I’ve been an incorrigible Phillies fan for more than a half-century, so you can bet your rally towel my son and I were in the crowd when the Phillies smoked the Braves on Sat., Oct. 15, to advance to the National League Division Series after an 11-year-drought. It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve probably watched 75% of the games during that drought — much like the tens of thousands of Phillies diehards throughout the Delaware Valley. Which made me recall this column, written in October of 2008, a magical season for Phillies faithful. And though it’s been 14 years since I composed this piece, it could have been yesterday. So, I thought I’d reshare it.
From the Publisher/ Nov 08
I know little about the guys from Hammonton (N.J.) who sit one row in front of me at Citizens Bank Park, but six to 10 times a year we’re the best of friends.
The “Hammonton Four” are built like fire hydrants and remind me of Vince Papale’s sandlot football buddies in the movie Invincible. They ride Phillies opponents like a stand-up comic, yet manage to keep most of their material G-rated.
“I hear ankle bracelets going off,” Sal yelled during an August extra-inning game against the hated Mets. “We know you’re on house arrest, time for you Mets fans to go home!”
Sal’s family has had season tickets for three generations, so coming to games isn’t as much treat as it is a ritual. So are the high-fives the foursome doles out for everyone within arm’s reach when things go the Phillies way. High-fives were frequent this season.
I couldn’t tell you the names of the couple who sit directly behind me, but I do know this: They idolize Chase Utley, and the husband keeps a first-rate scorebook.
“We used to bring our kids when they were (your kids’) age,” they once told me approvingly, noticing that my kids were my regular companions. “Now our kids bring their children.”
You can’t choose your family, but you sure can choose your favorite team. The irony, however, is that for many of us, family helped define that favorite team. The conversion began when we accepted that first invitation to the game.
Which is fine, because at its core being a fan is about carrying on tradition and neighborhood pride. I’ve never understood the fan who has no connection to Texas yet swears he’s a Dallas Cowboys diehard. The allegiance rings hollow; the passion a bit forced.
Not so for the lifer. We were branded “fan for life” during our formative years and our commitment to the “hometown” team often surpasses the players we cheer. Then again, we’ve been committed longer.
So as a committed Phillies fan for more than four decades, I beg to differ that the recent playoff crowds at Citizens Bank Park were the “loudest ever.” Phillies crowds are always deafening when the stakes are high.
I remember thinking the 700 level was going to collapse during Game One of the 1980 World Series. And I will never forget the electricity charging through the crowd when Curt Schilling struck out the first five Braves he faced in Game One of the 1993 National League Championship Series.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness the Phillies’ three previous World Series — 1980, 1983 and 1993 — and I was in the stands for Game 5 this year. Trust me, the Phillies faithful broke the loud meter every time.
Which is how it should be. We’re committed win or lose, but give us a winner and our collective passion might scare you.
After all, being a fan is an experience best enjoyed in the company of others. Wave a solitary rally towel and you’re enthusiastic. Wave one in unison with 45,000 others and you’re a game changer.
— Jerry duPhily