Thank God for World Series Championships

The last time a major Philadelphia sports team won a championship was in 1983, four years before I was born. For Philadelphians below the age 0f 25, all we knew about championships came from what our parents told us. Until Wednesday night.

I don’t know what it is about baseball or sports in general that’s so enthralling. I do know that when the Phillies won the World Series on Wednesday, I felt like I was 10 years old and jumping for joy at Christmas again. A million memories and joys swarmed through my mind. Here are a few:

My earliest memory of the Phillies came from the 1993 season. I was six years old. I can remember walking up to the souvenir stand at Veterans Stadium. My father bought me a Phillies pennant that had printed on it: “Catch the Phillies Fever.” That pennant stayed on the wall next to my bed for the next 15 years. For many years, I wondered what kind of illness Phillies fever was, and why anyone would want to catch it?

Aside from all the defining moments of being a fan, the things that captured my joy of being a Phillies fan best were simple pleasures like listening to the games on the radio, laying in my bed, developing an imagination for what was going on. We didn’t always have cable television, and so for the first six years or so of my baseball life, I listened to the radio broadcasts with Harry Kalas and the late Richie Ashburn. When the Phillies would hit a homerun or drive in runs, I would jump around my room, swinging my giant inflatable baseball bat and crunching it over my shoulders. I could tell by the tone of Harry’s voice when a homerun was about to happen: “Long drive! Watch that baby, outta here!”

After watching the final out in the World Series, we religiously muted the television, turned up the radio and listened to our old boy, Harry Kalas, announce the final pitch on the radio that was running a minute behind the television broadcast.

I remember the Vet (Veterans Stadium), and all its sub-par glory. The notorious nose bleed 700 level that exists in next to no stadiums in sports today: that’s where the bulk of my seats were. I remember being extremely excited when my mom told me I could have my fourth grade birthday party at the Phillies game. Years later in high school, my friends and I skipped class to watch opening day at Veterans Stadium. The next year we did the same thing, and the next year as well. The Vet was destroyed, Citizens Bank Park came, and we still skipped class every opening day to watch the Phillies.

After the World Series was over and we had driven around for over an hour just blowing the car horn and yelling, I stopped at the bar to catch up with my cousin who I don’t see as much as I use to. We sat and watched the celebration, cried a little and sang “We are the Champions” by Queen.

For as long as we both can remember, my cousin and I were best friends. We grew up together. I remember on one particular family vacation, we found out another boy we were playing with was an Atlanta Braves fan. Upon discovery, a shouting match ensued, and we went back and forth throwing names of our teams’ players at each other. My cousin and I shouted names like Mickey Morandini and Lenny Dykstra, far from superstar names but all we had as Phillies fans. Our passion was loyalty. I learned growing up, that you will most likely never be the best or have the best, but none of that matters. All that matters is that you do the best with what the good Lord has given you, and for my cousin and I, that meant a lot of really bad sports teams.

My story isn’t so much different than the next guy’s in Philadelphia. When that last pitch was thrown and the Phillies became the 2008 World Champions, I leapt into the air with no reserve, whooped and hollered and hugged everyone around me without second thought. My Dad did the same thing and so did everyone around us.

As we get old in life, something gets taken from us, and I think it’s our ability to really live. Maturing, I think, just means that you stop caring about certain things. We buy into the folly that we’re too old to do some things or act certain ways. Men aren’t supposed to cry. The shame of maturing is that we forget how to live.

On Wednesday night, I remembered how to live again.

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