On this 14th day of February, many Philadelphians are waking up and expecting personalized stationary to remind them they are loved. But why open the door on Valentine’s morn hoping for a stuffed bear holding an endangered flower (but finding nothing) when you can join the jubilant throngs of undiscriminating Phillies fans who are celebrating this day as the first of Spring Training?
Because you aren’t a Phillies fan. That’s cool; but I mean, you live in this city. When people, players, and newspapers across the country tell us we’re classless and drunk, they’re not disseminating between you and the rest of us. They’re insulting you, too; and you’re not even drunk all the time. We’re all in this together, and “this” starts today.
I picked a Phillies moment from the past few years–Jimmy Rollins’ walkoff two-run double in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS–to indicate just what you’re signing on for.
There’s also some X-Men at the end for some reason.
In which the ignorance of the following seconds is the only thing keeping asses in the seats. People leave a baseball game early because they think they know what is going to happen. Fans stay at the game because they know that anything can.
Those people standing behind Jimmy Rollins right now, about to see Jonathon Broxton throw one of the most regrettable pitches of his career, aren’t people at all. That’s what they’re still doing there: Standing. Staring. Praying to the ghosts of Harry and Whitey and Tugger that they will be able to captivate a room full of party guests with the story of the time they stayed and saw Game 4 through to the bitter, beautiful end.
In which all of the flakes of hope you scraped together are balled into one glorious nanosecond of promise. The tickle in your guts becomes an undeniable outburst as you can’t help but let yourself believe. A legion of filled seats are about to discover whether they go home with the post game show on in the car, or their fists clenched around the steering wheel in horrid silence. Like watching a coin spin at the edge of a table, necks crane and hearts pump as a gunshot of adrenaline brews in 44,000 chests; begging for that chance to go off.
That ball’s floating on borrowed time. Jimmy got the bat on it, and for the next few blistering ticks, it belongs to no one but the merciless gods of the game.
For the love of god.
Just let that ball hit the ground.
In which Jimmy knows it.
In which the blurred, disgruntled Dodgers in the background know it.
In which glory thunders from the third base line to the puke-stained corners of the 400 level.
People hate us. But people hate us because they’re just people, and we’re fans. I’m sure there will be mentions of last year’s ridiculousness this year. I’m sure some future incident or 10 will have the nation’s sportswriters bringing up the Santa thing again, which at this point has become so cliche, you honestly feel sorry for any journalist weak enough to lean on it.
But you’ll notice that it’s ninth inning, and we’re still here; just like we have been 123 times in a row. Most of us are on the level, but the level’s pretty high. We’re not the rest of the league’s boyfriend; we’re not going to change just because we’ve upset them. We are this way; this loud, fiery, obnoxious way, and at times, it completely warrants a reaction. Sometimes its a taser. Sometimes its a facepalm. Sometimes its a beatdown from a police captain.
I feel a great deal of pity for anyone who comes to Citizens Bank Park looking for trouble. Because we will always be here.