All teams, no matter the sport, have their die hard fanatics. The fans that will sit through fifteen innings, on a Tuesday, in a light drizzle, as the wee hours of the next morning approach jeopardizing the next day’s work schedule, just to see if their team can pull it out. The difference with those fans and that of a Philadelphia Phillies fan is, we do it when the team is in fourth place in the East and seventeen games back.
A Phillies fan is unlike any of his baseball brethren. A Phillies fan is born not made. From our inception in utero, our crazy parents would scour Foreman Mills or King of Prussia to find a Steve Carlton throwback jersey small enough to fit a two month old. A Phillies fan is thrust into his fanaticism from day one probably because you were born during the critical stretch run in August and the three game set with the Astros. There is no wandering of the sports landscape like David Carradine’s Caine trying to figure out if the Mets or the Giants might be a good team to root for.
Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cardinals. They have their fans. The ones that can tell you the stats of long since retired or dead players from years gone by yet they are also inundated with the annoying jumper. Jumpers are the fans that for reasons like popularity, current championships won, an eye catching color of hat put out by Lidz, or who is sitting near the dugout, will jump onto that teams growing fan base. The Yankees may be the most glaring example of people ignoring their sports boundary lines as they jump aboard the Bronx Bomber’s yacht of success and money. It is rare to see someone crossing boundaries to line up and grab their Mickey Morandini jersey or Ritchie Ashburn throwback.
Phillies fans do not welcome strangers into the fold. Granted we have not had the sort of success that some of teams have had(try ten thousand loses for a franchise)until last season’s championship. Jumpers onto the Philadelphia Phillies would sort of be like starting a fan club for Verne Troyer. In any case, we don’t want any. As I have said, Phillies fans are born, not made, or in this case persuaded. Jumper fans use phrases like, “I like the team” and “What position does he play again?”. Phillies fans live and die for their team.
Our passion for all things Philadelphia is expected from our players. LeBron James was seen at a Yankees game with a Yankees hat on. Why would that matter to anyone? He plays basketball not baseball? It always matters. Brett Meyers, a Phillies starting pitcher, had a Green Bay Packers hat on 2 seasons ago, the very week our Philadelphia Eagles were playing those Packers(and lost to those cheese heads). The local sports radio shows went into a Bjork in an airport type of frenzy. Being a Phillies fan means being a loyal to all of our franchises.
Passion. If we aren’t going to win we are, as sure as we hate the Marlins, going to be passionate. We expect our players to know this and abide by this law of fervor.
Phillies fans don’t get caught up in ridiculous curses. Curses are for teams that look for excuses for their championship droughts. Cubs fans blame fifty year old curses by tavern owners not permitted into Wrigley with their goat for their Gobi desert like dry spell. They blame a nerdy single guy who was the unlucky one out of five people to catch a fly ball for losing playoff series. Red Sox relied on an eighty year old curse from an unfortunate trade of Babe Ruth in 1918. Philadelphians don’t believe in curses we believe in not playing hard enough. We believe in bums, whether they be the players in uniform or the sad sack of manager ownership decided to bring in. We believe in not giving 100%. We believe our team, at times, may not convey the same level of passion, as their fans are conveying. Our answer to not winning a championship since 1980? If we were from Chicago it would go something like this, “It’s the curse. It’s Billy Sinais curse! We need to bring a goat to excise the curse!” In Philly it goes something like this, “Howard you friggin’ bum! You couldn’ hit your hands together let alone dat ball! You suck!”
We boo and boo hard. We have been known to boo so hard and loud as to have completely taken an opposing teams starting pitcher out of the game. The common misperception is we booed Santa Claus. That happened at an Eagles game and snowballs were involved as well but we’ll take it. The Phillies will take the Santa Claus boo like a badge of courage. Booing is the only way, besides WIP, that we get to vent our frustration with a team that can do so much better than it is probably doing. Did you want us to clap when Jimmy Rollins goes 0-4 with three strikeouts?
A huge part of being a Phillies fan is learning to absorb heart crushing defeats and living through mind numbingly bad seasons and still buy season tickets next year to watch the same group of bad news bears take the field again. We’ve been through ten thousand of these loses. Some hurt worse than others(Joe Carter’s homerun comes to mind instantly) but we cope. It is the type of coping that could be the basis of a new sect of philosophy. Sort of a Zen form of inward healing only without so much Zen and more Yuengling lagers, swearing, and the occasional fist fight with the Braves fan shooting his mouth off.
Being a Phillies fan invites you up into the 300 section at the cement funeral urn that was the Vet. That is if you think you have the stones to be up there? A tip to those daring enough…avoid wearing colors of opposing teams unless you have good stain stick with you to get your blood out of it. Phillies fans have Harry Kalas and his, “its outta heeeeerrreee Home Run Michael Jack Schmidt!”. We get the occasional magic season like ’93 with Dykstra and Daulton and the Kruker or with the Whiz Kids decades before. We yearn for a winning team and recently we have gotten that with the 2008 team. So the boos have quieted and the cheers and appreciation are resounding(at least until the ’09 season starts).
In the end, Cubs fans are trying to figure out what excuse they can use this year they were unable to get to the series(maybe they can blame Bartman again, who cares if he’s in the federal protection program?). Dodgers fans are only at games because the Laker’s season might be over and their were no ego feeding award ceremonies for L.A. to walk the red carpet on. Being a Phillies fan means being born a fanatic(have you seen our mascot, the Phanatic?) We are the purest essence of what it is to be a fanatic, a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause. Yeah, that sounds about right.
- Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country (and bald...and cranky...and out of shape...in the service of being a parent) - George Washington
Seek and Ye Might Just Find