November 12, 2008

Bar Raised for Philly Teams

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“World Champions….World Fu…”
Just kidding. My editor (aka Cory) would have my head for quoting Chase Utley’s now infamous word choice that was blasted unexpectedly throughout Citizens Bank Park, the entire city of Philadelphia, and the Greater Philadelphia Area (if you don’t know what he said, you probably don’t watch ESPN nearly enough). Turns out he didn’t warn anyone he was going to drop the F-bomb.
Who would have guessed it? Certainly not the people who doubted the Phils would even make the postseason, let alone become World Series champions. Earlier in the year I admitted that the Tampa Bay Rays were my biggest fear in the postseason. I think I speak for all Philly fans when I say that it’s rare that our biggest fears and worst nightmares fail to come true.
Perhaps the crowning glory, the veritable icing on the championship cake, is that, at long last (100 consecutive seasons) the curse of William Penn is over. Thanks to the thoughtful constructors of Philly’s newest skyscraper, the Comcast building reverently boasts a small, but very mighty statue of good ol’ Bill with the very best view of the city Pennsylvania’s founder loved so much.
Hopefully he was especially appreciative of his bird’s eye view of one of the best championship parades the city, and maybe the country, has ever seen. If you saw footage of the crowds of people stacked 40 to 50 people deep along Market and Broad Streets you’d understand that for once, Will’s nosebleed seats were undeniably the best in the house.
With the curse broken and a city rewarded for years upon years of loyalty, you might think that Philadelphians would be ready to rest on their metaphorical laurels. Not so. Within minutes of the final, victorious out, fans and sports pundits alike turned to stare at the Eagles, the Flyers, and even the Sixers with expectant, “Can you do that?” expressions. And while it seems a little ungrateful not to appreciate that we finally won for once, it’s not completely out of line to put some pressure on the other sports teams.
Believe it or not, the City of Brotherly Love went on a tear in the 1970s and early 80s with the Flyers winning two consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, the Phillies’ victory in 1980 and a Sixers championship in 1983.
In recent memory, the Boston Red Sox set off a spark plug in 2004 by winning their first world series since 1918. The Patriots went on to pilfer a Super Bowl from the Eagles, followed by another Red Sox championship in 2007 and capped off by the Celtics in 2008. Clearly there is something to be said for opening the floodgates.
Still, there are plenty of teams that become the sports version of a one-hit wonder and that is Philadelphia’s latest worst nightmare. After a 25-year drought made more poignant by heartbreakingly close calls, the Phillies have reset the bar of expectations to a height that seems mockingly out of reach for the Sixers, Eagles and certainly the Flyers this season.
As much I have enjoyed gloating (and will presumably enjoy it even more when I return to Ithaca) and relished wearing a championship T-shirt for the very first time at age 21, I can’t be content with just one. It’s ingrained in me as a Philly fan and, regardless of whether it’s nature or nurture, it appears the rest of Philadelphia agrees. Championship or not, it’s become part of the city’s identity to demand the best from its teams and give athletes some brotherly hell when they don’t perform.
So, thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Philadelphia Phillies for making October 29, 2008, the best night of my life and for making an entire city’s dreams come true (no, I am not being melodramatic). Regardless of Chase Utley’s arguably vulgar expression, his sentiments were shared by everyone who has stood by the Phillies and Philadelphia sports in general while other fans laughed down their snotty noses at a championship-starved but unfailingly dedicated city. Yes, thank you very much for getting our hopes up for next year, so you better not let us down.