I come from a long line of Philadelphia sports fans. Men in my family who spoke more poetically and with more love about Shibe Park than their own wives. A grandmother who kept a picture of the 1983 Championship winning 76ers on her coffee table because Dr. J was her favorite player (Mo Cheeks and Bobby Jones close seconds). My Uncle Frank had never met a Phillie or an Eagle he didn’t think was a “bum” at some point during the seasons. My cousin Joe and I used to fight over who got to use Pete Rose on their team as a “ghosty” when we played baseball. Thankfully, my sister has moved on from her obsession with Randall Cunningham or else my nephew Joey may have had a different first name. In little league, I would do my best Mike Schmidt imitation at the plate (I even wiggled my but like Schmidt did and every time I got a hit; Harry Kalas called the hit in my mind). Since my first daughter was out of the womb, I have made sure to foster a deep, Rush Limbaugh talking about Barrack Obama, kind of hatred for the Dallas Cowboys in both of my girls. I still am unable to watch Mitch Williams pitching to Joe Carter in the 1993 Series.
You could only imagine, given my fanatical history with the sports teams in Philadelphia, my amazement last Saturday night as I watched my beloved Phillies lose the 2010 NLCS. I used the word ‘amazement’ and not something more…colorful, because over the past 6 days, I have, like any one grieving over a loss of a loved one (or long baseball season), gone through the 7 Stages of Grief. Note: As I am trying to keep this post family friendly, feel free to sprinkle in whichever obscenity seems right to you at any given time. I needed something to figure out how this season ended. Something to get me out of the funk watching the better team lose to a team that has Pat Burrell, a guy named Buster, and Cody Ross on it. Since I place the blame on my team’s shortcomings in the playoffs squarely on the shoulders of the players and managers (let’s leave ridiculous excuses like a Billy Goat or Babe Ruth curse to other fan bases), I needed the 7 Stages of Grief so I would be able to shake the ending to the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies season and so I would stop trying to kill squirrels I thought were Chad Durbin while I was driving to work.
Stage 1: SHOCK & DENIAL
(To anyone who would listen) “Goddammit. What the hell just happened? There is no way Howard just watched strike 3. I can not believe this team just lost the NLCS.” My cousin in California and I shared texts back and forth but nothing I can rewrite here for fear of repercussions from the FCC and Secret Service.
I woke up the next morning after the game, I honestly believed Howard actually swung at strike 3; hit a homerun, Phillies won and Game 7 was going to be later that day. I even yelled at my kids when they told me that the Phillies lost.
Stage 2: PAIN & GUILT
(To my wife on Saturday night) “I’m sick to my stomach.”
I stayed up to 2:30 in the morning trying to shake the feeling. I felt no guilt because I wasn’t the one who watched strike 3 go right by me nor was I the one who couldn’t touch the Giants’ left handed relievers nor did I bat under .200 with runners in scoring positions. That team of bums should feel guilty for how they performed.
Stage 3: ANGER & BARGAINING
To be fair, anger was pretty much apart of every stage I went through and has only recently subsided.
I did, in my mind, try to figure out what it would take to move Howard for Albert Puljos, what it would move Raul Ibanez to Afghanistan and if trading away Chase Utley would work so we can keep the right handed Werth.
Stage 4: DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, & LONLINESS
“I don’t feel like eating. Or working. Or showering. Or talking to anyone. I’m tired. No, I didn’t brush my teeth.”
“Have to give it to the Giants; they had great pitching and timely hitting. They were the better team this series.
“The hopes of a championship for the city of Philadelphia rests on the shoulders of Kevin Kolb, Andre Igudola, or Brian Boucher…I’ve lost all hope.”
Stage 5: UPWARD TURN
“Pitchers and catchers report in 111 days.”
Stage 6: RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING IT THROUGH
By Wednesday, I was able to work again. I had finally showered and brushed my teeth. I was able to talk to people again and I stopped yelling at my kids. I even started to gear up for the rest of the Eagles’ season (yes…I also geared up for 7 more stages in January for the end of the Birds’ season).
Stage 7: ACCEPTANCE & HOPE
This one is impossible if you root for Philadelphia sports. I know guys who still can’t accept the Phillies 1964 season.
But I am hoping Ryan Howard learns how to lay off breaking balls that are out of the zone and Shane Victarino figures out how to run the bases.
Now, 6 days later, I’m over the shock, denial, pain, anger (let me tell you though, that one hangs around a lot longer than any other of the stages), and depression from Game 6. I reflected on the entire season. I felt all alone. I managed to move toward the upward turn and reconstruct my life as a fan. I worked it through and now, all I have is hope. Which is ironic considering hope is what I started this season with and look what that got me. But as my wife reminded me, it’s just a game which is easy for her to say, she never got in to a fist fight with her cousin about baseball “ghosties” or had to watch Von Hayes play. But she’s right, so I think I’m better now…at least until next season.