I’m rooting for the Phillies now, and I am a Red Sox fan.
Don’t call me bitter.
I really am rooting for the Phillies, not against the Rays. After what I just watched the Rays do, I can’t help but respect them. What I watched the Rays do, of course, was win against odds and expectations after coming seven outs from a series win, blowing a lead—the likes of which no team had ever blown—and falling back from 3-1 to a series tie, thus adding stomach ulcers to the Rayhawks and cowbells that mark their newly minted fanbase.
It was almost Sox-like, and it warmed my heart.
Nevertheless, for this World Series, I am rooting for the Phillies.
It isn’t because I have good friends who love the team, although I do, or because my sister-in-law is a Pennsylvania expat, which she is.
It isn’t because I’ve enjoyed my brief stays in Philadelphia, which I have.
It isn’t the convenience and comfort of wearing basically the same team colors during games, as nice as that is.
It isn't my objection to indoor baseball, which, in my mind, is not baseball. (If it doesn't have rain delays that go on for hours when the temperature is 33 degrees Fahrenheit, the fans all battling hypothermia to stay through the ninth, and a few games a year where half the fans pass out from heat stroke, I say it isn't baseball. That could just be me.)
Don't even get me started on the Trop's catwalks. But it isn't that.
And the Phillie Phanatic is an infinitely cooler mascot than that Raymond thing, with the bonus sinister edge of having been prime suspect in a bomb scare earlier this season—has Raymond ever gotten the St. Pete bomb squad to blow up his duct tape and foil-wrapped projectile hot dog? I think not.
But it isn’t that, either.
No, mostly I’m here for the nostalgia. It’s the losing, you see.
The Rays have a fantastic story, a worst-to-first Cinderella baseball fairytale, and that’s great. They’ve been amazing all season long, while the whole nation doubted (and I, like all Red Sox fans, got a front-row seat for the carnage). They’ve done it after years of showing just how losing is done, and they’d done some real quality losing.
Me? I want more than just quality.
I want quantity, too, and the Phillies have got it.
Call me greedy, but I salivate at the thought of 10,000 losses. The Phillies have achieved what my own Red Sox could not, even in their decades upon decades as hapless, hard-luck losers. Ten thousand losses! The losingest team in history! Not just baseball history. They’ve lost more games than any team in sports, and what’s not to love about that?
Rooting for the Phillies, waves of nostalgia overwhelm me, and my heart is won.
I grew up to that familiar refrain, “wait till next year!” and I believed it because believing it was what one did. But I also grew up knowing that, for generations, we’d all been waiting for next year, and it had not come. There was a subtext, unspoken: "We won’t win next year, either; but we might, you see. We know we won’t, but we might, and that’s the point."
For the Phils, there has been a taste of “next year” exactly once. The rest has been 10,000 losses. The sheer heft of the accumulated letdown is astounding and familiar, and it’s something I can get behind. Because, hey, this really could be the Phillies’ year, in spite of the angst, the generations of angst, and I know how to do that!
Or, then again, it might not be the Phillies’ year—dratted Rays—and I know about that one, too.
Either way, Philadelphia, I'm rooting for you.
Like I said, the Phanatic is cooler.