As the October air, fall leaves, and Eagles take their roles in late September for Philadelphians, one constant is missing: Philadelphia Phillies playoff baseball.
I remember that feeling when I woke up the Monday after the Phillies won their first of five NL East titles in 2007. I remember feeling like Phillies baseball was on top of the world, and felt so proud to be a Phillies fan. All the pain that had represented the disaster of the previous fifteen years was erased. Winning the division was something to be so proud of, and something that we would cherish forever. I remember going to a Wawa to get the newspaper so I could save it, but there were none left. Phillies fever ensued and we were all about to go on a five-year ride of dominance.
A world championship, two World Series appearances, and some tough playoff losses later we sit watching mediocre baseball once again. We sit uncomfortably and watch the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves ascend towards the playoffs in front of half-filled ballparks. We get this feeling and think, “they don’t deserve it…..We do.” Maybe you’re right, but maybe this year could be good for us as Phillies fans. Maybe this season is a chance for us to appreciate what we don’t have, and appreciate how great October baseball really is.
Going to CBP in 2008 and 2009, there was an edge about that place. We were hungry as fans, as a team, and as a city for that championship that had eluded us for so long. We wanted nothing more than winning baseball, and after so many bad years we could finally see the light of promise at the end of the tunnel. We embraced it, as our ballpark truly became unparalleled in energy for those meaningful October games. All that energy culminated with our 2008 World Series championship, and we all saw that parade down Broad Street we never thought we would. We all remember that split second where that felt like we had reached the top of the mountain, where Phillies baseball hit the absolute pinnacle of its’ existence. We were the best.
After hitting that pinnacle, it was only natural that we would hit a lull. We almost reached that pinnacle again by reaching the 2009 World Series, but a few seasons later we are on the outside looking in at October baseball. If we’re all honest with ourselves, though Citizens Bank Park still fills up and sells out, it’s easy to see that the energy is not what it was a few years ago.
That extra level we could get to isn’t there, as it was once fueled purely by hunger for a championship. At some point, that hunger turned to an expectation, a formality that Phillies baseball always ends with a happy ending. We saw winning as a necessary state, not as a privilege to appreciate and dwell in. It’s time to take a step back Philadelphia: dwell in what we don’t have this year.
Sure, those of us who live and die with the Phillies always will, but let this October sink in so painful and deep that the hunger returns. Watch the Nationals and get angry that they are, well… the Nationals. Get pissed off watching a Braves postseason game where Turner Field is suddenly filled with fans doing that frustrating tomahawk chop. Watch as some unexpected player becomes a hero and let it remind you of how great that Matt Stairs home run really was. Go ahead and tell yourself how angry this makes you, let it get deep under your skin.
Why? Well, because somewhere along the way we lost that edge in all of the success, all of the wins, and all of the fun. We forgot that this can all go away in the blink of an eye, just like we have seen this season. We have a chance, a chance to appreciate what we don’t have but what we want to be hungry for again: October baseball.
Sometimes it takes a wake up call to appreciate things, and this is ours. Embrace this disappointment Philadelphia, and remember how great success can be.