Being a sports fan in Philadelphia used to be easy. You complained about the dearth of championships in the last 25 years; management; and having to watch the losingest professional sports team in United States history (I don’t have numbers for international professional sports teams, so I don’t want to misspeak).
National writers (and writers from other cities that don’t know better) stumble over themselves trying to paint an ugly picture of us, dredging up incidents such as battery throwing, Santa booing, and injured Michael Irvin jeering to paint the Philadelphia fans as boorish, classless and stupid. Never mind the fact that every city with a sports team has similar isolated incidents that cast fans in a negative light; to bring that up would remove an arrow from their tired joke quiver.
And while Philadelphia fans complain about the label, we also seem to take a strange pride in the perceived meanness. Nothing could show that off better than when Ernie Johnson, a vanilla announcer from TNT/TBS introduced the NLCS MVP at Citizens Bank Ballpark last week, to a chorus of boos. Remember, this was roughly 4 minutes after the Phillies clinched to go to the World Series.
But before 2008, we lived the boos, took pride in the boos, relished in the boos, because it was an identity, and because there was truly a reason to boo. We were starved for a championship, desperate to feel like other cities; jealous of the juggernauts in Boston, who until the new century, felt like a brother in arms. Both cities lived in the shadow of New York, and both cities had a long drought of championships. That they reversed that trend with both the Patriots and Red Sox put us further out on an island, and left us holding the torch of lame and losing.
Last year, every game had an undercurrent of nervousness and dread. The fan base, while excited and having faith, also knew about the city and its teams’ histories, and weren’t quite sure how to act. When Bud Selig suspended game 5 last year after shortchanging the Phillies (read why here) doubt crept into all of our minds. The “here we go again” played in our heads; the “just one more bizarre way for Philadelphia fans to feel disappointment” was on all of our lips.
But then the Phillies won.
And now we're here again, and we know what it’s like to win...to see a team go all the way and claim it for themselves and a fan base that channeled all of their energy into an amazing run through the playoffs. We know what it’s like to now have a team that can call themselves the best, above all else. And it feels good. The 2008 Phillies made waiting so long for a championship that much sweeter. And that they have a chance to do it again, one year later, is just as sweet.
It starts tonight. And a sign recently held in Citizens Bank Ballpark sums up what the Phillies’ fans are thinking now:
2008 was Destiny.
2009 is the Dynasty.
2009 is the Dynasty.
The 25 year drought is no longer hanging over anyone’s heads. The Phils proved they could do it already. They’re the defending champs. The stars have lined up so far this year.
And yet, the team is still an underdog. Of the 23 ESPN baseball analysts, 21 chose the Yankees to win. I’m not sure if that’s because of some weird New York bias or what and I don’t care. I don’t think the Phillies care. I don’t think in the past two years they have been the majority favorite for any playoff series (possibly the Brewers, but still…it’s the Brewers.)
I refuse to make a prediction for the series, because I am too emotionally involved and irrationally believe my actions could quite possibly jinx the team in some way.
I guess you could say, even though they won last year to break the streak, there’s still some old school Philly fan in me.