October 27, 2008

All I Want

Back when the Philadelphia Eagles were a perennial NFC powerhouse, I remember telling anyone who'd listen that I'd prefer a Philadelphia Phillies World Series over an Eagles Super Bowl. Most people disagreed, but I cited the intensity and importance of every pitch, the epic-ness of a possible seven-game series and the camaraderie built up between a team and its fan base over a 162-game season.

Well, we're here, and it's just as good as I thought it would be.

With Cole Hamels taking the mound for a possible Series-clincher in less than five hours, a lot of thoughts are running through my head. Mostly, though, I'm just happy for Philadelphia. I haven't been home for a second of the run, unfortunately, but everything I hear indicates that the hunt for Red October has enveloped every inch of the city. The City of Brotherly Love is a cauldron of sports nuts who've been steaming for a championship for more than two decades, and this team, this collection of cast-offs and superstars, plug-ins and ace pitchers, has endeared themselves to the town better than anyone would have thought.

Maybe because they're not perfect, either. Hell, about two months ago, they looked like they'd barely make the playoffs. However, I think that's the beauty behind it all. This team didn't look good on paper, and they didn't execute the way championship teams were supposed to execute, and they were streaky as all hell. But they had solid pitching and a marvelous bullpen, and they never gave up, and they were as tenacious a team as you'll find. They were an amazing combination of steadiness and erraticness, frustration and passion, and they found themselves in the perfect situation to make a serious run. And they took it, which, for all their flaws, is the one trait Philadelphia has longed for in their teams. The ability to be in the right place at the right time, to snatch the glory when someone else leaves it hanging. We've had talented teams since 1983, but no one with the ability to do that. Maybe this is the one.

There's no guarantees tonight; if the Rays have any semblance of pride, they won't go down without a fight. But the hope is that Cole Hamels doesn't give them an option, that he shows everyone why he's arguably the most important, if not the best, pitcher in baseball. Or at least the big-gamer we all hoped he'd become. He's 24 years old, he's in his first World Series, and he didn't grow up with the weight of a city on his back. While we were pining, he was out surfing. He's got ice water in his veins, and if the past is prologue like people say, tonight he's going to remind us all why we watch sports. Go Phillies.

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