Making Everyone Feel Like a Kid Again
Hello everyone- as Seth mentioned I will be a guest/co-writer on this blog.
Anyone who knows me is aware that sports, in particular Philadelphia sports, is what helps to define who I am. I live and die with every win, heart breaking loss, bone-head decision and in 24 years of watching- every non-championship that could have been. Since 2001 the Eagles have been picked every year by the media as one of the teams to make the Super Bowl and occasionally the team to win it all. The city gets wrapped up in this mania and the team comes short every time. The Flyers, coming off a surprise appearance in the Stanley Cup (that ended horrifically in a game 7 OT goal from an impossible angle. Michael Leighton is still looking for where the puck got through), were picked to make it back to the championship and some even picked them as the favorites to win. An amazing 3/4 of the season later, the Flyers sat a top the conference only to watch their lead diminish and go crawling into the playoffs where they put up little resistance to the eventual champs, the Bruins. And who are the Sixers?
Which leads me to my #1 team (and no, they were always my #1 team, not just since ’08)- the Phillies. I am not going to talk about this season for 2 reasons 1) I am still hurting 2) It is a dead horse- no need to explain why or how it happened, it just sucked. I want to talk about “the season”- 2008.
Flashback to September 2007, my sophomore year of college (WE ARE MARQUETTE). The Phillies made a comeback that can only be described by one word- unfathomable. I had not seen a NL East title winner other than the Braves since 1993 and even then, I was so young it didn’t seem like a big deal. Watching Brett Myers finish the come back and seal the collapse of the Mets (who are still trying to build themselves back up, LOL METS) was one of the greater moments in my Philly Phandom (see what I did there?). Getting into the playoffs and losing to the Rockies was fine by me- I was just happy to be there. But in ’08, winning the division and getting to the playoffs was not going to be enough- not just for the fans, but for the players too.
2008 was a weird season. One stretch of the games the team would look like a contender and the next stretch like a pretender. When the playoffs started you did not know what to expect from the team- but something clicked, the switch was turned on and the team was on a mission.
Now to the point of this long rant. People always talk about remembering where they were for specific events in their life, whether they be personal or something everyone was apart of. My parents talk about the JFK assassination or the Challenger explosion. The generation before that talks about Pearl Harbor. My generation talks about 9/11. Notice a trend with all of those events? All the events were horrific and terrifying events that created fear, depression and hysteria. Now obviously, other memories come to mind for different people- birth of a child or the first time you met your spouse and all of those are better memories. But collectively, as a group of people- by school, city or nation- the events mentioned before are the events that we all experienced together. Perhaps that is what made the events even more remarkable, but for the better. We all went through it together and came together to help each other. But what about events that were joyous or celebrations that we all experienced together- when or what were those events. 2008, in particular late September through the end of October, for Philadelphia was one of those moments.
Overall, things were not going well in this country at that time- the economy was hitting rock bottom, people were losing their jobs, their homes, their lives. Yet for a 4 to 5 week span, as group, we were able to forget about all of that and watch something magical. Worrying about finding a job or an internship suddenly seemed distant. Worrying about what to do with my life seemed like it could wait until Lidge closed the game out. Every inning brought some kind of emotion out- happiness, anger and thankfully- very little sadness. This was just what I needed, and the city needed. The celebration feels like it was just yesterday (so cliche). I have never seen anything like the parade (which I had to fly cross country for 10 hours after the final strike). People in the streets- crying, smiling, cheering, drinking. Everyone hugged- not just friends but complete strangers. Everyone talked about where they were when Victorino hit the grand slam against the Brewers or where Matt Stairs became a legend with one swing or when Lidge got the final strike. Everyone talked about where they were- with happiness.
Baseball has been called America’s pastime. Not just because it has been around since the late 1800s but because it is a game where we played it as kids and watch as adults. I saw grown men (my own father) turn back into kids when watching the 2008 team. Baseball in 2008 brought a reprieve to the city of Philadelphia. Everyone bonded together and forgot about all the noise going on in their lives. It was more than just a game. It was a distraction that helped everyone get through a rough time. It was a chance for people to re-connect with friends and family. It was a moment where a city that is often divided by politics, demographics and culture was able to embrace in one common celebration.
Like James Earl Jones said, the one constant in America has always been baseball and while this season ended in disappointment- there were moments where it helped me get through low points in the year. And when the Phillies do win the World Series again, whether it is next year or another 28 years from now, I am going to treat it like the first- embrace it and cherish it.
From the Windy City-