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The Greatest Story Ever Told

For Postgame analysis of NLCS Game 4, go here.

Calling Game 4 of this NLCS an emotional roller coaster would do it a disservice. It got me out of my seat multiple times for a called strike one. I first-guessed, then second-guessed, then third-guessed any number of decisions by Charlie Manuel. I screamed in agony, I screamed in fear, and I moaned with the resignation of defeat, multiple times–not just in the context of this game, but in the context of this season at large. I invested more of my soul into this game than any other single event that I can remember.

I know in my mind that it’s certainly possible–though not likely–that the Phillies can rip off three wins in a row to take back this NLCS. It might happen–certainly, history indicates that 3-to-1 comebacks are in the realm of possibility. But I find myself with a peculiar mix of feelings, having just digested, quite possibly, the most heart-wrenching loss I’ve suffered as a Phillies fan. Whatever Roy Halladay and (if necessary) Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels do for the next three games, I’ll look back on this season fondly. I think we can all agree that, with 97 wins and (at least) a trip to the NLCS, we’ve had more highs than lows in 2010. But when I stare elimination in the face, it doesn’t bother me that my team won’t win another World Series. Ok, it does, let’s not kid ourselves, but that’s not the part of tonight’s game that will keep me up. It’s that the phenomenal ride that we’ve all gone on together this year could be taken away at any moment.

When I was a senior in college, I watched all four seasons of Battlestar Galactica in 20 days. When it was over, I cried. I was inconsolable in the theater when I went to see Toy Story 3–I’ve never sobbed so much in my life. In both cases, it wasn’t so much because what I was watching, in and of itself, was sad. It was because these characters, whom I had gotten to know so well, were going away. I had immersed myself in the narrative of both series, and once they were over, I felt a profound sense of emptiness. So, too, with these 2010 Phillies.

I take a lot of flack around here for boiling the game down to numbers, and for that I won’t apologize, because I think that throwing around WAR, WPA, OPS+, and the like, are the best way to analyze what each player gives this team. I write about these things because I’m here as an analyst, and it’s my job to give you, the readers, facts and arguments, whether you agree with them or not. But too often I’ve stifled my voice as a fan, which, for better or worse, I am. I live and die with the Phillies, just like you all do.

So when Juan Uribe hit his sacrifice fly to end Game 4, I couldn’t make sense of it from an analytical point of view. All I could think about was how this narrative of the 2010 Phillies, in which I’ve invested hundreds of hours of work, which has brought me unspeakable joy, immeasurable sorrow, white-knuckle moments and days of bliss, could come to an abrupt end in a city known for being the home of Full House and Rice-a-Roni. Between Doc’s two no-hitters, Chooch’s tremendous season, The Ballad of Wilson Valdez, the redemption of Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge, and God only knows how many other subplots, 2010 has been the most drama-filled of any Phillies season I can remember. And, like a favored TV show or movie franchise, I’ve invested too much in its characters and its nuances to let it end without shedding a few tears.

So if, in the unfortunate event that this wonderful, mysterious, mind-bending ride comes to a halt in the NLCS, look out for a man, sitting alone, weeping openly at the end of the bar. If there’s any kindness in your heart, you’ll walk over, put a comforting hand on his shoulder, and tell him that, even though the story’s over, one day everything will be all right.

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