Many young Philadelphia fans have suffered through the heartaches of getting to the championship, only to lose. Many have still never seen one.
I have tried to picture what the first one would be like hundreds of times. I pictured Lindros raising the cup in 1997 after finally getting the Flyers to the Finals. After beating the Lakers in game one of the 2001 NBA Finals, I pictured AI somehow winning three more games, putting his ear to the crowd when he won the Finals MVP. In 2002, I pictured the Eagles sending the Vet off the proper way, with a NFC championship, followed by a Super Bowl.
Then, there is the Phillies. My memory of getting close with the Phillies was attending game one of the NLCS at the age of nine. It was my first Philadelphia playoff game. After that, all I can remember was crying after Joe Carter hit the infamous series clinching home run.
Now I am 24 and facing the reality that my first championship might come in a three-and-a-half inning continuation game. It's not how any of us pictured it. For people my age, we were coming off of quite possibly the best sports weekend of our lives. The Flyers and Eagles won, the Phillies went from tied 1-1 to being a game away from a championship, and even Penn State won their biggest game of the season (we could be getting two championships soon.)
Monday, we should have won it. The whole city was feeling it. Cole Hamels should have went at least seven innings, left the mound to a thunderous ovation, and Brad Lidge should have finished them off. I should be in the city still celebrating post-parade while I am writing this.
But that would not be the Philly way. You can either stay down and consider this situation as a damper on our championship, or you can be pumped up by the fact that we need one run and nine outs. Our bullpen is considerably better, we have a pinch hitter followed by the top of the lineup, and we have the opportunity to strike first, putting all of the pressure on them.
A lot of unfair advantages went to the Rays: their pitchers get an extra inning in improved weather, Hamels' outing was shortened, Upton probably would not have gotten on base and scored the tying run, and the list goes on and on.
I was very bitter about this Monday night and looking back years from now, I might feel the same way. But, right now is the time to embrace the opportunity that lies ahead. When the game first starts, it will certainly feel awkward and weird. We have never experienced this during a game in July, let alone a potential championship clinching game.
But, now it is time to take the situation for what it is. When you tell your kids and grand kids about the first Philly championship you ever saw (knock on wood), you'll tell them about the torture you went through. We have been tortured and toyed with our whole lives by the teams we love. We were tortured and toyed with on Monday night, but maybe in a weird way, it will be that much sweeter if we take it tonight. To a certain extent this is the Philly way.