Thursday, October 30, 2008

Number One Phanatic

We are having an eventful week in my family. Next week, this nation will elect its first black president. Although I'm not black (no jokes, Cialini), I think it is going to be a defining, quantum leap in the history of this country, along the lines of voting rights for women and the end of prohibition.

But last night something that I truly NEVER thought I would see finally happened.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the world series.

I grew up in Rochester, but since I was a little kid, the Phillies were THE baseball team in my house. (I morphed into somewhat of a Baltimore fan around '89, but the Phils were always my NL team.)

We got that way mostly because of my Uncle Jim, husband of my Aunt Peg, my old man's sister. Uncle Jim was a hard drinker and without a doubt the most profane man I ever met ... and that's why we all loved him. He was also the greatest baseball fan that ever walked the face of the earth, more than Bob Costas, Billy Crystal and Harry Carey combined. He knew everything about every team, every player and watched every game he could. But when he moved to New Jersey, he adopted the Phillies as his baseball obsession, and he passed that obsession onto me and my siblings.

When Uncle Jim passed away a little over seven years ago, he passed the torch of #1 Phillies fan to my "little" brother Mike. The last time the Phillies won the World Series was 1980, and my brother wasn't even 2 years old. They made the World Series in 1993, but had their hearts broken by Joe Carter and Mitch Williams.

Sports success has never been abundant in my family. In 2003, when Syracuse won the NCAA basketball championship, it was the first time any team I had ever followed -- ever -- had won a championship. I was 27 years old. And though we all take a bit of ownership in this Phillies championship in my family, every last one of us was giving a big ol' cosmic hug to my brother the moment Lidge struck out that last Tampa Bay batter. You hear about how Red Sox fans who had been waiting their whole lives finally were able to appreciate the Sox winning the Series in 2004; you better believe that those octogenarians had nothing on Mike. His sports obsession finally closed the deal and I'm more happy for him than anything.

And yet as happy as I am for the Phils, I feel just a hint of sadness inside, knowing that I personally am still missing that one elusive sports trophy that can finally put me at peace. I haven't talked about the Bills that much this year, because they were on a roll and I knew that any mention I made of them would jinx it. But here we are, having lost 2 of 3 games, but I still have hope. I'm not sure they are a playoff team yet -- let alone a Super Bowl team -- but they look like they have something, if they can keep healthy and keep their composure. They make me really really nervous, but they have pretty much done that for the twenty years I've followed them so that's nothing new.

But my hope remains, because if we can elect a black president, and if the losingest team in all of sports can win the World Series, then maybe it's time.

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