For a young male, I know no other sources of pure joy or frustration than the relationships they have with their Mother, their girlfriend, and their favorite sports team.
Wednesday, October 29th, 2008: I was at 32 North Chapel in Newark, DE. I had never seen a Philadelphia sports team win a championship other than Bon Jovi’s Philly Soul. Top of the 9th, 2 outs, 0-2 pitch from Lidge. As the ball traveled from his hand to the mitt of a waiting Carlos Ruiz, only one thought traveled through my mind: What do I do if they win? This has never happened before in my lifetime. Slider. Strike 3. Game Over; Series Over; World Fucking Champions. I jumped up and screamed something that wasn’t English and ran. I ran out the door, down Main street Newark, up Center St, and back to 32 North Chapel greeted by a shower of beer and champagne. After I calmed down and caught my breath, everything began to sink in and I watched everything unfold. Images from the locker room and field, calls and texts from friends and family, mayhem on the streets of Philadelphia; a rightful release to years of mediocrity and failure. Two days later, a parade. Joyous, Chaotic, Debaucherous, none of these words can describe the atmosphere of 2 million people cheering and saluting their new heroes. Feelings and images that I had never experienced nor will I ever forget, no matter how many more or few chances will arise in the future. They did it; it was Philadelphia’s year. It was our year.
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009: I was at my house in Newark, DE. Top of the 9th: Rollins just flied out to Nick Swisher for the second out. I turn off the TV and go upstairs. I can’t watch; I was deflated. A whole spring and summer of watching games, following headlines, and hoping for another 2008 campaign was coming to an end. A season of great wins, bad losses, players exceeding expectations, superstars struggling, injuries, trades, and the death of an icon was about to come to an end. I was heartbroken, again. I had experienced this before, but it never seems to get easier. The richest team in baseball history was taking what could have been/should have been ours. Pure frustration. Minutes later, I hear my neighbor across the street shout from his porch “Fuck the Yankees!” and slam his door. The series was over; Yankees win 4-2. New York and New Jersey converged outside my house and played “Empire State of Mind” over and over. I hate that song and hated their success that night. I knew their emotional high and was jealous beyond belief. It wasn’t our year…we came close, but it wasn’t enough.
Now, your mother will always love you, no matter what you do. As long as you get good grades and stay out of jail, your frustration level with her will be at a minimum. Significant others will always be great in the beginning and frustrating the longer they stay around. Always a potential for heartbreak, especially when you become attached, but you can always find a new one and move on. Sports teams are different. The beginning of every season is the same. Optimism and the pursuit of a championship are on the mind of every player and fan. Rarely, you get that moment in the sun. Most of the time, it’s a series of ups and downs that usually ends in heartbreak. In one 2 week stretch, you can sit there and think to yourself “We are dirty this year. No one can touch us.” or “Jesus Christ, if that guy hits into another double play, I will go down there and punch him in the head.” And with the end of every unsuccessful season, you wonder why you spent so much time and energy on a relationship that only left you feeling empty. In the back of your mind, you knew this was going to happen. They do this to you every year, how could you let yourself become so exposed? So you break up for some much needed time off; change your focus to get your mind off of it. And then, after an off season of trades and free agent signings, they come back and you realize how much you missed them. The cycle starts over and you remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Our Philadelphia Phillies started that cycle Thursday. Pitchers and Catchers had their first organized workout down in Clearwater and their first spring training game is less than 2 weeks away. Despite the not so perfect end to the 2009 season, it has never been a better time to be a Phillies fan. The team went into the off season as the best team in the National League, but that didn’t stop them from securing a bright future. The Phillies off season included free agent signings of C Brian Schneider, RHP Jose Contreras and Danny Baez, two time gold glove 2B and former Phillie Placido Polanco. These were big signings for the club: Bullpen help, backup catcher, and, if all goes well, a replacement for Feliz over at 3B. Feliz was an outstanding fielder, but if Polanco can keep his fielding percentage respectable, his bat will turn an already potent Phillies’ lineup into a nightmare for opposing pitchers. But the big story over the winter months was the trade that brought Roy Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia. In my opinion, it was a fair trade all around. An Ace for an Ace and plenty of prospects to fill in the gaps for the three teams involved. But Philly got their man, as well as a starting rotation that should be taken very seriously across the baseball landscape. Also, by resigning old standbys like Joe Blanton, Carlos Ruiz, and Shane Victorino, the franchise’s foundation couldn’t be stronger going into 2010.
So here we are, at the beginning of what could possibly be the best Phillies team to ever take the field. They are the defending NL Champs and have only gotten better. No other team has improved as much as the Phillies have since their last game. They are the team to beat; In the past that phrase was just a cliche. Now it is a fact based on credible evidence. The entire league now knows about the Phillies and will be waiting to give them their best shot. The Phillies know this and couldn’t be more anxious to get the season started. And neither can I. Enough Snow! Give me back my Phillies baseball.
Also, I would like to take this time to thank the Maryland BBall team for going 2-13 from 3 point range last Saturday against Duke. You made me look like an idiot.