April 23, 2009

Dear Philadelphia Phillies

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Dear Philadelphia Phillies,
Thank you for winning the World Series. I am supposed to be writing a “good-bye” sports column, but 1) I hate goodbyes and 2) I love you guys. Let it be known, however, that this is no ordinary fan mail, but a published “newsworthy” article that numerous people ((i.e. some of my friends, probably not even my family) will read. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t one of those crazy letters where I try to guilt you into sending me free, signed, memorabilia by regaling you with stories of my fanaticism. Or, maybe it is…
You don’t realize this, but I have a lot of reasons to thank you guys and Philadelphia sports teams, in general. You see, my inspiration typically comes from two polar opposite sources: my mom and my boyfriend, Frank. Mama Dukes generally hates sports but seems to possess an uncanny knowledge about them due to indiscriminate reading of the Philadelphia Inquirer. She has a knack for honing in on an issue, developing an extremely strong opinion about it, and convincing me that it is my responsibility to educate the Cornell masses.
Frank, on the other hand, loves sports more than anyone else I have ever met including the entirety of the Cornell Daily Sun sports staff (sorry kids). He is more informative than ESPN and even does imitations of all the good SportsCenter commercials. In addition to all these incredible redeeming qualities, he is extremely tolerant of me when I reject 95% percent of his column ideas with not-so-tactful responses such as: “I don’t really have an opinion about that” or “Yeah, but do you think anyone really cares about that, but you?” I know, I’m a peach.
The point is that these two people have contributed to 99% of the columns I have written in the past two years. I’m not sure how I would have come up with any ideas without their enlightened guidance. You will be delighted to know, Phillies, that you or one of your Philadelphia counterparts has been a main topic, explicitly mentioned, or at the very least, alluded to in almost every single piece published under the title The Grand Salami. Furthermore, I have never missed an opportunity to diss on New York sports, and we Philadelphians can all appreciate some good (or not-so-good) natured attacks on those over-paid, under-skilled, brutes next door. See? It’s fun!
If you are wondering where the other 1 percent of my ideas comes from, 0.5 percent comes from random idea submissions by friends (i.e. midget throwing) and 0.5 percent comes directly from the brain of yours truly. No one said “columnizing” (coined that myself) couldn’t be a group effort.
Believe it or not, you have contributed to the very existence of this column. I applied, a bit last minute, with almost no clue of how to actually be a columnist. I had only covered Cornell sports for the Sun and I’d never really written op/ed. So I did what I still do when I’m strapped for inspiration. I wrote about you guys. This application column was eventually published last spring as an ode to Citizens’ Bank Park because it thoroughly expressed why I spend more money on Phillies games than clothes…sort of. Obviously the application column about you guys was well received, and the rest is history. It just goes to show that you’ve been there in spirit from the very beginning.
In fact, the title of this column was inspired by the ultimate baseball Sunday. A few weeks after I was chosen to be a columnist, I was at the holy grail of all regular season sports events — a Phillies doubleheader — and you guys were having a great day against the Marlins. I had been stewing over column titles but still hadn’t come up with anything that fit. Them, former Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal stepped up to bat with the bases juiced and belted the ball right out of the park. “GRAND SALAMI!!” I screamed as the electric bell lit up and a sea of red and white went wild. The search for the column title was over.
Writing for the Sun has really shaped my time at Cornell and will continue to influence my life afterwards. In addition to the experience of writing for the nation’s oldest independent college daily, I have had the opportunity to work with some really great writers, editors, and people, in general. Actually, thanks to you guys, I bonded with my three-time beat partner, Miss Meredith Bennett-Smith, because she is also a die-hard Phanatic. Coincidence? I think not.
Over the last three years, the Sun editors have made me a decidedly better writer, be it by force, (ahem, Josh Perlin) or by example (Cory Bennett). They’ve put up with my numerous panic attacks and tolerated my extreme aversion to podcasting. In the process, I’ve learned a lot of journalistic skills and they’ve learned a lot, well, about you guys.
So, thank you, Philadelphia Phillies, for being my all-time favorite sports team. For playing your hearts out every game despite the fact that you are the losingest team in baseball. Thank you for doing this because you understand that in order to be the losingest team statistically, you have to be the “winningest” team in dedication, integrity, and fan support. Thank you for keeping me close to my family, my friends, and my native city even when I’m far from home. You guys have obviously inspired my sports writing, but more importantly, you have been a consistently positive and lovable fixture throughout my life. And most importantly, thank you for breaking the curse of William Penn and bringing a championship to the hard-working people who inhabit the city of cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and the liberty bell: Philadelphia. Thank you for winning the World Series.
All the best and let’s win it again,
P.S. Give the Flyers a pep-talk for me—they need it!