I am about as fair weather of a Phillies fan as you can get.
I can’t identify the starting lineup. I can’t spout off stats of any kind. When I make an appearance at a springtime game, it’s generally just for the hotdogs.
But when October rolls around, something changes. Suddenly I’m staying up late to catch the 9th inning, calling Chase Utley my boyfriend, correctly pointing out a few outfielders. Last weekend, I spent an entire bus ride to New York hitting the ‘refresh’ button on my blackberry, tracking not updates to Texts From Last Night or changes to my Facebook newsfeed, but the play-by-play on the playoffs from ESPN. Anxiously.
I know. I annoy myself too. But I just can’t help it – there’s something about the post-season, about the games that really count, that totally gets me going. The one hundred and sixty two games that mark the warmer months of the year require an attention span I don’t possess, but a few weeks worth of pitches and runs and stolen bases? That, I can totally get behind.
When I lived in DC, there wasn’t much to cheer about, so the lead-up to last October – my first in Philadelphia since heading southbound in 2007 – was pretty exciting for me. I had big plans for the Phillies’ run to the World Series, plans involving packed sports bars, inappropriate fans, beer and burgers and hot wings. I pictured all of us – the crowd – united by this common love, for a team and a sport and a city. I saw high-fives with the random dude on the bar stool next to me, and rounds of Yuengling pints, and all of us biting our nails, waiting to see if Ryan Howard could work his magic again. This vision I whipped up in my head was all about cohesion and belonging and being a part of something bigger than one little native, naive New Englander lost in the middle of a big city.
Of course, as with most visions, it didn’t come to pass that way.
The Phillies did their part, winning the penant and making a solid run at the top prize. And I’m sure at sports bars all across the city, people did just what I thought they would: getting loud at all the right moments and quiet at all the others, taunting the enemy, throwing in an Eagles fight song for good measure. I just wasn’t there to see it.
Dave was on a time-consuming rotation, with study time scheduled into most hours he wasn’t at the hospital or watching the Yankees games. (Because he’s, um, not a fair weather fan. Nor does he change his affiliation based on the city in which he lives, ahem.) And I just didn’t have that many friends here. Working from home, still getting my center city bearings after a July move, I hadn’t made much progress in the developing a social network department. When it came to rooting for the Phillies and trying to formally adopt our new residence as my home, I was, ironically, kind of on my own.
The night the Phillies clinched the National League championship, I was desperate to join the crowds of fans flooding the streets below our fourth-floor apartment. I begged Dave – head in a book, setting his alarm for an early-morning wake-up – to join me. I texted the few college acquaintances I knew were still in town. And when no one responded and Dave gave a final, resounding ‘no’ and got into bed, I stood by the window and listened to the whoops and screams coming from Broad Street and felt as though I would never find my place in this city.
This year, I had my heart set on a full turnaround, a comeback bigger than the Yankees over the Rangers in Game 1 of the ALCS. It would be the perfect end to this past year – of my slow but steady efforts to build a group of friends and a life here for myself – if I could finally get my post-season sports bar dream to come true. I sent out a few messages, asked around, and tried to make plans for a solid Saturday night watching Philadelphia’s favorite team take on the Giants.
But it’s Saturday and the sun has gone down and I’m still in my apartment. Dave is in California and people are busy and I’m once again sitting here alone, with the game on in the background and the curtains open to the street below.
It’s a little sad, I’ll admit it. But while the result is ostensibly the same, the reality is somehow not as tragic as it seemed 12 months ago.
After all, I spent this morning wandering along the Schuylkill river banks, snapping shots of the Waterworks and Boathouse Row. Yesterday, I covered nearly seven miles in search of Ethiopian food (there’s a bad joke in there somewhere) in West Philadelphia, with an old friend. And tonight’s decision to watch the game from the comfort of my apartment has as much to do with a desire for an early bedtime as anything else, as I’m signed up for a photography class in the arty Kensington neighborhood tomorrow that requires yours truly to have an early-morning wake-up time for once.
It’s not exactly the way I pictured it or exactly the way I’d like my weekends to look. But it’s getting there. And when I look back on this past year, from one October to the next, I feel like I’ve made some really important strides.
Let’s just hope the same goes for those Phils.