Losing a pivotal playoff is like a breakup. All the glitz and glory, the months of hard work that went into getting there, the hope for a happy future — gone in an instant. Like any breakup, you go through stages. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression: a one, two, three, four punch. And maybe, if you’re like me, you spend the whole night dreaming that maybe things actually went differently. Harper scored a grand slam at the bottom of the 9th and we all stormed Broad Street belting Dancing on My Own.
Naturally, I woke up deflated Wednesday morning.
Stage 1: Denial
Wait, maybe we didn’t actually lose. Maybe I’ve been sleeping this whole time and I’ll wake up tomorrow with one more opportunity to make it to the World Series. It’s not that the Phillies played two bad games in a row. They must have all had the flu. Or aliens took their athletic skills. We’ve seen it before in Space Jam.
Stage 2: Anger
How do you expect to win when your only move is to score home runs? What is up with these pitchers? I’m gonna go to Twitter to give Rob Thomson a piece of my mind! I’ll even call into WIP. Joe DeCamara and I will rage-commiserate.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Hear me out. If we all sign a petition, we can get a rematch. It’s never been done before — but then again, the Phillies never had to go to game seven before either. There’s gotta be something we can do. Someone get me Rob Manfred on the phone.
Stage 4: Depression
Okay, we lost. We definitely lost and it was bad. There’s nothing we can do but wait till next year. Cue ugly crying.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Maybe it’s okay that we lost. We played two ugly games. It was tough to watch. We didn’t earn a spot in the World Series but maybe we got something else out of it? If nothing else, this Red October was a reminder of something special.
Growing up, sports felt like a club I wasn’t allowed in. Because well, I suck at them. Throw a ball in my direction and I run the other way. It’s the family biz, and I was a bratty teenager who wanted to distance myself from it. Yes, I was an “ew sportsball” girlie and I’m not proud of it, but secretly, I was on the outside looking in, wanting to be a part of it but not knowing how.
Then I moved to Philly. I found friends who became family through watching games together. I felt the energy and kindness of strangers on game day. I felt the camaraderie of “Go Birds”-ing your neighbor. I felt ready at any moment to donate my fit-as-a-fiddle limbs to an injured player. Most of all, I felt like a true Philadelphian — an angry, combative tough cookie primed to fight a Cowboys fan, but a spirited champion of our city, our teams and the causes they fight for.
See, in Philadelphia, there is no outside looking in. You wanna join the club? Grab a cheesesteak and pull up a chair. Jeet? We’ve got tomato pie in the kitchen and Yards in the fridge. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the rules. You can learn as you go, as long as you root for the home team.
We’ll lament together when we lose, cheer together when we win.
It’s a contagious kind of love that sometimes stings but the pull is nonetheless strong. This October, we got together to watch games. We donned our reddest regalia and had the joy of experiencing one of our core humanistic needs: to be a part of a tribe.
So, while this loss is devastating, I’m focusing today on the gift Philly sports has given us: the ability to feel rage, passion and unadulterated excitement about our athletes who share that same grit and membership in a club where nobody likes us and we don’t care, because we really like each other. To spend time with our loved ones and get excited about something in an otherwise grim time.
Consider this loss accepted, but I hope you enjoyed this Red October ride and fell in deeper love with the city as much as I did. Most importantly, I hope you don’t throw in the rally towel. There’s a lot of love to be shared here in this city. Our sports teams are one of the few places where we can find it — and, if the playoffs reminded us of anything, it’s that Philly is still, by far, the best sports city in the country
If this October was a relationship that was cut too short, it was worth every moment of it. And I have a feeling we’ll get back together next year.
Luckily, I found a rebound to hold me over. Hey there, Eagles: You’re looking good.
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Photo by A. Zwarych for Visit Philadelphia.