Thursday, November 6, 2008

Remember This Moment

(The following is printed with permission from the author, Matthew Soffer, and was written in the moments following the Phillies' World Series victory over Tampa Bay.)

"Remember this moment.

Lidge just threw the final pitch of the Major League 2008 Post-season. Hinske swung the final swing, the fatal miss. The Phils are the champs.

Remember this moment, when we're across the street,

When the Eagles take it to the one, and push with all their might—when their might falls inches short,
remember this moment.

When the Flyers fly to the Cup with seeming invincibility, and with heartbreaking instability, gut-wrenching fallibility, fall on their faces—when they leave fans stunned and silent,
remember this moment.

When the Sixers take game one of the Finals, raising the city's hopes higher than anyone expected, and they drop games 2, 3, 4 and fall in 5—when we sit staring at our TVs, stuck drinking the warm backwash of our beers and all we can say is, "of course"—remember that the course has changed
because of this moment.

Remember this moment, when it's hardest to remember this moment.
When it feels like the drought will never end,
remember this moment,
and how it will feel
when it happens again."

My phaithful phriends, Matt's eloquent plea never to forget any part of this glorious triumph dovetails with my own special request.

Every one of us knows all too well the reputation of Philadelphia phans among the rest of the country. Some of it is earned, some of it is not. Some of it comes from the fact that there are people who love to hate us. When unruly fans in other cities emerge in ugly episodes of boos (this week in Chicago), throwing baseballs (Minnesota), snowballs (New York), and even batteries (Cleveland), the media takes some hackneyed "few rotten apples spoiling the bunch" line. But when anything negative happens in Philadelphia, it's "Ah, you know how those Philly fans are. They booed Santa Claus." (Which, by the way, is totally blown out of proportion, only proving the point further.)

I have made this argument before, and likely will again, but the one defensive point I could always make was about our championship drought. I would say, "If you had endured what we've endured, you might be bitter too."

But now, that's gone. The dawning of the new post-championship era gives us an unprecedented opportunity to give our reputation a complete makeover. We no longer need to be the angry, bitter fans the world has come to know. Now we can be content with the knowledge that we are, and will forever be, the 2008 World Series champions. Being content with that knowledge means that we don't have to get in anyone's face about it. We can smile and say "World Series champs" or, better yet, nothing at all, because the facts speak for themselves.

My confession: All this season, before we could concretely imagine making the Series, let alone winning it, I wanted to go up to anyone wearing a Mets hat or shirt and say, "I went to sleep last September when the Mets were up 7 games. Of course they made the playoffs, but how did they do?.....Wait a minute, they didn't...make the playoffs? Really? Come on, really? I just assumed they did. You're kidding, right? Wow, that must have been some collapse!"

But a) I resisted because I didn't want to feed into the reputation, and b) we still hadn't won it all. Now we have. Let's learn from the negative example of Red Sox fans who became the epitome of obnoxia once they got the 89-year-old monkey off their back. Let's make this not only the redemption of Philadelphia, but of our reputation as phans as well.

I leave you once again with a quote from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

"But Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted."
"What happened?"
"He lived happily ever after."

For more of my photos from the victory parade last Friday, click here.
For some short video clips, click here.
I know they're not much, but at least they're my own.

Wouldn't it be nice if Donovan McNabb could play an entire game? I was joking with people that Reid should tell him that the game starts at noon instead of one. Then by the time he gets "warmed up," it'll actually be before kickoff. My friend Jonah texted me during the first quarter: "Cole Hamels should play QB."

Apparently we're not the only ones who can't stand the Saved by Zero commercial. (Thanks, Scott)

From ESPN the Mag, for all of you old-school Nintendo fans:
NHL 2k9 cover boy Rick Nash on his NES Ice Hockey strategy: "It was important to get a good mixture of fat guys to rough people up, but you needed those skinny goal scorers as well."

Monday, November 3, 2008


The day we thought would never happen, happened.

After 28 years and one weather-lengthened week, the Phillies are World Series champions once again.
As the clock struck 10:00 on the East Coast, and the initial screams of disbelief subsided, my friend Matt uttered four profound words:
"I feel born again."

With one pitch, Brad Lidge completed his season-long masterpiece of perfection, and the Phillies won the 2008 World Series four games to one over the Tampa Bay Rays. With Eric Hinske's swing and miss, the levees holding back a quarter-century of tears, heartbreak, and frustration, came crumbling down. In one instant, a flood of emotion washed away the longest championship drought of any four-sport town. The man they call "Lights Out" ironically banished the shrouding darkness of 25 years.

Just over nine months from the day pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, an entire city was reborn.

Grown men and women of all ages were reduced to puddles, tears of unbridled, unparalleled joy streaming down their cheeks. Complete strangers were toasting and dancing and hugging in the streets. The weight, the burden, the misery of a hard-luck, hardcore sports town, was lifted in one spectacular moment, released in one uber-cathartic sigh, that none of us will ever forget.

For a terrific example, click here. Listen to that guy!
(Also enjoyable for the eruption is this one I found.)

And then the calls started coming in. Scott called me from the Upper West Side, screaming with cracks in his voice, "Did it really happen? Did it really happen??? I can't believe what I just saw!!!"
My boy Kevin, not one to be so outwardly emotional, called me from Seattle. I never heard the pitch of his voice so high in my life. "All of a sudden, I see the world differently," my choked-up friend said. "Perhaps there is a God after all."

My friend Jared sent me a text, on behalf of all of us under 30, saying, "We only had to wait our whole lives!"

Even my friend Mark, a (ahem) Yankees fan who had witnessed so much of my suffering, sent me a text saying: "this...changes...everything.....congrats."

And it does. It changes everything. Forever. Because now we have our stories. We have our "remember when" story, knowing exactly where we were, who we were with, and how we all reacted when Hinske swung and missed, when Lidge dropped to his knees and thanked the heavens, when Ryan Howard tackled Lidge and Ruiz to start the greatest pile-on this town has ever seen.
And maybe I'm alone on this one--or maybe I'm not--but I just knew it was going to happen. Somehow, deep down in my soul, something about Wednesday just felt different. While many of us were fuming at Bud Selig's suspension of Game 5 (and understandably so), dreading a typical Philadelphian reversal of fortune, I experienced a bizarre sense of calm that is and will remain completely beyond explanation. Maybe it was the sense of, "We've waited 28 years. What's two more days?" Maybe it was Penn State winning in Columbus for the first time in 30 years the Saturday before. Maybe it was the Phils and Eagles winning on the same day for the first time this year. Maybe, like Matt says, it was when we were able to take that obnoxious "saved by zero" commercial and make it into dance party music. I don't know. But I just knew it. That's all I've got for you.

And I was right. There were moments in this game that would have spelled doom for other Philly teams, where you know you were waiting for the worst to happen. In the ninth when Ben Zobrist hit a liner to right that looked like a hit. Instead it hung up just enough for Werth to make the catch. When Hinske came to the plate and you remembered that the only other at-bat the guy had he hit one that still hasn't landed, you feared the worst. And in the top of the 7th when it looked like the Rays were about to squeeze home a run that would have given them the lead, Chase Utley did it again with his fielding. He faked the throw to first, gunned it home, and Ruiz laid the most important tag in Phillies history on Jason Bartlett, right on the cheek, prompting yells of "IN DE FACE!" like Akeem from Coming to America. After the game, it occurred to me just how fitting that was. For all of the pundits, the experts, the naysayers, the haters, this Phillies team tagged them all out, right in the face.

And every ten minutes or so, I remind myself of the miracle we witnessed Wednesday night, and nothing can bother me.
Matt's mother Bess is often quoted saying, "Yestahday was yestahday. Today is today."

Today is redemption. Today is the rebirth of Philadelphians wherever they are. Today is the day where we can finally say what we've always wished we could: The Phillies are World Series Champions.

Today is a beautiful day.


Other Musings:
When the Phils signed Geoff Jenkins in the off-season, before I really knew much of anything about him, I loved it. I've been calling him Leroy all season, and laughing to myself. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch this. I promise you it's worth it.

In honor of the magical week that was, in lieu of asinine commercials, I'd like to give honorable mention to some commercials that make me laugh.
One is the T-Mobile commercial where the father comes home to announce the new family calling plan he signed them up for. The little boy says, "And you can call that lady at my soccer games you always stare at." The daughter says, "And I can call Derek." The father says, "Derek with the moustache and the Mustang, Derek?" "Yeah." " It's weird, there's a no-Dereks-with-moustaches clause, it's in the fine print. Oh, what a drag, dude." Very funny.
Another T-Mobile one I like is with the younger brother who picks the same Fave Five as his sister, saying "Your friends are HOT." When she asks her father, "Are you gonna do anything?" he replies, "Maybe you should have uglier friends."

Also funny is the Domino's commercial for their new oven-toasted sandwiches (a novel idea!). The sub store employee has the Domino's guy leave the sandwich around the side of the building. I'm telling you, all week I've been going around saying, "But I love Submart!"

Lastly, a shout to my boy and hardcore Philly fan Adam "Shappy" Shapiro, whose latest ad is for Oberto beef jerky, and is very funny. (He's the one on the right.)