Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Hey America.....Why Not Us?
I almost forgot how much fun it is to get to a championship round of one of the four major sports. Since the Phillies got into the World Series last week, it's amazing how much it's done for the morale of people who live in and around Philadelphia. Everyone is wearing red to work, people are a little nicer, the sun is shining just a little brighter.
The one interesting thing I've found so far? A vast majority of people outside of Philadelphia are rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays. Hell, a vast majority of the major media outlets (*cough*ESPN*cough) have (anecdotally) spent more time highlighting the Rays than they are the Phillies. This is remarkable, if only because the Phillies have the last 2 NL MVPs on their team and a third guy, Chase Utley, who is easily the best 2nd baseman in all of baseball. You would think this would make the Phillies the more prominently featured of the two teams, but this has not been the case.
Now, some of these people rooting against the Phillies are rooting against the Phils strictly for one reason: scheudenfreude. And believe me, I get that one. I spent the better parts of 10 years at a certain Wall Street firm and most of my co-workers were either Yankee fans and Mets fans. I would rather gargle a bottle of Pine Sol than to go through the 2000 Subway series again. That World Series featured two of the most annoying fanbases in all of sports bickering over who had the better team, the better stadium, everything. This was akin to watching the Two Corey's discuss who had the better movie career.
But some of you good people of America are rooting for the Rays strictly out of the good, altruistic reasons. If you fall into this category, you probably are rooting for the Rays because they have been perennial losers, they have interesting players, etc. I want to try to sell you on the idea that if you are rooting for Tampa based on these factors, that NO team deserves your rooting interest more than the Philadelphia Phillies.
1.) The Perennial Loser Factor. Are you aware that the Philadelphia Phillies franchise has more losses than any team in the history of professional sports in North America with over 10,000 losses? That's a mind boggling number of losses. When the Phillies registered their 10,000th loss, I compiled a lineup of Phillies who represented losing baseball to me since about 1977. Fact is, I probably could have compiled several lineups worth of really bad Phillies players going back to 1883.
You like the Rays because they have been perennial losers? Hell, from the perspective of a Phillies fan, the Rays are spoiled, having been to 1 World Series in their 10 year history. The Phillies have been around since 1883, and have been to only 6 of these things; that's one World Series every 21 years!
2.) Compelling Players. The youth and skill of BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, and Scott Kazmir have really drawn people to this team. Even guys who haven't even pitched 10 regular season innings like David Price are getting a ton of press leading up to the World Series.
Not to brag, but the Phillies have quite a few pretty good players on their team. As mentioned previously, the Phillies have the last two NL MVPs on their team in 1B Ryan Howard and SS Jimmy Rollins. If you never saw great left-handed sluggers like Willie Stargell or Willie McCovey hit, Ryan Howard is a worthy successor to that lineage. Jimmy Rollins has a style all of his own and a knack for coming through when the Phils need him most (see the leadoff homers he had in both clinching playoff games the Phillies have had this year as reference). Both Rollins and Howard are just short of 30 years old.
The Phillies also have a 3rd guy just short of 30 that could win the MVP any year now in 2B Chase Utley. People in Philadelphia already love Utley, but you may not know much about him. Check out this article as a primer on a guy many consider to be one of the best all-around players in the game.
And don't forget about the energy of CF Shane Victorino, the quiet confidence of young SP Cole Hamels, and skill and sagacity of 45 year old starting pitcher SP Jamie Moyer.
3.) Committed Fanbase. You don't need me to get into the attendance figures from Tampa's history from when they were bad. I'll simply use this year as an example.
The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays drew only 1.78 million people this year; well below the AL average of 2.46 million. Also to be considered in Tampa's attendance are the number of northern transplants from places like New York and Boston who go to the ballpark to see the Yankees and the Red Sox more than the Rays. And this was in a year when the Rays were good.
The Phillies fans, on the other hand, have been coming out in droves this year. The Phils drew 3.4 million fans this year; well above the NL average of 2.75 million people.
The point? If people in Tampa have barely cared about this team this year, why should you?
4.) Entertainment Factor Upon Victory. The city of Tampa had the Buccaneers, which won the Super Bowl in 2002. They have the Lightning, which won the Stanley Cup in 2004. Both of these championships were won by going through a Philadelphia sports team.
Tampa does not need another championship. Philadelphia NEEDS a championship much like a junkie needs their next fix. This much is well documented.
If the Phillies win this World Series, there is no telling what will happen in the city if they win. I'm not saying rioting or looting, but I'm sure they'll be enough jackassery that will occur and get posted on YouTube such that bloggers will be kept busy making fun of Philly fans for the next month.
And if the Phils win, and we get made fun of? Well, that'd be just fine.