Rays Are Great Story, But the Phillies Deserve the Title

Joe PawlikowskiContributor IOctober 22, 2008

I acknowledge that the Rays are in the middle of an unprecedented title run. They knocked off the defending champs in Game Seven after the Red Sox had won their previous nine elimination playoff games. They won 97 games after being the worst team in their division since the franchise started 11 years ago.

This all happened with the second-lowest payroll in the league. Defeating the Red Sox, who have no limits in their spending, is supposed to be impossible. Conventional wisdom says to root for the underdog, whether it be Rudy, Hickory High, or the American college kids against Russia.

I acknowledge all of this and respect the Rays for what they have accomplished this year.

But I don’t respect their fans at all, and therefore, it is very easy for me to hate them. They represent everything we hate as diehard Philly sports fans. They lack passion, energy, commitment, hunger, and plenty of other qualities that makeup a real sports fan. This is my first post on this Web site, and like a true Philadelphian, I will use it as an opportunity to present my case, for I freakin’ hate the city of Tampa Bay.

Take a look at some of the stats. The Rays averaged 22,259 fans per game, fifth lowest in the league this season. The Rays have boasted about their home record and the fact that they are 24-3 in front of crowds of more than 30,000 people. Do you know how many times the Phillies played in front of crowds of less than 40,000 people in the second half of the season? Five. And only one of those games did they draw less than 38,000 people.

You would have to think that once Tampa fans realized their team was for real, they started to show up, right? After all, the Rays were 56-39 at the All Star break and were finally earning the respect that one of the elite teams in the league deserves. Not unless your name is Dick Vitale, whom I am still convinced is the only Rays season-ticket holder.

They had 10 home games after the All Star break in which they had less than 20,000 fans in attendance. They had a three-game home series against the Angels and drew less than 20,000 fans to all three games. At the time, the Rays and Angels had the two best record in the A.L. These fair-weather fans aren’t exactly proving their case of deserving a championship parade, are they?

The fact is, the gutless, artificial fans of Tampa did this before with the Lightning. They defeated the Flyers in the conference finals in 2003 and had difficulty selling out all of their playoff games. The crowd consisted of people banging thunder sticks together instead of yelling on their own, who knew absolutely nothing about hockey.

In fact, in between whistles, they were teaching the crowd the rules of the game. They went on to win the Stanley Cup and had a parade that had a reported attendance of 20,000, which is the approximate attendance of every single Flyers home game. The Flyers' first Stanley Cup parade reported a crowd of over two million. I saw photos of the Lightning parade. The crowd in the procession was about two rows deeps. If the Phillies win the series, you will be lucky to get within a half mile of Broad Street.

Now they have the Rays, who play in a dome with catwalks that directly affect plays in the game. You have the Rays' fans, who couldn’t name a single player on the team a month ago, ringing cowbells with no knowledge of the game whatsoever. Try making noise by yelling until you lose your voice; that’s what a real fan does.

You are there because the Rays are the flavor of the week—the hot ticket. It is the hip thing to do in your city that doesn’t have much going for it. You can lose this series and will be over it the next day. If the Phillies lose, we will mourn until Spring Training.

Philly deserves this championship because, although the Rays are the better story, sports are still about the fans. Philly fans get a nationwide bad rap for being intimidating, inappropriate, and idiotic. And at times we match that description perfectly.

But we live for our sports teams; they are part of our lives, no matter how we are currently feeling about them. We’ll give them hell when they deserve it, but what we always do is show up. We follow them year round, and we invest in them financially and emotionally.

I hate the city of Tampa for what their fans represent. I hate the Bucs for ending the Vet on the lowest of notes. I hate the Lightning for beating the Flyers in a city where hockey shouldn’t even be played. And I hate the Rays for being the last obstacle in our quest to end the championship drought when their franchise isn’t even as old as our last World Series appearance.

You appear to be lovable on the surface, but I hope we crush you more than anything in the world right now.