Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Clap Clap ClapClapClap: IITS’s Foray Into the MLB Race for the Post-Season

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 30, 2007

Hot Fun in the Summertime / Early Autumn

You wanna talk about curses? In my 21 years of existence, I have never lived in a city (or state, as far as I know) that’s brought home a championship victory in any of the four big sports while I was living there. From my infancy in Baltimore/D.C. (’86-’90) to my childhood and adolescense in Philadelphia (’90-’04) right up to my college/young adult years in New York (’04-present), I have never heard the sounds of a city rejoicing the acquiring of a major title. And it doesn’t end there–I’ve only tuned in to the world of sports for an extended period of time twice during my stay in New York. The first time was for the 2004 ALCS, in which a 3-0 Yankees managed to blow several extra-inning games and eventually the entire series to the Boston Red Sox in arguably the most (in)famous come-from-behind series victory in the history of professional sports.

And the second time was perhaps even more embarrassing. My parents did their best to make me realize something exciting was happening in the NL this year before I returned to NYU this school year, but it wasn’t until I got cable installed my second week here that I was able to witness it firsthand. As you all almost undoubtedly know by now, over the course of the last 17 games, the New York mets blew a seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, as the city grew frustrated to the point of utter agony (the Daily News headline yesterday: “AAARGH!!!”), until today, in which a final mortifying Mets loss (8-1 to the Marlins, who scored 7 of their 8 in the first inning) and a final triumphant Phillies win (6-1 over the Nationals) cemented that the Phillies would be going to the post-season, and that the Mets would not.

And despite my (relatively) newfound NY citizenship, I couldn’t be more excited about all this. Even when I was really into sports, I never was bothered by my home teams’ abilities to bring home the bacon–the natural iconoclast in me I guess, but I’ve never been a home team fan. And so I rejoiced at the humiliation of Philly’s big losses over the course of my 14 years there–Mitch Williams blowing the ’93 World Series for the Phils, the Flyers getting swept by the New Jersey Devils for the ’96-’97 Stanley Cup, right up to the Eagles tanking the ’05 Super Bowl, for which I still had enough residual bitterness to cackle at smugly from my Freshman dorm. Doubt it’s made me too many friends, but given my home teams’ track records, it’s probably saved me a whole lot of heartache.

But now that I’ve been outside of Philly for (most of) the last few years, I don’t feel so bad rooting for them. Why not? I haven’t even followed sports with any closeness for over a decade now, so if I’m going to get a fresh start in actually paying them mind, I need a focal point with which to do so, and in these last few weeks, the Phils made a hell of a case for themselves (The Eagles…not so much). Does this make me a bandwagon jumper? Absolutely. But hey, you real fans out there need assholes like me to make you feel superior about your fandom anyway, so try not to give me too much shit for it.

Besides, the Phillies are a great team to reindoctrinate someone to the world of pro sports, especially a pop culture fanatic (or should I say Phanatic? No, I shouldn’t) like myself. You’ve got MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins, with the speed and cockiness of Willie Mays Hayes, whose name even enables you to pound the walls and yell “JIMMMYYYY!!! JIMMMYYYYY!!!” a la Henry Hill rejoicing in the shower about the Lufthansa Heist in Goodfellas whenever Rollins does something awesome, which is much of the time. Then you’ve got Ryan Howard, a should be brutish clean-up slugger (47 HRs this year, would’ve been his second 50+ year in a row if he hadn’t missed most of May) who’s still nice-guy enough to appear in Subway commercials with that Jared tool and not even look pissed off about it. And then you’ve got a whole host of connections to the US version of The Office–from Ryan Howard sharing his name with B.J. Novak’s temp-cum-boss character, to the show taking place in Scranton (the home city for one of the Phils’ minor league teams) to Phils backup 3rd Baseman Wes Helms being the real-life cousin of Ed Helms, better known as The Office‘s Andy Bernard. Not bad, huh?

So I’m not gonna do anything lame and fraudulent like giving you my thoughts on the post-season, or whether I think Rollins deserves the MVP over Matt Holliday of the Rockies (who I really hope win their playoff with the Padres tomorrow, though I’m not exactly sure why). And I’ll try to resist the temptation to blog like I know what I’m talking about too much over the course of the playoffs. I just think it’s a real exciting time to be into baseball, and I’m glad I picked this time to start watching again, and for once, to lay my cards on the line and start rooting for the home team.

Well, not really. Ex-home team. It’s a start.

3 Responses to “Clap Clap ClapClapClap: IITS’s Foray Into the MLB Race for the Post-Season”

  1. Andrew:

    I am 20 years old. I am from South Jersey, and I’m 25 minutes away from Philadelphia. Being a Philadelphia sports fan — or a sports fan in general — doesn’t coincide with nearly any of my other interests or personality traits. I enjoy Joanna Newsom, Wes Anderson films, poetry, and playing the ukulele, so the appeal of professional sports should have been lost on me. However, my dad is a complete and utter Philadelphia nut (or fanatic, or phanatic, or what have you). He grew up going to games with my grandfather, whom I never met, and when I was five he started going with me. His enthusiasm spread to me and (to a lesser degree) my sister: I remember going to the ’93 Phillies game where they clinched a World Series spot, and although I didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on, I still went insane. I also remember crying when Joe Carter hit a home run for the Blue Jays to win the Series that year, although I didn’t care enough to.

    My teenage years were spent obsessing over every Philly sports team, and experiencing their highs and lows. I loved the 2000-01 Sixers, and hated Kobe Bryant for torching them; I was enthralled by the ’98 Flyers, until they got swept in the Finals by the Red Wings (who seem to win every damn year). Nowhere were these moments of joy and sorrow as heightened as at the Eagles games. We have season tickets, and I am there, literally every game, with the crazy-ass drunks and my dad, rooting for the Birds. I have been so happy at times, like when the Eagles beat the Falcons 27-10 to advance to the Super Bowl, that I have danced like an idiot in front of dozens of strangers; I have been so disgustingly sad, like when they got pummeled by the Tampa Bay Bucs at the last game at the Vet, that I felt like I had a knot in my stomach. Today, when Brett Myers threw that curve by Willy Mo Pena (who sounds like a rapper), was another one of those highs. I love this group of guys, and the sight of them celebrating on the pitcher’s mound is one I will never forget.

    The point of this was not to share my life story, but to tell you that I understand where you’re coming from, and that I think you are supremely missing out. I don’t get mad at fair-weather fans; I just don’t think they can ever be as satisfied as the real ones. Philadelphia is a city starving for a national championship; the last one was by the Sixers in 1983, so my generation has never experienced it. More importantly, the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Now, I know that everyone in the Philadelphia area has suffered immensely through seasons that were either horrible, mediocre, or good-but-not-quite-good-enough. But we always watch, and always cheer, and always have faith. I have watched this Phillies team be unsufferably sub-par for years, and when I saw Jimmy Rollins hugging Pat Burrell today – the two guys who have been on this squad for years, and whom I have seen never win a damn thing – my eyes certainly welled up. And they STILL haven’t won anything! They just made the playoffs! For the Yankees, it’s expected; for us, it’s as if God has come down and given us a gift.

    Sure, it sucks being a die-hard fan for about 85% of the time here. But I know that when the Sixers or Phillies or Flyers bring home another championship, this city, which is united by its sports teams, will go absolutely apeshit. And when, one day, someday, the Eagles (who looked real terrible tonight, by the way) finally win that Super Bowl… I can’t even imagine, man. Back in February ’05, two days before the Eagles were to play (and lose) in the Super Bowl, I tuned into the local AM sports station, and people were calling in, responding to the topic, “If the Eagles win on Sunday, who will you dedicate it to?” Answers ranged from past Eagles greats to deceased family members to callers’ kids, “who may never see another one!” But the best answer came from a guy who called in and simply said, “Myself! ‘Cuz I’m the one who’s suffered all these years!” That’s us: wandering through the desert of empty trophy cases, hoping to find one soon.

    Anyway… sorry this response was so long; but your post definitely hit a nerve, and I appreciate it. I will be in the stands Wednesday night, when the Phillies (hopefully, please please please) play the Padres, screaming my head off with 45,000 other desperate people. It’s a lot easier to watch from afar and not really have anything invested in it, but man, after fourteen years without playoff baseball, Wednesday night will be all the better.

  2. Victor said

    Phuk the Phillies…

    I feel like I’m in the bizarro world

  3. Erick said

    Dear Charlie Manuel: not all Kyles were created equal.

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