Hats off to Philadelphia…

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Tonight, I’m a little jealous. I used to be a Phillies fan – a goober, drive up I-95 once a month, loved The Vet, pretzel-eating, NL-carpet loving Phillies fan.

In the box of my life’s sporting fandom, I probably have 100 ticket stubs from games I saw at The Vet from the first time I visited Philadelphia during the summer of 1981 with my paternal father during the last time I ever saw him in America. I had been in love with baseball my whole life – all 11 years of it. And I chased the Phillies’ dream of a World Series that would match all of the joy and fun of the 1980 run they had. (And I was a George Brett fan!) I actually became a fan AFTER they won the title.

But I honestly was one of those kids that just really loved baseball. And the National League was always more exotic.

So, I loved the Fightin’ Fhils. Loved them so much that I went to the Vet to chase them 6 to 12 times per year. I did weekends with hotel rooms where I saw all three games of a weekend series if the Padres were in town. I did live radio from an All Star Game there from the field. I also flew to Los Angeles and San Francisco and Chicago to see them play.

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In 1993, with my first press pass, I chased them from Baltimore to Wilmington to Philly to Toronto. I went to all six games of that World Series and watched Joe Carter break their red hearts with that homer off of Mitch Williams.

But that was the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s. Right up until about 1998 or 1999, when they really sucked so bad, it was akin to being an Orioles fan now.

There was absolutely no hope.

Lately, since they moved into the new park, I kinda moved on. I suppose I could’ve hopped aboard the bandwagon this month, but I really didn’t. I was honestly rooting for my friend Rick Vaughn with Tampa Bay. I wanted him to get a ring.

I wish I were still a Phillies fan but I really did stop following them for some reason in the late 1990’s and my feelings about the Orioles have honestly clouded my opinion of the sport as a whole.

And then you grow up and realize that these are primarily the same people who love the Eagles and Flyers and you realize — yikes! — do I want to associate? And, again, I was an Eagles season ticket holder from 1985 til 1993 during the Buddy Ryan and Rich Kotite era. I NEVER was an Eagles fan, but I loved the NFL enough to want to do five or six games a year. And it was fun to feel the energy of The Vet for football.

But I still love baseball. And I follow baseball. And, obviously, the weekend the Eagles are here I’ll have no “soft spot” for the Phillies, cheesesteaks, pretzels or Eagles.

But as an old man of 40, I just now root for my friends and the people I like in each sport these days.

And I want people I like to have fun.

As I write this my friend Hockey Meg is exploding.

I’m wearing my oversized, autographed, 1983 Throwback, powder blue and bubble “P” Sixto Lezcano jersey and Hockey Meg is exploding in my condo.

It’s the last out.

The  fans are going crazy. It looks cold as hell at Citizens Bank Park. My wife is videotaping Meg jumping around my condo and we’re drinking beer. (Miller Lite Wheat right this moment because they’re not making it anymore.)


She’s now openly sobbing.

Skyrockets are going off. The Phillie Phanatic is waving a Phillies flag. Davey Lopes is hugging Shane Victorino. People are going bonkers. The Liberty Bell is ringing.

The set shot camera on every player at the end is incredible. Nice job, Fox!

Baseball can do crazy things to your emotions. And crazy things to communities that are truly linked by sports. By grandmothers and children. Women and men. Black and white. East and west. If you love sports, you should always love the night when a new champion is crowned because somebody somewhere is really having the time of their lives.

I’m an emotional guy, especially about the Orioles.

Put your TV on right now and pick pick a highlight – and call the person in your life who is from Philadelphia.

And you tell ME?

Will they remember tonight for the rest of their lives as something special?

Sure they will!

Brad Lidge is crying on TV calling the fans amazing. By the way, he had a PERFECT season. And he’s now capped it off with a World Series ring. Nice work, Lidge!

Jamie Moyer is talking about the struggles of the season for the Phils, but he looked so overjoyed. He’s hugging Jimmy Rollins. And these guys all seem like class acts.

I’m happy for Moyer, who I wrote about the other day at length. He’s a good egg. And he won for his hometown team in the hometown ballpark and pitched well enough and has now successfully completed his career with a bang if he wishes.

I’m happy for Davey Lopes, who had a helluva career and won a ring for the Dodgers in 1981 and has been a baseball lifer. He, too, was always a helluva good guy when he was a coach for the Orioles back in the mid 1990’s. He’s smart, witty, informed about the world in general and was always a joy to chat with. He’s in the midst of the celebration and I’m really happy for him.

And I’m happy for all of my long-suffering friends from Philly, including Hockey Meg who is still jumping for joy and on the phone with her brother, who managed to score a $300 ticket in left field yesterday and is there amidst the throng right now.

She’s talking to her family. It’s like an early Christmas for her and her family. Same as it was for my wife back in 2004. And every time the Patriots have played in the Super Bowl.

So Agent Orange and I are lamenting the fact that the Orioles give us no hope for an evening like this.

Says Agent Orange: “I’m numb to it. It’s like I’m watching a different sport. I think of the Super Bowl year and she and I running around and celebrating. From 1300 block of Charles Street to Fells Point. Just walking through the city. We were just screaming, hooting and hollering and the streets were flooded with people. I know Philadelphia is going to be 400 times nuttier than it was here.”

The fans are booing the mentioning of the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s SO Philly!

A sign that says: Mitch we forgive you sign!

And now the ultimately indignity, general manager Pat Gillick telling the crowd: “Let’s do it again!”

That’s “former Orioles GM” Pat Gillick, if you have the scorecard out!

Charlie Manuel in his southern drawl saying: “Whose da World Champeeens!?!?!”

And, they’re now holding up a Philly Inquirer newspaper (or is it a dinosaur) that says “CHAMPS!” with a pic of the team celebrating!

Cole Hamels is the MVP. He’ll also never have to buy a drink anywhere in southeast Pennslvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey. Hamels is thanking the fans. “We love these fans and we love the amount of red they’re wearing tonight!”

Hamels seems like a really “right” guy, as Charley Eckman would say.

Man it looks cold as hell there.

But not as cold and empty as Camden Yards and downtown Baltimore does tonight.

That’s what’s missing…

I could elaborate. But you should think about it if you’re watching the game tonight. Think about your friend from Philly tonight – give him or her a call and say hi. Ask them how they’re feeling.

And then remember what it’s like to be an Orioles fan. And remember what we’re being cheated out of a chance for on this kinda night in Baltimore.

Hockey Meg is now sitting on my floor, physically and emotionally exhausted. She’s been texting with all of her friends from home – a dozen friends she says. Friends from school (Delaware, Blue Hens, Newark) and from “home, Jersey”…”anyone I’m friends with.”

“This is sorta a big deal,” she says. “I can’t wait to buy my nephew a little baby outfit with the Phillie Phanatic wearing a 2008 World Champions on it. I’ll bet you his name will be Chase.”

The baby isn’t coming until late November.

“Would they really name their kid Chase?” I asked.

“Absof-inglutely!” she said, but she didn’t drop the u and the two consonants.
The baby – whatever his name will be – has a Phillies mobile. A little Phillie Phanatic, a baseball bat, a P – stuff like that hanging from a turning, rotating baby thing-a-majig. This child will be loved.

I have to go now. Meg wants to drag us all out to Magerks for a beer.

We’ll be at the Bel Air Magerks next Wednesday doing the Brian Billick Live show. Hope you join us.

Right now, I’m going to join a bunch of Phillies fans on Cross Street at Magerks and I’m going to wear my Sixto Lezcano jersey. More for kicks and just because I OWN it. And it’s kinda sharp. A shame they don’t wear them anymore.

This oughta be fun.

I’m just happy for them.

And I realize that as long as this ownership group is involved with the team and it continues to get run into the ground, this might the closest I ever get.

A pretend championship?

Nah. Just a few beers with my friend, who I’ve honestly never seen happier.

Good for Philadelphia.

I might even throw down some Tasty Cakes!

But I’ll still be hating on the Eagles, Flyers and Sixers all the way…

And laughing at their drunk fans acting like fools.

But perhaps we ALL acted like fools back on 1/28/01..

Didn’t we?

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