The Philadelphia Phillies are the champions of the world. Wow. Just, wow.
Let me start by saying that one my earliest memories of sports and the impact they have on people comes from October 21, 1980. Yes, that was the last time the Phillies won the World Series. Being six at the time, I wasn't allowed to stay up late. It was before I was able to negotiate a television in my room or a radio next to my bed. But I knew. I knew the very moment that Tug McGraw made that final out. How did I know? I heard my parents downstairs. I heard the people in my neighborhood out on the streets shouting and celebrating. I can only imagine what the scene would have been had we not been 20 minutes south of the city in Claymont, Delaware. I remember how nice it was to be around people, how the championship was something that everyone had in common.
I also remember going to my first Phillies game two years later. I remember the heartbreak of losing to the Orioles in 1983, even though the Orioles were one of my favorite teams. It didn't matter - they weren't my favorite team and it hurt. I was nine years old. Little did I know that this was only the start of the pain.
I remember the lean years between 1983 and 1993. I remember Von Hayes. (ugh!) Heck, I remember Charlie Hayes - before he became a winner. I remember Shane Rawley and Bruce Ruffin. I remember Don Carmen and Mickey Morandini. I remember all of those players, because that's what good fans do. They remember and they cheer regardless.
I remember being in college in South Carolina and rooting for the Phillies 640 miles away from home while they competed in the 1993 World Series. Yes, I absolutely remember Joe Carter meeting up with Mitch Williams. Like most of you reading this, I'll never forget that moment (and the misery that followed). (I hope that this 2008 team will finally let people forget and forgive Mitch Williams.) I remember how much fun that team was and I appreciated the run they gave the fans and the city.
So I think I've paid my dues as a Phillies fan. And I know I'm not alone, there are millions of us out there. Millions of people who showed up to watch a team that had little chance to win. Millions of people who bought ugly maroon hats. Millions of people who refused to accept that this Phillies thing wouldn't work out. They deserve this championship. WE deserve this championship.
Now I don't think Philly fans are any better than another group of fans. I don't think there's some entitlement in being a Philadelphia fan - obviously history has shown that not to be true. But it's different being a Phillies fan. It's different being a fan of any Philadelphia team. I know that to be true and I'm sure many of you out there know it to be true also.
From the "almost did it" to the "never gonna happen", it's been tough rooting for Philly teams, especially the Phillies. Jayson Stark summed it up pretty well on ESPN.com today. We're used to being so close we can taste it only to find out that the cheesesteak we're about to sink our teeth into was a plastic show piece.
It's also different being a Philly fan becaues of the crap we have to put up with from every other fan base in America. Unlike the Yankees, who have to constantly fend off allegations of arrogance, we have to fend off other accusations. I can't defend all of the fans, but most of us have common sense and decency. You combine constantly having to defend yourself because of the knuckleheads with the (semi) constant losing, and it begins to wear you down. So, yeah, it's definitely different being a Phillies fan.
That leads me to the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies. I'm so happy for those players. They play hard, the way any fans would want their team to play. They just look like they're having fun and that makes it fun to follow and support them. But the thing that I admire and like most about this team, is that they haven't forgotten about the fans. Sure they deserve all the credit for this championship. But everyone one of them who talked to the press tonight seemed to take time to mention the fans. Seeing as how many of us have supported this team longer than most of the players (sans Jamie Moyer) have been alive, it was nice to be included.
Thank you, Phillies. Thanks for giving Harry Kalas one more championship to remember. Thanks for returning some pride to a ciity that deserves some success. Thanks for validating the past 28 seasons. And thanks for giving me dreams of a repeat! Hey, a guy can dream can't he? Tonight I'm feeling like anything is possible. Thank you, Phillies. We're Phinally Phirst!