By Alex Green, ’11
Last year was euphoric. You can take away the night-long celebration on Broad St. with every Philadelphian; you can take away the parade of over two million people. The fact of the matter was that for one time we were the best. For me, an avid Philadelphia sports fan, that was enough.
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Our generation watched Eric Lindros’ head get smashed into frozen oblivion. We sympathized with Allen Iverson, the ultimate David character whose champion size could not quite conquer the Goliath duo Kobe and Shaq. We were fools to believe the inept duo of Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid could actually win a super bowl, only to watch Ronde Barber and Jake Delhomme celebrate on our home field.
The Phillies never broke our hearts. They never led us to believe they were better than the mediocre squad that they were for so long. With the departure of players like Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen, we watched a champion mature from the beginning stages. Jimmy Rollins first donned the red pinstripes in 2000, followed by Chase Utley in 2003 and Ryan Howard 2004. Then, while everyone from Howard Eskin to former Mayor John Street called out for a manager like Jim Leyland, management went with Charlie Manuel: the most likeable grandpa figure who has gotten the most out of his players by showing confidence in them, contrary to the emotional and sometimes quarrelsome Larry Bowa. The nucleus was in place for a winner and for the most likeable clubhouse since John Kruk and Dave Hollins were crushing empty beer cans on their foreheads while doing their best Hulk Hogan impersonations. We watched this team develop while taking on the Rocky Balboa persona of its city, only adding to the fans’ affection towards this team and the euphoria of finally watching a winner.
Last year was a first time experience for fans like myself and that’s what I’ll remember about it. While the national media seemed to undermine the significance of the event, it didn’t matter because we knew how important it was to us.
This year is different. We are now watching our team trying to establish its dominance, an even more unfamiliar feeling than simply watching our team finally compete for a championship. Winning two consecutive pennants is an accomplishment in itself, since it’s the first time in the National League since Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz did it with Atlanta in the mid 1990s. These guys aren’t satisfied, obviously, and in the face of a 26-time world champion, one of the most potent lineups in baseball, a potential home run king, the greatest closer of all time, and one of the most feared left handed pitchers in this era of baseball, they say bring it on.
Regardless of what happens in the fall classic, the experience for Yankees fans can’t possibly be as enjoyable as it has been for us. The blue print for success in New York is the antithesis of how the Phillies have done it, obviously because of the resources available to each team. While the Phillies are homegrown, the Yankees have used off-seasons of trial and error, using the services of the highest paid free agents.
This year the Yanks believe to have that winning chemistry that they’ve lacked for so long. Again they hit the free agent market aggressively, signing C.C. Sabbathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Texiera. However, every time A.J. Burnett gives out a pie to the faceI can’t help but to think their act is phony. Money has brought these players together and their experience can’t possibly be as rewarding as what the Phillies have gone through.
I believe that this discrepancy in chemistry will be the key in the emergence of a World Champion. In contrary to the Yankees, the Phillies have been through so much adversity as a team. From finishing second for three straight years, to two monumental September comebacks, the Phillies have learned how to win in the biggest moments. This Yankees team has not faced any kind of adversity. They cruised to the division title following the all-star break and were met by the weakest playoff opponent of ’09, the Minnesota Twins, in the ALDS.
While it’s hard to ignore the talent of the big spenders, I don’t believe they possess the intangible qualities that helped give Philadelphia its first professional sports title since ’83. Until Wednesday night, we will impatiently await what is arguably the most anticipated series of this decade. Although everyone may, don’t count out the Fightins. That’s exactly what they are.