Monday, March 12, 2012

Still Rather Be Us

I'm sure that many of us are familiar with the smash-hit, puppet-driven Broadway musical, Avenue Q, and one of the more hilarious and famous songs from it, a little diddy known as "It Sucks To Be Me." After a sports season dubbed "The Year That Wasn't" by the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan, as well as my recent triumphant (I hope) return to the blogosphere, you could say that "It Sucks To Be Me" was as good a theme song for Philadelphia sports fans as any. And maybe--again, with the obvious exception of 2008--that's historically true as well.

But I'd like to present to the jury a recent episode of Sesame Street (I'll take "Things Stashed Away in My DVR To Appease My Almost-Two-Year-Old" for $400, Alex), which revolved around inclusion and bully prevention. After Big Bird makes multiple changes to himself in his efforts to be welcomed into "The Good Birds Club," he learns that he doesn't and shouldn't ever have to change in order to be accepted. And so the gang comes up with its own group, and sings the new club's theme song, "I'm Happy To Be Me."  

So I'd like to take this opportunity to share a very important silver lining that I've discovered as a Philadelphian living in the Big (Rotten) Apple of New York, the ultimate of enemy territory. Certainly it's no substitute for a championship; after all, what is? But I think that my observations of what has happened here since the Giants won the Super Bowl may just be of philosophical significance to all of us, helping us to feel at least a little bit better about the ever-trying existence we live everyday.

And what I have observed here essentially amounts to this:


Oh sure, there was a big old ticker-tape parade down the obnoxiously-named "Canyon of Heroes." Sure, all the people who raced to the store to buy their first jersey only after winning the NFC Championship were the first ones to get the Super Bowl hats and shirts. But by the time the weekend came, the Giants had come and gone from the foreground 

By who? That's right. Jeremy Lin.

Guy comes off his friend's couch, leads the near-miserable Knicks on a string of dramatic victories over bottom-dweller teams, and, just like that, the afterglow of what was a pretty fantastic and equally unexpected championship run had already completely faded from the picture.

It may just be the worst part of this whole sporting disaster now known as 2011. The entitlement felt by an overwhelming majority of New York sports fans inhibits them almost entirely from appreciating and enjoying what they actually have. And that is, of course, a championship. They expect what is unreasonable to expect--a winner in every sport at all times, so that when a team does come through, they're only doing what their supposed to do. It's like during the '09 Series against the Yankees, when one of the daily rags was giving away signs that said "26 to 2," as if asking, "Which would you rather be? Us or you?"

And the answer is: I'd rather be the "2." I'd rather be a member of a fanbase that never takes a winner for granted, that appreciates tremendously how many individual things have to go right, even with incredible talent, for any professional sports team to win it all. I'd rather be in a continual state of usually-hopeful realism than be twisting in the bipolar sports fan's world of, as Ricky Bobby would say, "if you're not first, you're last." I'd rather be from a place that has just one team in each of those sports, to feel some kind of sense of pride and solidarity and unity both in the ups and downs, and not to have ask people from my own city which team they root for.  

So I'm officially joining Big Bird's "Happy To Be Me" club. Membership is, as always, open to the public.

Do you remember what it was like in and around Philly in the months following the '08 Series? It was like the weight of the world, the dark cloud of 25 years of suffering, had been lifted, and its legacy was months (at least) of ecstasy. Wearing the shirts, the hats, seeing the shirts and hats on others, people in good moods, smiling, making eye contact on the street. It was sensational.

And there's none of that here. Worse, there's nothing even remotely close to anything like that here. It may as well have been the latest outburst from Charlie Sheen, cause the world here in New York has moved on like a passing breeze to the next flavor of the month. As if to say, "It's March now. The Super Bowl was so last month."

You can call me jealous. You can call me Lin-sulted. But all it's made me is happier to be a member of this club.