If we've learned anything about Octobers the last few years, it's that the month tests, stretches and hones every aspect of loyalty fandom.
Therefore, to adequately preview the madness that is the baseball playoffs, we've invited some of our favorite writers for each of the eight playoff teams to write about their teams. These will be running all day today and tomorrow, and we very much hope you enjoy them.
Up right now: The Philadelphia Phillies. Your writer is A.J. Daulerio.
A.J. Daulerio is a staff writer for Philadelphia magazine and is sometimes refered to as a testicular euphemism on this site.
Oh, hello! It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Let us begin.
Here is a Phillies team that a good portion of the city (myself included) gave up on thanks to the slow start, the untimely slumps, the injuries, the rickety pitching staff and a manager who appeared to have the baseball IQ of a drugged ape.
This is a team that spent 99 percent of the season in second place.
Even though confidence was at an equally odd, disorienting high last Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, there was still that pesky loser's nag of doubt. This was the fourth week of football season on a Sunday afternoon, and watching baseball this time of the year — at the ballpark, no less — was already strange. But as I pranced into CBP (Yes. A big, queer prance.) with a brown bag of Coors Light (Yes. A big, queer bag of Coors Light), I was still acutely aware that this could blow up. Even though the Marlins were up 5-0 before Jamie Moyer tossed his first pitch, there was still doubt. Tiny doubt, at that point, but it was still there. There could be a one game playoff on Monday and that, although exciting, would be a faith-suck. So it was best to enjoy this moment — this gay-Coors Light-prancing moment — because history suggested this could very well be the best part of the day.
But as the ninth inning rolled around and that big "F" flashed on the scoreboard relaying the news that the Mets had unbelievably, miraculously lost AGAIN, I finally let it go. Somehow, the Phillies didn't miss the Wild Card this year. Somehow, they were division champions. Somehow, for once, everything just got all Johnny Nash-clear and bright.
This is a different kind of joy, mind you. This is one that has always eluded most Philadelphia sports fans and one that is, admittedly, tough to process. This isn't the same joy felt when the Eagles won the NFC Championship in 2004 (they were supposed to, finally), or the Sixers in 2000-01(not highly improbable) or the Flyers regular-season dominance during the Bobby Clarke GM-era (again, familiar, predictable.) This joy isn't even the 1993 Phillies, who held onto the division lead the whole entire year and wrapped it up pretty easily in September. No, this is different. This is a gift. Two and half days after that 6-1 victory (convincing, no less) over the Nationals I am still stunned, trapped in T. Hill-pose, still grasping for logic and familiarity to return: No, that didn't happen. That didn't. No way that just happened.
It did. This city had one ping-pong ball then somehow came away with the number one pick.
So, here they are. The 2007 Philadelphia Phillies, the team to beat waaay back in January, now has home field advantage in the National League Division Series.
Of course, the Padres would have been the opponent of choice, but it's the Rockies. The surging Rockies, with their powerful bats, their devout Christianity and their furious momentum. No, you don't want to play the Rockies, they say, not right now, you don't. They're too tough and they have too much power in that lineup...
Sure. Let's play 'em. Todd Helton can hold as many prayer circles as he wants because , to paraphrase the great Inquirer columnist Bill Lyon, who was also dusted off for the occasion, "Neither God, Jesus Christ, nor a fire-shitting demon from hell wants to fuck with the Phillies right now. "
Okay, maybe he didn't say that. Ever. Close enough.
Oh, happy day.