I woke up on Wednesday morning to family, friends and colleagues from around the country asking me how I felt about the Phillies’ devastating loss to the Diamondbacks Tuesday night. I feel crushed. And, really sad.
When they lost last year, up in the World Series by a game, I was disappointed. But, this feels different — much more devastating. Last year we were playing with house money, overperforming against better teams. This year we were the better team. We had the series firmly in our grasp. And, up until this week, had been playing some of the tightest baseball I’ve ever seen. The number of times Philadelphia is supposed to win it all … is expecting to win it all … and can truly lay claim to being the best team left, are few and far between. This was one of them. And it stings.
Baseball is a funny thing. It is the ultimate reminder that we need to experience joy along the journey, not just in the result.
Do sports matter against the backdrop of a world on fire? Of course not. But maybe that the world is on fire is why I cared so much about this particular team. This season started with my 13-year-old and I on a trip to Spring Training at a moment when we are walking the knife’s edge that fathers and sons walk in building a relationship as he goes from being my little boy to a man. He may be spending more time with friends, flexing his independence, and applying to high schools … but we could still bond over these Phillies.
This team started its postseason run as things in the Middle East were exploding, causing me to really reflect on my identity as a Jew for the first time in decades. And then, in the middle of the NLDS, I received terrible news that a friend and important mentor unexpectedly took her own life.
So many fans I talk to had some similar experience — something that caused them to find in this team joy and solace in a chaotic and sometimes cruel world. In some weird way it was like, if these guys can pull together and win baseball games in a city that’s lost more times than any other on the planet, what’s to stop the rest of us from pulling together and solving more important problems?
I realize how dumb that sounds. But I think it’s honestly where my head has been and why I feel so crushed right now.
Making it harder is how likable this team is. Deep down, we believe that Wheeler, Schwarber and especially Harper wanted it as badly as we did. There was a moment when Brandon Marsh, whose raucous celebrating and unkempt hair have made him such a favorite of fans and fellow players alike, returned to the dugout after making a late out and just stared at the equipment cubbies, as if unable to process that this season was coming to an end. My heart bleeds for those guys as much as for myself.
Baseball is a funny thing. It is the ultimate reminder that we need to experience joy along the journey, not just in the result. I think I forgot that during this run. Eating a hot dog while watching a game on a hot July night, or listening to Franzke and L.A. call a come-from-behind walk-off on a random Tuesday, or impersonating Harper while in a pickup softball game are all really important when it comes to filling our souls — maybe as important as winning a championship. And like life, baseball keeps rolling on, win or lose.
Mike Wang shares a South Philadelphia row home with his wife and three opinionated kids, all of whom are devout Phillies fans.
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