I’m sorry I kept my head low in the three days since the Phillies finally gave up the ghost, but I felt like it would be safer for everyone if I did. That and I was too embarrassed to admit that I was on the verge of tears for most of Thursday morning. Oh, wait…
Anyway, this calls for a completely emotional, visceral post. In a longstanding Phrontiersman tradition, a stretched and tortured metaphor for Phillies fandom after the jump. For your listening pleasure while you read:
I don’t remember if I’ve told this story in this forum before, but I started following the Phillies on Aug. 30, 1993. I was six years old and six months from starting my first season of organized baseball. I followed my dad downstairs to the television one afternoon to watch the Phillies lose 10-6 to the Chicago Cubs. I was hooked immediately, and by the time Joe Carter had run his course, I had experienced the tremendous disappointment that comes with being a diehard Phillies fan.
For the next 14 years, that was as good as it got. A series of last-place finishes and 90-loss seasons followed by being in third place, 5 games out at the trade deadline, then failing to make the right deal (or any deal at all) and watching the Braves win the division year after blessed year while we finished a game out of the wild card.
It was a long period of very few ups and a lot of disappointments. Tyler Green. Mike Grace. Danny Tartabull. Andy Ashby. Watching Curt Schilling, Darren Daulton, Scott Rolen, and Terry Francona leave to win world titles elsewhere.
Somewhere in the fall of 2005, after twelve years of Phillies fandom, somewhere between Ryan Howard’s major league debut and when the Astros won on the final day of the season to avoid a one-game playoff, I was introduced to the other great love of my life.
There was a girl who lived a floor above me in my freshman dorm. I remember she wore a lot of band t-shirts and brightly colored Chuck Taylors. She was sort of a rebel without a cause, having just escaped an upper-class Atlanta-area private school upbringing for the orgy of culture and freedom that is any major state university.
She’s the only person I’ve ever met who self-identifies as a Bob Marley fan and doesn’t smoke pot. When I got to college, I dove right into the social life of my dorm, knocking on doors, helping to carry moving boxes, borrowing and lending and eating dinner with people. It quickly became clear to me that this 80s-punk wannabe was at the social center of the freshman honors class. She was the one who organized parties and outings and trips to the dining hall, so I made sure to befriend her. We bonded over our shared love of pop music and late-night jaunts to our local sandwich shop and were able to avoid topics like politics and religion (she, having grown up with thoughtless and militant Christian conservatives, had rebelled by renouncing religion and voting Democrat; I, having grown up around thoughtless and militant secular liberals, went to church regularly and voted Republican).
So it was pretty natural that when my first college relationship ended, this girl was the first person I talked to, and, through a confluence of events over the next four months, she evolved into Kate, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend.
And it’s been great, over the past 4 years. This isn’t to say that we haven’t had our rough spots. I mean, we did break up twice and get back together, and there were rough spots that resulted from her being hormonal and my being immature. Rough spots bad enough that resulted in me busting my face open to the point that when people asked why my nose was crooked and my forehead was swollen, I told them that the first rule was I’m not allowed to talk about it. Rough spots bad enough that I almost drank myself out of school at one point in 2008.
But since then, it’s been smooth sailing. Just a general feeling of contentment, comfort, and security. I’m not an expert romantic by any stretch of the imagination, more of an impulsive codependent, but I always got the impression that this was what a long-term relationship ought to be like. Not the exciting-but-hopeless battle for legitimacy that I had thought it should be (I read too many adventure books as a child), but something that you can count on.
So while there are still moments of excitement (picking her up from the airport after not having seen her for 6 weeks, being able to take her to meet the extended family, playing a show and seeing her standing up by the stage), it’s not as perilous as it might be.
In the fall of 2007, during the runup to the Phillies first playoff appearance since 1993, I was watching a night game on ESPN when Kate, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend, sat down next to me on the sofa and said (as she often does when she wants my attention and I’m engrossed in something she finds boring), “I’m prettier than baseball.”
I responded by saying, “Kate [the Long-Suffering Girlfriend], I’ve loved the Phillies long before I loved you, and I’ll love them long after you’re gone.”
That might have been an overstatement, but as all-consuming and devoted as my love for Kate, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend, is, my love for the Phillies, having been rooted initially in childlike wonder and innocence, rather than in teenaged hormonal rushes, is just as deep. Which some of you probably think is sad. I don’t care.
The difference is in how each of them makes me feel. My relationship with Kate, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend, is one of great comfort, one that makes my life appreciably easier most of the time, because (much to my father’s delight) she actually thinks about her life in longer terms than what she’ll be doing 30 minutes from now, which is more than I can say for myself. The highs are good and often. The lows, while precipitous, are few and far between.
With the Phillies, however, I’ve really only had four moments of sheer euphoria. In 2007, just after my now-infamous conversation with Kate, the Long-Suffering Girlfriend, when the Marlins beat the Mets on the last day of the season to hand the Phillies the division title. Minutes later, we had the famous Brett Myers glove toss. Called Paul, screamed incoherently for about 10 minutes.
A little over a year later, I was in The Daily Gamecock newsroom overseeing production and watching the NLCS. When Victorino and Stairs hit their home runs, I was alone in the room and started screaming so loud that everyone came back in because they thought I had broken my leg. Some days later, I went absolutely bonkers when the Phillies finished off the Dodgers.
Then, of course, the 2008 World Series. When the delayed Game 5 ended, I ran around and bounced off the walls for another few minutes.
But apart from that, it’s been a combination of the constant hot-lead-in-the-stomach kind of uneasiness and moments like this: when the Phillies finally gave up the ghost to the Rockies in the NLDS in 2007, I threw the television remote across the room and screamed, “That’s what I get for believing.” My sports-hating roommates saw and I never lived it down.
The two things in the world that I can say I truly love really show the two sides of the emotionally attached coin: first, all of the good things, the security, the laughter, the thing you look forward to. The other is the Ike Turner of lovers, all darkness, despair, fear, uncertainty, rock-bottom depression, and just enough moments of senseless ecstasy that keep you coming back even though you have to keep explaining to your friends and co-workers that you just fell down the stairs or ran into a door.
I feel like being a Phillies fan really makes me understand battered-wife syndrome. I’m only fortunate to have someone else to remind me why I get up in the morning.