Sunday, November 02, 2008

phillies win the world series

“I’ve waited a lifetime for this,” proclaimed Ben, 17, when the Phillies won the World Series last week. Well, actually, he’s waited about three years—the Phillies last won the world series in 1980 and last came close in 1993, when Ben was a baby, but he has been a diehard fan for only the last couple of seasons. Still, it was a triumph for a lovely city which inexplicably sees itself as a loser, and all the more satisying for having an actual season ticket holder (the fifteen-game plan) in the family.

The Phillies’ victory was a triumph of perseverance and cool competence. Having come close to excellence the previous couple of seasons, the Phils finally added the last missing elements—solid relief pitching and production from the entire eight-man lineup—during the last season, and the results showed at the end. There was also a difference of attitude: if last season the Phillies seemed glad to make the playoffs and accept a graceful loss, this year that role was filled by the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Phillies never really seemed in doubt of succeeding. Game Four of the playoffs, won on a homer by Matt Stairs—who remembered that he was still alive?—after it seemed already lost, marked the point when the aura of destiny appeared to descend upon them.

Friday’s citywide celebration, for which we delayed yet another college shopping trip, was as happy a moment as I have ever seen in the city. Perched on a wall in City Hall park, we could pick out only the physically distinctive players—Ryan Howard (large), Cole Hamels (thin), and Charlie Manuel (the manager who never seems to have his shirt tucked in)—as they passed by in the parade. More impressive was the crowd itself, a mass of well-behaved humanity which—if it was just a little bit whiter and suburban than the city as a whole—nonetheless seemed happy, tolerant, everything good about a city that never seems to give itself credit for anything. For better or worse, I was struck too by the city’s priorities. Barack Obama, who drew the largest political crowd here in ages, managed to fill one park area and a few surrounding streets. The Phillies overwhelmed the entire infrastructure on a few hours noticed, and nobody seemed to mind it, at all.


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