Tonight, the Phillies will attempt to do what no other major Philadelphia sports team has done since 1983...win a championship! 25 years....a quarter century...more than 90% of my lifetime. Tonight, if Cole Hamels and the Fightins do their job, the city will be absolute bedlam.
My core group of friends and I have been diehard Phillies fans for years. From the powder blue of the Von Hayes-era, to the 1993 National League Champion/Professional Softball Team years. From the Curt Schilling years to the Tyler Green year. From the Scott Rolen highlights to the Mark Leiter as our closer.
We've watched year after year as other teams had their moments (and for the Yankees and Redsox, one could argue too many moments) while the Phillies planned hotels early for the Winter Meetings. We watched players come and go, play well then mediocre, love the city then fight with management, sign long term deals and land on the DL. We watched and waited when year after year free agency would create a shopping spree for teams like the Indians, the Mets and the Marlins (the f'n MARLINS!!!) while our team ownership tried to convince us that Danny Tartabull and Gregg Jefferies were the missing pieces to this "middle market" ballclub.
Tonight, that will hopefully end. You couldn't ask for a better situation in an elimination game for the Phillies: Your ace is pitching, you're at home, and you just came off a game where your power hit decided enough was enough and clubbed two homeruns in a rout of the AL champions. This could be it. The stars are finally seeming to align. We've played an entire 3 week period of playoff baseball without bringing our "A" game (as so aptly put by Alan Pollack on the car ride back from the 2 AM craziness that was Game 3). We've been winning games not by playing our best, but by not playing as badly as our opponents. Game 4's rout was the first time we've seen the real Phillies since September. You can't help but think the Rays are in trouble now. Their middle of the order hitters aren't hitting (and in Longoria's case, aren't fielding either) and now the team is poised to play the same type of baseball that put them in first place for most of the season. The same type of baseball that allowed them to catch the Mets in the last two weeks of the season and win a division title. The same baseball that has given Philadelphia something to distract them from the mediocrity of the Eagles and the struggles of the Flyers.
We've watched as ESPN and every other publication threw out the "Rays in 6" garbage, and dealt with it. Tonight is our night. The team that had been counted out more times than any other team in baseball and found a way in its 126-year history to lose over 10,000 times is on the brink of a world championship. Led by a new hero every night, this team is knocking on history's door and giving us something to believe in. You can best believe that if and when it happens, you'll never hear the end of it. And no one should hear the end of it. Because for the first time in long time, we deserve it. We've paid our dues. We've cheered for our teams. We've booed our star players in the hard times and cheered them in the good times. We've had the 45-year old lead our team in wins. We've dealt with the obnoxious shadow of NY and Boston sports for long enough. In years past, Philadelphia teams would fold under this type of pressure (2000 Flyers anyone?). But not this team. This is our time to believe and when all is said and done, the world will add "Phillies Fans" to the list of people who won't shut up about our sports championship...and you know what? They can bite me.
Go Phillies and Cole Hamels. Change Ups We Can Believe In!
PS - Dear Fox: Stop allowing Apple to push the Ipod Nano ad buy during the playoffs. It's getting to be a little much.