I have previously written in this space that "[t]here's a lot of pain to being a Philadelphia sports fan. I wish it upon none of my children." Two weeks ago, even as the Phillies completed their manhandling of Manny Ramirez and the rest of the Dodgers en route to Philly's first World Series berth since I was a senior in High School, I still endorsed that sentiment. Shoot, I felt the same way a week ago, when the Phillies were just a few innings from their first World Series Championship since 1980. Why such pessimism? Because Philadelphia sports fans know disappointment. We know it well. It's the air we breathe.
But all of that changed last Wednesday night, at the conclusion of the final three innings of a game that began two days before, until rain, wind, and near-freezing temperatures forced a 46-hour suspension -- a World Series first. The Phillies were up 3-1. They had their best starter on the mound. They were in a position to clinch the title at home. And what? Mother Nature strikes. I mean, how can one city compete against that kind of karma! Phillies fans felt doomed.
Then, something miraculous happened. On Wednesday night, the fans came back -- and so did the team. We started with a double, we scored a run ("Now all we have to do is keep them from scoring and we win!" I said, probably out loud.) Then the Rays scored a run in the top of the Seventh (the second inning of the night). I fell into a mini-depression. But the Phillies kept coming. Another run scored! Now, if we could just hold them... Next thing I knew, Brad Lidge -- the Phillies closer who hadn't blown a save all year -- was on the mound. It was the top of the Ninth already?! One batter up, one batter down. One out. Then, a single and a stolen base. Man in scoring position with only one out. Stink, stink, stink, stink, stink, stink... Then, a line drive to right field that was ... caught for the second out -- no time for the runner on second base to tag to third. One out away, one out away, one out away... (At this point, I was pacing the floor like a mental patient, half-afraid to watch.) Strike one! Two more strikes, two more strikes, two more strikes... Strike two! Could this be really happening??? Swing and a miss! Strike three! Game over! Lidge collapses to his knees and is rushed by the team! The Phillies defeat the Rays 4 games to 1 and win their first World Series in 28 years! Exclamation points abound!!!!!!!
My mother-in-law, who was holding my newborn son, watched the whole thing transpire, including when I ran outside and screamed at the top of my lungs. She can testify that I'm making none of this up. "People that aren't from Philadelphia don't understand," I explained. She figured that must be the case.
Now, my kids will be Philadelphia sports fans ... if they want.