Thursday, May 31, 2007

Some Things Never Change

I wrote the essay below back in early October, 2004 and stumbled on it today as I was cleaning up some old files.  As I read it I was first amazed that so little had changed on the Philly sports scene in 2 1/2 year and then I became progressively angrier the more I thought about it.

It's a bit long, but I thought I'd put it up anyway as a touchstone to show how much things stay the same here in Philly

October 2, 2004


My grandfather had to wait 30 years between Phillies’ championships. At least he got to see two. It was 10 years between World Series losses to Baltimore and Toronto. It’s been 11 since Mitch gave up the home run.

Another season has come crashing to its end; another manager fired, another half-full ballpark, another summer of disappointment closes with no fall baseball. It’s baseball in Philadelphia. It’s the only franchise in history that has lost near 10,000 games. Yet somehow springtime always brings the hope that fades in the summer and falls flat as October approaches.

At the ballpark tonight, it was sticky and raining off and on. It was a terrible night for baseball. Kevin thought it was a nice night, but he also probably had hope that the Phils would win the pennant this year. I never held such illusions. I saw them add talent, but not change the attitude. I saw Ed Wade spend the money he needed to spend to fill the new park, but only because it guaranteed a greater return.  

They didn’t pick up ay pitching in July because it would not help the bottom line. They might have made a bit more in ticket sales for the playoffs, but the higher contracts would have eaten that up. They calculated the return on investment and decided that they had maxed out for the year.

They thought that adding three free agents to an average team would bring the fans into the new park. They looked at the Orioles and the Indians and the other clubs with new parks and saw the money that those teams brought in. They saw those guys even contend a bit. But each team had more to start with. They had more than a few good players. And none of them really did all that much. 

So, like every other year in recent memory, about the time the Eagles begin practice, the interest in the Phillies dies off. I know the talk that Philly is a football town anyway, but I remember 1993 when that team took hold of the city and the Eagles were forgotten. This town likes a winner, and the Eagles are the most consistent winners in town. At times this is a basketball or hockey town. It just depends on who is winning. It’s a baseball town every spring until the local team melts like frozen custard on the Boardwalk in July.

What really bothers me about the Phillies is that I am afraid that the futility is contagious. The Eagles can’t seem to get over the hump. They have talent and coaching and seem poised to do it, but injuries and karma always seem to doom them. The Sixers almost slew Goliath after they finally got their house in order only to succumb to internal disaster and lack of talent when they chased a coach away. Hockey is a mystery to me, but it seems to me that the Flyers and Phillies have WAY too much in common to expect a visit from Lord Stanley any time soon

Even our college teams are afflicted.

Temple football? Does the phrase “fallen and can’t get up mean anything to anyone?” St. Joe’s basketball rode two of the best players in the country about as far as you can, but ultimately two just were not enough to push past the Philly Phailure complex. Villanova? The annual phone card or alumni scandal should be announced any time now.

I hear all over the country what a great sports town Philly is. How we have such knowledgeable fans and all of that.  We are knowledgeable fans. We know all about every team in every league because we have plenty of time to study them since our own teams as so terrible. And I don’t know how loyal we are. I have never been anywhere that there are so many Dallas fans, or Denver fans or Yankees fans. We have been disappointed so often and so deeply that we have begun to shift our affections and allegiances elsewhere.

I was 13 when anybody in Philly last won anything. 14 if you count Rollie’s coked-up kids playing a perfect game. At least when I was a kid though, there Phillies were good and the Eagles were good and the Sixers were good and even the Flyers were good. At least I think they were – I never could follow the puck. My interest was cemented early in life.

What about my son? Will he grow up with only the Eagles as a playoff team? Even then will he know that they will never get to the big game? Will he ever grow to love sports, given that the local examples are so thoroughly unlovable?  

Is there a reason to even hope that he will given how little these teams offer us on an annual basis? I used to lament the giant toilet bowl they played in. Or the fact that the entire Spectrum actually smelled like a urinal. Or that the entire world laughed at the Vet turf. Now I see that those issues were trivial. The real problem is that the leaders of these franchises, the real powers there, simply don’t care about my son and me. They are big money guys with big money goals and winning is nice, but money is WAY better.

Are you going to beg Fitz Dixon for another World Series trophy? Why? He has a pile of trophies. The money pays for the private jet to Palm Beach, not the trophies.

If you read all this far, thanks!

1 comment:

PCole said...

You can't say you don't miss that "sonuvabitchin' field," can you? I know Brian Billick doesn't miss it. :)