As relief pitcher Brad Lidge fell to his knees in awe-inspiring celebration, the city of Philadelphia fell out of a 25-year title slump and into utter joyous hysteria.
Days of bliss and rejoicing have followed, packed with parties, parades, days off from work and perhaps even a playful hint of (legal) substance abuse. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Philadelphia fans can live vicariously through their champion players in the way that normally satisfied New York fans like me have grown comfortably accustomed to.
Phillies supporters can now finally say “We are World Champions” – even though they ended their baseball careers in Little League when they got hit by a pitch, developed a brain-splitting fear of the ball and walked away from the game they loved at the ripe age of 7 and three-quarters.
Upon visiting Philadelphia during the final weekend of their World Series run, I found the city anxiously waiting to erupt into a whirlwind of red (not blood) and white (not paramedic uniforms).
As I entered Philly via Route 676 and sat in a hopeless mess of traffic only the City of Brotherly Love could provide, I set my eyes on the focal point of the city skyline. A well-lit building, easily 25 stories tall, had offices illuminated in such a way that it created the Phillies’ “P” on the broad side of the building.
As I ventured farther into the city, flags, homemade banners and the occasional sign in the window only emphasized the idea that Philadelphia was in desperate need of a championship – and no one could really blame them. They had not housed a national champion in one of the four major sports since the 76ers finished first in 1983, the longest drought of any of the top 10 most-populated cities in the United States.
A quarter-century gap of losing as the Phillies became the most unsuccessful franchise in American sports (most losses by one team in history), only added to the celebratory relief felt by every Phillies fan. With the final breaking pitch thrown to Rays’ pinch hitter Eric Hinske, elated mobs of fans formed outside the stadium and around Philadelphia as the city rejoiced.
Finally, millions of fans no longer need to place all of their hopes on the arm of Donovan McNabb and the legs of Brian Westbrook. Instead, they can rely on the bats of hometown heroes Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to bring them happiness and contentment.
Finally, Philadelphians have more to boast about than some meat on a bun and a big bell with a crack in it.