Welcome to the refreshed The Good Phight! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Chaos in the streets. A shirtless man climbing a street light takes a glass bottle to the head. The dirt of potted plants spills onto Philadelphia’s pristine streets. People dance around open flames as police officers, hands in pockets, chuckle and shake their heads. My girlfriend at the time approaches with an open twelve-pack, then chides me for grabbing a beer before even saying hello. Our relationship is as doomed as the city burning around us. I drink the beer. It’s terrible, but I’m 22, and drinking’s coolness outweighs any quality of beer.
I had been a Phillies fan long before the Philadelphia Riots of 2008, which were apparently connected to some baseball event of some kind, having grown up with a baseball game in the background of every family gathering prior to the inevitable eruption of wiffle ball. Once my grandmother showed me where the box scores and the league standings were in the newspaper, I considered myself an expert, at one point explaining to my mother that, based on what I was looking at, the Phillies just needed to win 13.5 games and the Braves just had to lose 13.5 games and the Phillies could take the division.
But getting to live through my early twenties in the city where my favorite sports team was undergoing one of its really only three eras of success was a delight I can say I appreciated at the time and about which I have zero regrets. Which is surprising, considering after one playoff win I got to Center City by jumping into the bed of a stranger’s pickup truck, and following the NLCS victory I stood in the middle of Broad Street near Fairmount pumping my fist at honking cars, most of which did so out of shared jubilance. In the 2009 playoffs, I was riding my bike to South Philly and, while stopped at a stop light, I yelled into the open window of a bar to find out what the score was so I could relay it back to the cab driver to my left who had asked me. It was a moment of inspiring connectivity in a city where people can be so loathsome toward each other for no other reason than they are both currently alive and close together. I failed to stay in touch with both that cab driver, and the Corona-sipping dudebro who informed us the Phillies were still winning, but for a moment in time, we all shared a celebration.
But entering the field of sports media and becoming generally more aware of how the world works, it became clear that the Phillies weren’t the beacon of hope and fun that my younger, drunker self had made them out to be. They were, in a lot of ways, bad: as time went on, the team fell very hard out of dominance and the Phillies as a franchise revealed themselves to be backwards, uninformed, and petty in a lot of ways that disappointed and angered me. I pulled back from my fandom, I dove back in, I tried to consider better uses of my time. But they stayed in my brain regardless, like a parasite that had tunneled in deeply enough that the part of my brain that would care it was in there was no longer functioning.
So I wonder why I’m a fan of the Phillies. But I know why. It’s the motivation that’s behind every extracurricular activity of adult life: because I hope, in every instance of my exposure to this usually horrible team, to recapture, for even a blinking moment, the state of childlike bliss with which I lived my adolescence. To relieve headaches, unravel stress knots, and take a deep breath of clean air full of grass and popcorn and sizzling discounted meat products that sends me hurtling back in time to two-hours car rides with some combination of my father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, and cousin, staying to the last out of a game “because that’s what we do,” discovering what food or souvenir I was allowed to get, laughing as Shane Victorino cartwheeled to a fly ball and catches it in his mouth, laughing while the guy behind us in our left field seats yelled “EE-LEVEN MILL-YUN DOLLARS, BUR-RELL!” and stopping at that same Wawa on the way home every time. The one where I learned I couldn’t eat a whole box of doughnut holes in a single car ride and live through the night without a searing stomach ache.
We all have to grow up, and the longer we put it off, the harder the transition is to watch. But even after doing so – or while we’re doing so - getting to veer away from long hours in the office and dwindling bank accounts for a night allows a gleeful break in the insistently less magical form life takes as a human adult.
Less gleeful, of course, when the Phillies suck.
Which, as usual. They do.
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