26 in Red, why the Phillies meant everything to us

The 2022 Phillies have left me feeling exhausted. A thrill ride that included Juan Soto nightmares, tears at memorial pitches, and levels of body vibrations that gave me the ability to pass through walls. I watched these games in bars, homes, and a few times at Citizens Bank Park. It intoxicated me with every pitch. I will never experience anything like that again. It wasn’t a solitary experience either. I was among many people who will talk about this for years to come. We’ll chat together as our pupils dilate, reliving memories as our heart rates accelerate. I am a Philadelphia sports fan.

Philadelphia fans have been called a lot of things. Angry, dramatic, cruel, cocky, distraught. The nicest thing people say about them is that they’re passionate. Which feels like a coded version of angry, but sure. As someone who has been around Philly sports fans my whole life, I would say they’re loving. They just don’t have the best way to express love. It’s loud and scary. It’s a fire that’s fueled by twisted teas and menthol cigarettes. The pendulum swings in emotion that would make Poe himself shutter. Happy and angry are both red faced, hoarse voiced, and drunk. Sports are not the water cooler conversation. They are the ONLY conversation. From the priest to the barista, sports in this city is a part of this city’s identity. Why?

Philadelphia is the country’s favorite city to knock. The punchline to jokes about being disgusting, rude, and just plain ole mean. That is a gross misunderstanding. Philadelphia is my favorite city. The people, the food, the energy I feel everyday when I wake up create an enviroment of bold and loving personalities. Most of the people I know here are like that. Philadelphia isn't a place, it’s a personality. It’s the resiliency of blue collar workers, families who are doing everything to survive. Philadelphians are people who can never catch a break, but will never complain about it. They shrug off the weight of the world and say "we don’t need you, we have us." The fans are reflections of that. They expect results.They expect effort. If you don’t deliver? "Well buddy, I don’t make excuses so neither should you." They work hard for everything they have, and they love the place they call home. This is despite the monstrous treatment the City of Philadelphia does to its people. Police Violence, Corruption, and just a criminal lack of effort to take care of the people who love it here. June 3rd was the first game after the Phillies fired manager Joe Girardi. The same day the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the front page how the city's libraries were understaffed and underfunded. June 8th, Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling hit back to back home runs off the most dangerous closer in the game, Josh Hader. Same day, The Inquierer’s front page had a story about police abusing disability claims. The other was how Mayor Jim Kenney was handling the massive gun violence in the city. The day JT Realmuto hit an inside-the-park home run, a 15 year old boy was named a suspect in the horrendous Roxborough High School shooting. If you’ve ever driven a car in Philly you know the roads feel like they just survived an air raid. If you’ve ever taken a stroll on a summer trash day, you can smell it as soon as you read this. The city's government abuses the resilience and loyalty of its people. A relationship that has been broken for decades. This has made the city the cannon fodder for late night comedians and midday coffee breaks. How can the city feel good about itself? How can the people that call this place home look at themselves with pride? People who raise families, hang out with their friends? People who want to eat, drink, be merry? People who want to live with dignity?

We have our team. Something that unites us against the world. A representation of Philadelphia on the world stage that makes us actually look good. Something that makes us feel like winners. Searching for a reason to feel like we deserve the 142.71 square miles we take up on this pale blue dot. That’s all we have. It’s up to them. It’s up to 26 men in Red Pinstripes. It’s up to Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber. Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler. It’s made up of guys who have never been from here, never actually had a good cheesesteak, never understood that sports, to these fans, come after god but before flag and country. It’s up to strangers to come to the city to make us feel good about it. A responsibility that is only their fault because they signed a contract. 26 men in red pinstripes take a field, and millions need them. We need them to inspire us to keep going despite what doubts we have. Doubts about us, our chances, our choices. Our city, our state, our country. The Phillies are our chance to feel like we belong.