Fifteen Years Then and Now
The last time the Philadelphia Phillies were in the World Series was fifteen years ago. My twins were six years old and just learning to read. My son was a precocious jock even then, and every morning as he came downstairs he would come to the breakfast table and ask, "Can I please see the sports page?" I helped him sound out the words of the articles describing the Phillies game the night before, although more often than not he'd stayed up watching it. Our agreement was that if he stayed up (and remember that there were a LOT of games that went into extra innings that year, including that marathon double-header that didn't end until 4:00 am) he agreed to get up nicely in the morning; no complaining about being tired or cranky about getting ready for camp. He always kept his part of that bargain. I must admit that it was his devotion to the team that made me a baseball fan for the first time since 1971, when the Senators left my hometown of Washington DC.
For the next fifteen years I watched my son grow up, as together we survived the disappointment provided by the Phillies, year after year, as they failed to advance to the World Series.
We joked about how the Phillies always seemed able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as they blew lead after lead.
We twisted their nickname, the "Fightin' Phils" into "the F**kin' Phils" for the seemingly endless permutations of ways they managed to f*** up game after game; season after season.
One by one, the players of 1993 -- the last team to make it to the World Series -- retired and/or moved on. One by one, we tried to fall in love with the new guys, but somehow they never jelled into a winning team.
Year after year, we kept on believin', as my son made his way through elementary school, then middle and high school. He played soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, living and dying along with the Eagles, Flyers and Sixers all the way. But summers were really our only sports time together, as I still had my Redskins, and didn't really care about professional hockey or basketball.
As he grew, his own sporting skills improved, though he was always amazing. He could hit a pitched ball out of the yard by age 4, so in those early years he was way ahead of his teammates. Yet he never showed off; never boasted or bragged of his abilities. From a very young age, he carried himself almost like a coach; ever willing to lend a hand to his teammates, whether demonstrating a batting or baserunning technique, or anything else he was asked. Always the quintessential team player.
But our beloved Phillies continued to let us down, year after year.
Finally the time came: blue and white vinyl gowns topped with mortarboards and tassels. Graduation came and went; that last summer flew; the car was loaded and he was off to college. We still had summers -- and the Phillies, who continued to lose -- but the rhythm was different. He had his work schedule, his friends and my car, so he pretty much came and went as he pleased. We didn't get to watch all the Philies games together anymore, but there were some. Now I was the one making sure to get to bed at a decent hour, having to get up for work the next morning.
Now he's a senior (first of two senior years; he's on the 5-year plan) in college. He's 21, so he can legally have a beer at the ballpark. Every time he comes home he has a new configuration of facial hair. He's still the ultimate jock; more so than ever, in many ways. And now, just as he's on the cusp of full adulthood, we get to share the sweetness of the Phillies in the World Series again.
Fifteen years ago, my brother got married on October 23rd. During the reception I kept racing back and forth between the party and the hotel room where the children were being entertained -- and where the television was tuned to Game 6 of the World Series, Phillies vs. Toronto Blue Jays. I had just walked in when our aptly nicknamed closer, "the Wild Thing", threw a pitch to a guy named Joe Carter. I watched as it cleared the far wall, not fully realizing at that instant what was happening. But it didn't take long for reality to settle in. The Phillies had lost.
And here we are again after all these years. Oh, sure, we got to the playoffs last year, only to be ignominiously swept away by that upstart team from Denver. Yet because of that, this year feels different. Once again, I can name all the players on the starting roster (and almost all of the backup players too) something I'm not sure I've been able to do since 1993. Once again I'll watch October ball with bated breath. But this time I won't have an earnest, precocious 6-year-old on the couch next to me. I'll have to settle for phone calls between innings.
And he did mention that if...just if...there's a parade down Broad Street, he'd consider coming home from school just for that.