Phans?

I had just flown back from a weekend working in Denver. The Rockies were home both nights I was there, however client meetings made it so I couldn’t make any of the games. But oddly enough I had a wild baseball experience on the ride home from Philly airport.

Denver to Philly: 1734 miles: 3 hours, 22 minutes

Philly airport to my house: 14 miles: 2 hours, 48 minutes

An accident about a mile ahead of us brought traffic to a full-on standstill. Cars off, people wandering around. But as luck would have it, the Phils were playing. The driver put on the game and we spent 90 minutes listening together.

The Phillies were losing 10 to 0 when we turned on the game.

Announcer: It’s a beautiful day today, but not for the Phils.

Driver: Halladay started today. He gave up a ton of runs again.

Announcer: For the Phils upcoming road trip, they’ve got San Fransisco, Diamondbacks, Dodgers…not good news for the Phils.

Driver: Halladay, that guy’s career went up in smoke. His average velocity is down below 90 and I don’t think it’s goin’ up.

And it occurred to me, I genuinely don’t get Philadelphia fans. Listen to callers on sports radio, talk to them at a game…more than any fans they have knowledge of the in-depth mechanics of baseball, and it allows them to unearth complex flaws with their team. Every fan can deliver a well-supported, evidence-based graduate-level thesis on why other teams are positioned to succeed yet the Phillies are doomed to failure as of May 7.

Phils fans are like that guy at your office who has been there for years. He spends his day articulating all the details of what is wrong with your organization, but for some reason the idea of seeking a new job never even blinks across his consciousness.

And yet…when I say I don’t get Philly fans, I genuinely mean I miss something. There’s a dimension of joy in the doom and gloom that I don’t understand.

I watched the final game of the 2009 World series with a Philly fan. Right after the Yankees beat the Phillies, I told him I was sorry his team had lost.

“You kidding?” he said. “This has been the best year of my life.”

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4 thoughts on “Phans?

  1. Andrew Kaufman

    First of all, be careful because a lot of the phans whom I recruited to NuckolBall are of the Phillies persuasion. Tread lightly, or that follower list may dip precipitously, whether your intention was provocative in nature or not. Now I know better, that your aim was to generate discussion rather than incite the wrath, but I’m a bit surprised that the plight of the Philly sports fan is lost on you. So allow me to retort.

    Second, you sort of captured the essence of a Phillies fan when you spoke of your experience with a fan at the end of the 2009 season. While we did lose a heartbreaking WS to the Yanks, it was for many of us the best season/year of our lives (’80 and ’08, notwithstanding). It was also a time, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson, where we stood and watched the high water mark, only to helplessly watch it roll back. An opportunity to find the good in so much angst and loathing.

    As I am sure you are aware, from your time living in South Jersey, that Philadelphians and to a large extent Delaware Vally inhabitants, live and die by the success and lack thereof (more lack thereof historically speaking) of their beloved Phillies, Iggles, Flyers and 76ers. The “joy in the doom and gloom” that you have inferred or perceived is a misinterpretation.

    Philadelphia sports have been meticulously woven into our life’s fabric, more than a lifestyle choice or casual passion, but one that is more like a blood borne disease that has manifested and proliferated to the extent that it has been replicated over several generations and now a foundation of our DNA matrix (I’m a third generation Philadelphian).

    Generally speaking, we are a “roll up your sleeves, work hard/play hard, blue collar” society. Now you can say, “Well, New York is a lot like that,” and to an extent you would be correct in that single criterion is an appropriate analog. But The City is more of a melting pot, where there are other phenomena to keep the general populace appeased and occupied. Not to mention the obvious, over the years, New Yorkers have enjoyed their share of success with the Yanks and other franchises.

    Conversely, Philly is more provincial, and homogeneous and I mean that in a good way. Many of us can remember where we were and with whom for more of the many failures and disappointments of our sports teams, rather than recall the triumphs. The game at the end of a hard day’s work, is for many the one carrot that gets he or she through the workaday life. We die hard and we love our teams, more for the worst than the better, and we’ve proven that despite the folklore and misconceptions.

    But it’s really not hate or true negativity that we harbor. If I were to give it a term, I’d say its “deliberately justified cynicism.” It’s an inbred defense mechanism (yes even on May 7th) that has been honed over many years as a salve to prophylactically soothe the wounds, to manage our expectation that yet again the four seasons will have eclipsed without another trophy or pennant hanging from the rafters.

    So we’re not so much the tenured guy at work who bemoans his job, but has failed to seek or consider other options. More like the guy who has, with blind loyalty and extreme prejudice, poured his blood and sweat into his job, only to be passed over for a promotion year after year after year.

    “Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true, you stand at the edge, while people run you through. I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.”

    1. Tony Colistro

      Well said Andrew. I particularly love the DNA paragraph

      Mike you should seriously consider a copy and paste of Andrew’s response as a post as it captures the very essence of phillies sports fan.

      1. OK…so here’s a quote from Roy Halladay today as an apology to the fans: “It’s hard to explain how much you appreciate them because there are places where you don’t have fans like that.”

        That struck me when I read it, and I agree with him. I lived in LA for 2 years and never got into a single conversation about the Dodgers or the Angels.

        So when I wrote that post, it was not by any means my intention to say Philly fans suck. If I believed that, I would have posted a story about that. (For example, I think Braves lack of fans is an utter embarrassment.) My post was a genuine questions. The negativity is palpable to me, but so is the love of the team and the sport. That’s why I ended with the world series quote.

        I couldn’t ask for 2 better people to comment and help me answer the question I was pondering with the post.

        Anyhow…to me, Halladay’s quote is about fair weather fans, which no one could ever accuse Phillies fans of being. If you’re a fan of the Phils in the 90s, you are by definition a “real” baseball fan.

        Above all, it’s fun as hell for me to blabber about baseball with you two. And thanks a ton for reading and recommending the blog.

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