees before that. As a someone with a vested interest in rooting against them, I never felt like they were ever in danger of losing to the Brewers, Dodgers, or Devil Rays.  They go up against the 07 Red Sox, and I think we have a 7-game Series for the ages.

Speaking of which, a 6-game Series next year would qualify as a classic almost by default. The last 5 years, the losing teams have won a TOTAL of 2 games.  That's just brutal for everyone except the fans of the winning teams.  Funny that the whole hubbub about the winner of the All-Star Game getting the 4th Game at home hasn't come into play in the 6 years it's been in place.


I've had some fun tweaking Phillies fans, trying to jinx them, and grasping at whatever straws I could to find a reason to get behind teams who I feel either indifference (Brewers, Devil Rays) or dislike (Dodgers).  OK, I've had a lot of fun.

But there have been times when the sheer, naked desperation for a champion that I've seen in Philly fans has given me a few pangs of guilt.  It didn't stop me, but I was panged.  At times these playoffs felt like I was watching a Trail of Tears rather than a Stairway to Heaven. And everyone knows, there's not a bigger comedy killer than the Trail of Tears.  And this is for a team that went 10-3 in the playoffs.

Don't get me wrong.  I sincerely do not like the Phillies, and groups of cheering Phillies fans never fail to send me on a gut-wrenching flashback to 1993.  That was the year (after 2 heart-breaking WS losses for the Braves) that I sat in Veteran's Stadium for both games the Phillies won, including the clincher.  I can only assume that there were a few Tampa fans in the house last night who now know what it's like to have 60,000+ people loudly having the time of their lives while you see a season of possibilities slip through your fingers. 

Like a late 70s racist, some of my best friends are Phillies fans (i.e. black).  I've been conflicted when my natural inclination to root for people who I care about to find happiness is at cross odds with my desire to never see a happy group of Phillies fans ever again.  I saw enough of those on 10/13/93.

To use another metaphor, Phillies fans are like zombies.  Not in their mindless drooling, shuffling gait, or desire to eat the flesh of the living, but in the fact that my animosity towards the Phillies mostly dissipates when confronted with their fans on an individual basis. If you encountered a singleton zombie, most of us could take it in a fight, or at least run away without too much hassle.  But when wave after wave of brain-craving freaks are coming for you, you're gonna be zombie chow.

So what have I learned from these metaphors?  Never leave the house, and if I have to leave the house, only go to very small bars in other cities to watch baseball.  Preferably leather bars.


Even more selfish than my resentment of the Phillies based on 2 nights 15 years ago, is the reason these playoffs have bugged me so much. 

I've lived in the Philadelphia area for over 20 years now. I'm not trying to claim the same life-long resume of suffering that most can claim.  But I do identify myself as a Philadelphian, and it sucks to see the entire city united behind something I can't be a part of. 

The Sixers run in 2001 was one of the Top 5 fan experiences in my lifetime.  I'm a huge fan of the Eagles and have lived and died with their roller coaster rides every season.  If that were Akers hitting a game-winning FG or Iverson dropping a game-clinching runner in the lane, I'm taking off tomorrow for the parade.  Instead I have to see 30 emails come through my Inbox today from delirious Phillies friends.

I'm not looking for a telethon in my honor, or even a shred of sympathy from Phillies fans whose balls/ovaries I've busted the last few weeks.  But I'm not wasting precious therapist time rehashing this crap when I have so many other issues to work on.  That's what blogs are for.

Quick-hit thoughts about Game 5:
  • After the Jenkins double, the feeling that it was Philly's night coudn't have been stronger.
  • How much did Burrell's double miss being a homer by?  2 inches?  3?  And no mention of it or replay.
  • I know the lefty/right thing means you're supposed to hit for Baldelli, but he was the only one showing much life. I would've rolled the dice with him over Zobrist, even with the line drive he hit.
  • HORRIBLE at-bat by Upton in the 8th.  If you don't get to the Phils in that inning, you're not going to, unless you can make it to extra innings and outlast Lidge.   Romero gives up a solid single after falling behind Crawford.  And Upton swings at the first pitch for a weak double-play ball.  Game over.  You have to at least make Romero throw a strike.  Not that McCarBuck would have mentioned it.
  • I do like Lidge, who was dominant before the Pujols debacle from a couple of years back.  Good to see him back to his old ways.
  • The 2 best auditory experiences I had watching this Series were:
    • Game 5 (Monday version) when we put the TV on mute and listened to the Phillies radio announcers on a transistor which I think also picked up some Dennis Quaid.
    • Game 5 (Wednesday version) when I DVRed the game and watched the first couple of innings on fast-forward.
  • Totally unrelated to that last bullet point, did I mention I can't stand McCarver and/or Buck?  I think the Phillies fans, who always think the national announcers are against them, may have actually had a point this time.  I don't think it was a case of Buckarver rooting against the Phillies, as much as it was a case of them deciding the storyline ahead of time and massaging the facts to fit that storyline.  The Rays were the young, fast, feel-good, rags-to-riches team, and by default the Phillies had to be the bad guys. 
  • A couple of links:
So, Phillies fans, savor the flavor of this season.  They don't come along very often. Also, I wouldn't resign Burrell.  Just like 99% of Philadelphia wouldn't have a few months back.

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