You do realize you’re a grown man, sitting by yourself in a basement, yelling at the television over a stupid ball game,” my wife has exclaimed more times than the 2020 Phillies bullpen blew a lead.
“Well, they never should’ve signed this guy. He’s a disaster,” I retort. What I’m thinking to myself but don’t dare verbalize: What part don’t you understand?
To be honest, it is rather immature behavior from a grown man. And the fact that a tough Phillies loss can cast a shadow on my entire day is not something to be proud of.
But it’s an affliction I’ve been suffering since age 6 or 7. And I’ll bet you season tickets I’m not the only one.
In other words,
the Phillies are my longest steady relationship — by a mile. Before newspaper routes, high school, dating, college, marriage, kids…I’ve been wedded to baseball.
For better or worse till death do us part.
It goes back to the mid-60s when I sat glued in front of the television for every game — regardless of weather. Then, upon the final out, I’d dash to the back yard and conduct my own imaginary baseball league. It was a full and gratifying day.
Back then, each Phillies broadcast would be followed by a contest called Diamond Derby. To be eligible, you had to mail the Phillies your name and phone number. As a highlight to the post-game analysis, the host would randomly select from those mailed-in numbers, call the fan, and ask a question about the just-completed game. Answer correctly and you would win tickets to a future game.
Trust me, I mailed in at least 100 times. And I religiously watched every game — keeping score, taking notes, hoping my phone would ring.
After hundreds of games and no call, I accepted the fact that it simply was not going to happen. So, I began cutting out of one-sided games early, eager to join a neighborhood pickup or get in a couple of games in my imaginary league.
Of course — you guessed it — the call came, and I was out playing baseball with the boys — on a neighborhood diamond we had collectively built with our own hands (back stop, home run fence, dugout benches, real bases, lined field).
My mom answered, which was the equivalent of me being called upon to solve a long-algebra equation. She considered never telling me about the call, realizing I’d be crushed.
But she did. And I was.
So, I never cut out early again. But a second call never came.
This lifelong affair has been on my mind as this 2021 baseball season gets underway (I’ve caught every game but one thus far). We’re back to 162 games after last year’s pandemic-shorted aberration. And that’s a beautiful thing.
For many, a season this long may sound as monotonous as watching the grass grow. But I’m OK watching the grass grow — as long as the game is on.
In fact, while much has been made of limited fans now being allowed to attend games, I’m appreciative of something much more fundamental. A full season will be played, which means a game almost every day for six solid months.
A sense of normalcy.
In other words, I’ll have my lifelong companion throughout spring, summer and into fall. The only thing better? Well, you could throw in another 11 or 12 games.
Because that would mean playoffs. And the World Series. The ultimate destination for any fan, for sure. But for me, the true joy is in the journey.
— Jerry duPhily