I received an ecard from my friend Chris a couple of days ago that read, “This is going to be one of the most exciting World Series ever until my bedtime in the seventh inning.”
That pretty much sums it up for me.
I had to deliberate a little about who I was going to back this year—for better or worse, I always have to give myself at least a fake rooting interest. It keeps me engaged. It was a tough call because, ultimately, I kept coming back to this nagging feeling. The feeling that, at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter.
There are always compelling reasons to cheer for any team. In the case of the Devs, there’s obviously—forgive me; I’m going to say it again—that whole Cinderella thing. If they manage to win it, it will be the first time in the history of any professional sport that a team has gone from being last in their division to world champions in consecutive years. And, it’s true, it’s a heartwarming tale. But it becomes a little harder to compare the Devils to Cinderella when the villain in the story is a team that has a much longer and more pathetic history of loserness than they do. A team like the Phils.
But, still, there are other reasons to like the Devs. They have young, dynamic players. (And Cliff Floyd. How the hell did he worm his way onto that club?) They’re fun to watch. They work well as a team.
But, then, while Tampa Bay is a team that I would like to see succeed, their fan base, well, I’d be just as happy to see most of them packed up and shipped off to an island. And not like a really nice island as a reward for being awesome. The hair-dying, the mowhawks, the cowbells, the overly-loud Napoleonic need to assert their greatness, the bandwagon factor. Despite the amazing name, I would never wish a stadium like the Trop on any franchise. But if ever there was a fan base that kind of deserved it. I mean, seriously. Despite all the aforementioned obnoxious ways that this fan-i-ness is manifesting itself now, take a look at what the Trop looked like at a regular season game a couple years ago. It makes it hard to give that much of a crapelbon about whether those Devs fans get their happy ending.
This is not to say that anyone could ever accuse Phils fans of being classier than the Tampanians. No, in fact, despite the fact that you have to travel some distance to get from Pennsylvania to Canada, Phils fans seem hell-bent on putting the hockey into baseball. Sure, at every ballpark, fans get drunk, things get loco, people get punched. In Philly, it just seems to happens more. A lot more. Not to mention the fact that Phils fans are notorious for cheering when a player for an opposing team gets injured on the field. That’s not just classless—though it’s definitely that—but it actually shows a profound disrespect for the game in which they are theoretically so invested.
That said, while you could never accuse the Phillies fans of being classy, you could also never accuse them of not caring. Of being fair-weather. Of not having suffered enough. They have been waiting for twenty-eight years to win another championship. The Devs haven’t even been existence half that long. If this is going to mean something to anyone, it’s going to be to the Phils fans. I mean, no offense, but even if you are one of the rare Devs fans who has actually cared about the team since it first got there, it hasn’t really been long enough to count. And, by the way, if you are a Devs fan, unless you’re a kid, or were one when the Devs came into existence, what’s wrong with you?
Leaving aside the question of the fans, the Phils raise in me some other doubts. One, there’s the fact that Jon Stewart wants them to lose. Presumably because he’s a diehard Mets fan. It’s true that I will likely never meet Jon Stewart and that it will probably never come up, but if it should, I would like to be able to say, “Yeah, I was totally hoping that the Phils would get the Brotherly Love kicked out of them in ’08 also. Want to go to karaoke?” There’s also the fact that Barry Zito picked the Phils to win, and, as a rule, I like to go in the opposite of direction of Zito when all matters concerning anything are concerned. Why? It’s personal. He owes me money.
But, finally—and I’m pretty sure most of you know what’s coming—I’m afraid I’m going to have to point out the rather large, green, overstuffed, demented-looking mascot in the living room. That’s right. The Phanatic. With a ph.
As in, phorreal?
Despite the fact that my distance friend and mentor (it’s like distance learning—you do it online without ever meeting) Tim McCarver dubbed the Phanatic baseball’s best mascot, I’m afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Like we did that time he said, “Mt. Everest erupts again.” (I still assert that it never erupted a first time.)
There is, of course, the fact that the Phanatic breaks all the fundamental rules of mascotism, starting with the rule that dictates that there shouldn’t be mascots down to the one that mascots, though they shouldn’t exist, should at the very least be real animals and not amorphous green balls of creepiness. But let’s just pretend, for the sake of finding other reasons to criticize the Phanatic, that those rules don’t exist. (And also that it’s OK to spell Phanatic with a Ph.) There is also the fact that the Phanatic, much like many who comprise the fan base that he’s meant to galvanize, is a no-goodnick. He taunts the other team, gets into fisticuffs with Tommy Lasorda, and has been the target of more lawsuits than any other mascot in baseball—once for bear hugging a fan so hard that the guy sustained back injuries. Apparently that one cost the Phanatic a cool 2.5 million in the final assessment. I guess the old, “I’m a hugger, not a phighter" defense didn’t fly so well with the jury.
Not that Raymond of the Rays is much better. The only thing that really distinguishes him from the Phanatic is the fact that he’s blue. And doesn’t have a beef with Tommy Lasorda.
At the end of the day, it’s like I said, I don’t care that much. But if I had to pick, weighing in all these factors, I guess I go Devs. Because I like watching them play. I enjoy the unbridled enthusiasm they bring to the game. I love the Maddon. And there's just something about B.J. Upton. The Phils are probably the favorite if they can get that whole RISP thing working for them. They’ve certainly got the more solid pitching rotation. But in a short series--and especially in October--anything can happen. So until it’s all over, I guess I’ll be ringing that proverbial cowbell in my mind.
Until my bedtime in the seventh inning, anyway.