Watching the Phillies tonight, I observed in myself a strange phenomenon. (Editor’s note: He wasn’t wearing any pants). I wasn’t concerned. I wasn’t flipping my shit that they were losing 10-4. It wasn’t bothering me that they were about to drop two against the Braves and lose the series. I was watching the entire game in an almost zen-like state, as though there was little in the outside world that was going to shake my unwavering belief that the Phillies were still going to make the playoffs.
This worried me.
This isn’t a Philadelphia attitude. Now, I don’t want to pigeonhole every Philadelphia fan into one attitude – that’s far too simplistic. But I don’t think you can deny that a large population of Philly fans watch every game with a certain amount of tension and doubt; countless failures will do that to a fan base. And truthfully, I have always felt that Philadelphia teams played at their best when they were left for dead and had to play catch-up, especially the Phillies. It was as though they themselves were motivated by the very tension that regularly adds years to the lives of Philly fans.
Some may say that this is a sign of inexperience, and that may be true. In Philly, we call it character. (Editor’s note: And anybody that says otherwise is a frickin’ schmuck, ya know whadda mean?) We’re not used to being the front runner, no matter what J-Roll says. Had I, after the Phillies swept the Brewers and started their hot streak, suddenly been lulled into a false sense of security?
And, more alarming then this, had the Phillies themselves done the same thing? Had they lost their urgency?
This didn’t seem right. I still worry about every game the Phillies play. I don’t take any NL East teams lightly, and I’m certainly worried about the pesky Nationals. I dreaded seeing the Marlins, and though I believed the Phillies would play better against the Braves, I knew they were no joke. So I hadn’t somehow developed the idea that the Phillies, of their own volition, were guaranteed to make the playoffs. Something else was keeping me cool and relaxed.
I didn’t realize what it was until I flipped to ESPN after the Phillies game.
II. New York
I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of the Mets-Cubs game. All I really need to illustrate my point is the bottom of the ninth inning, game tied at six. David Murphy had led off the inning with a triple, and the Mets seemed destined to take the game and slide 1/2 game behind the Phillies. A sacrifice fly or a well-placed hit would score the winning run. And they couldn’t do it. David Wright, in my opinion the Mets best player, and one of the best all-around players in baseball, struck out. After two intentional walks, the Mets only managed a grounder to second for a force at the plate, and another strike-out. The Cubs scored three in the next inning, and won the game.
And suddenly, it hit me – my feeling of zen was completely derived from my complete lack of faith in the Mets ability to win a big game. After Aramis Ramirez hit his two-run homer to extend the lead to 9-6 in the top of the 10th, I literally laughed out loud. (Editor’s note: Lucy, grab the haloperidol, pronto). Not in a mocking sort of way, but more like how you laugh when you have an epiphany and suddenly everything seems right with the world again.
And you know, for the briefest of moments, I truly felt for Mets fans. I know that sinking feeling they have in their gut; that feeling was a fairly regular part of my adolescence supporting Philadelphia teams. Yet this feeling was quickly replaced by a far more sinister realization – I enjoyed watching the Mets blow this game almost as much as I do watching the Phillies win one. Maybe that’s unsportsmanlike, I don’t know, but its also the nature of rivalries, and this has certainly become one.
So, in thinking about this, I have decided that I would like to take Mr. Met out to the bars and buy him exactly two beers. Beer one – the “I’m sorry this happened to you” beer. I recognize the plethora of unrecognized potential in the Mets, and how this often leads them toward a spiral of heart-wrenching failure. Cheer up, Mr. Met – someday, somewhere over the rainbow, they may figure it out.
But beer two is an “I appreciate you” beer. You may be trapped in a whirlwind of your own underachievement, but thanks for being such a good friend. When I need something, like a loss that keeps you a game back of the Phillies in the loss column and ties you in the wildcard standings with the Brewers, you always come through. You’re a good friend, Mr. Met, and I drink to you.
Fear the Nationals, Phillies fans. But thank God for the Mets.