The Phillies fan is a complex, passionate, irritated, irritating, filthy drunken animal; and, like an owl with a top hat, emits the image of wisdom and poise, but is far, far more likely to cough up a rat’s head and flutter contemptuously into the night.
And, except for the “wisdom and poise” part, which I just had to say to make the whole owl thing work, everyone knows it. No other fanbase has a rampant infamy like Philadelphia sports fans, even when they deserve it, like in Chicago or Boston. New York fans don’t count. They’re like counting “tap water” as an answer if someone asks you “Do you have anything to drink?”
But it isn’t all mindless atrocities, like the ones we’ve seen this year in Citizens Bank Park (with half the season still left to play). It is matching every shred of disgusting, toxic behavior with unabashed loyalty and hope.
Consider a scenario in which a Sunday afternoon game has become a massacre; the Phils are being destroyed by some out-of-towners. All day long they haven’t looked cohesive; balls have been dropped, strikes have been called, the bullpen’s being depleted like Jayson Werth’s stash after the World Series. Its the bottom of the ninth, and the jumbotron and the Phanatic are trying their best to keep the fans in it, but there’s already two outs, and god damn, it is like 120 degrees out here in the sun.
Maybe somebody like Shane Victorino is at the plate, and in an oasis of offense, lines a single up the middle. The dudes wearing inside out baseball hats all look at each other with “I TOLD YOU DO” exploding in their eyes. This isn’t a lost cause anymore. Its a rally.
All that pitcher wanted was to record the last out and trot into the locker room so he could get his habitual slap on the butt, answer some beat reporter’s questions, and head back to the team’s accommodations. That hotel mattress was so close he could taste it. But now, Shane squeaked out a hit, punching through the hole in the infield that has, for the last eight and a half innings, been clogged by stellar defense. Sure, there’s two outs, but baseball’s greatest attribute is that it’s clockless. Dad explains to the kids that the game isn’t over; in fact, it just got a whole lot more not over.
That voice in your head begging you to leave now and beat the traffic has its throat slit by the notion that maybe… maybe… we are about to see the greatest, most ridiculous comeback in the history of Philadelphia baseball. Maybe it’ll all go right and we’ll all wind up on Baseball Tonight. Maybe Ryan tattoos a hanging curve into the next solar system. Maybe Chase sends a line drive through the third baseman’s cheeky leather. Maybe we will get to see the Phanatic do a funny dance. These aren’t things a person can miss and not wake up the next day with serious questions about their priorities. We are about to see history, people. We are about to see insanity.
“Down to our last out that night,” we’ll tell our future grandchildren. “The Phils were dead in the water, and just when things seemed to be at their most bleak–”
Ryan Howard strikes out to end the game. A confused moan trickles into the air as we all shuffle dejectedly into K lot.
Nobody said it would be easy. But at least we’re not covered in puke.