Friday, October 31, 2008

What this championship means to me.....

What is it about baseball that turns grown men into sappy, overly sentimental fools when the hometown team they rooted for as kids win it all (especially after a long drought)?

There were so many thoughts going through my head as the anticipation was building.

I was born at the right time to grow up a baseball fan. Philadelphia natives who are my age or a few years older started following baseball during the golden age of Phillies baseball. We grew up spoiled. From 1976-1983, the team made the playoffs 6 times in 8 years, making the WS twice and winning it once. Really from about 1974-1983, it was the golden era for all 4 pro sports teams. During that time the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers would combine to make it to the championship round in their sport 10 times in 10 years, winning 4 of them. We were Title Town there for a few years, peaking in 1980 when all 4 teams played for the championship that year, and in true Philadelphia fashion went 1 for 4.

I obviously remember the pain of the 1993 World Series ending and I barely remember 1983 at all. But I vividly remember the 1980 World Series, even though I was a mere 7 years old at the time. The games used to start and end earlier back then, but even at 7 years old, I stayed up for the end of the night games.

I still remember lying on the couch watching the end of the 1980 World Series. It probably ended around 11pm or so. I remember the Boone drop/Rose rebound catch when it happened. I also remember not being nervous when Tug McGraw got into and out of two bases loaded 1-out jams in the 8th and 9th inning of that final game, only allowing 1 run total in a 4-1 Phillies win. I remember Tug walking off the mound after the top of the 8th after he got the last out to end the inning, patting his heart with his left hand and breathing a sigh of relief. I'm sure now I'd be pacing and wouldn't be able to watch. Back then I just assumed they were going to win. I didn’t know any better. Philadelphia sports teams won back then. Period.

I also remember something missing about 1980: my dad wasn't there. My dad was present during just about every significant baseball game memory I have from when I was a kid, except the final few innings of the clinching game in the 1980 World Series. He was working third shift in those days, so he left for work probably around the 6th or 7th inning on that Tuesday night, feeling pretty confident that they would win, with a 4-0 lead and Lefty dealing as usual. But the fact that he lived his entire life and never saw his beloved Phillies ever get to raise their arms above their heads after the final out in a championship clinching game, always makes me appreciate moments like this more. Sure, he got to listen to it on the radio and see highlights the next day, but it’s not the same. But I do remember my brothers celebrating and then my mom finally making me go to bed, but yet I still was awake listening to all the revelers outside for hours longer.

In some ways, I just wish my daughter was a little older to appreciate this more. Because it may be another 30 years before she sees it again. She's gotten into it a little through her school activities, but she really doesn't understand what is going on yet. So I've got to experience this feeling as a naïve, wide-eyed child and now as a cynical adult. It's a shame that so many people were in their mid 30's like I am now when they experienced the 1980 championship, thinking more would follow, and they never lived long enough to experience that feeling again. I hope I am more fortunate. Not to mention the first 97 years of Phillies baseball from 1883 to 1980 that was title-less. And when the A's were here, they last won a title in 1930, so from 1930 to 1980, there were only a few years where the teams even contended for the playoffs, let alone championships. The A's were terrible for most of their time here from the mid 1930's until they left for Kansas City in 1955. There were never any near-misses in there like the Red Sox had over the years.

This is all I can ask for. It'd be nice to not have such long gaps in between experiencing this, but I can’t really complain again for at least another 5 years now. If I can experience this same feeling in football in the next 10 years or so, there's not much more I can ask for in sports. See, I don't need a dynasty. I just need to experience this feeling once or twice over the course of my lifetime...or once every decade or two would be nice. Once every 10-12 years in each sport is fine. There’s just enough time to suffer a little and then appreciate it.

Oh and here's a cosmic coincidence – the calendar days fall on the same weekdays in 2008 as they did in 1980 (i.e., October 29th was on a Wednesday in 1980, just as in 2008). Also, "80" and "08" is perfect symmetry. And for now, the Phillies own the date of October 29th. This was the only time in the history of baseball that a game was ever played on this date. That will probably change starting next year, as the postseason extends even further with Game 7 of the World Series scheduled to be played on November 5th. But the Phillies will at least always have the history of being the first team to win a game played on October 29th. And other numerology - the #29, October 29th - 4 teams + 25 years = 29. Cole Hamels was MVP. He is #35. 3+5=8…..”08.

And next week we will likely have a Presidential election that also results in a similar but opposite political realignment as the one in 1980.

From “no hope” to Know Hope.

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