It sucks right now being a Phillies fan. Let’s get the obvious out of the way.
It’s actually sucked since October 2011. I still remember standing in Ashburn Alley during Game 2 of the National League Division Series and getting fed up at the fans – yes, you fans – for being astonishingly quiet as Cliff Lee blew a 4-0 lead and the Phils blew the 1-0 series advantage against the Cardinals. We – and I was a part of this – expected wins. We were above screaming every pitch. We got soft.
That was the moment it started sucking. And from Game 2 of the 2011 NLDS onward, it only got worse. Now, nearly six years later, we’re stuck in the mud, pressing the gas pedal and hearing a tire spin against the muck. We can’t even push the damn vehicle out. Nick Williams? Not yet. Roman Quinn? Hurt again. Dylan Cozens? Try next year. J.P. Crawford? Please. Where is salvation? Where is hope?
My dad was born in 1952, but he doesn’t have well-traveled stories of the 1964 Phillies completely ruining his 12th year of life. He can’t completely remember the details of the 1980 Phillies – in short he was playing in a band, was the only guy in his circle interested in baseball, and caught the games in between shows and parties. Most everything in my dad’s head about the Phillies is foggy, but he knows that he loves the team, and he’ll watch when he can.
After I was born, my dad decided to turn most of his attention to me and my brothers. Very little live music. Very little leisure. But every chance we got, he was taking me to Veterans Stadium. I kept score while we watched some of the worst teams of my lifetime. It didn’t matter how bad the team was – seriously – because I was just elated to be at the park. And we had to be there for a fireworks night. And MAB Paints Photo Night. We probably still have the picture Roger McDowell took of me and my brothers.
I must’ve gone to a dozen Phils games every year for a dozen years. Summer weekend at home? We’re probably at the Vet on Saturday night, and that’s what happened on Aug. 15, 1990, the day Terry Mulholland spun a no-hitter against the Giants.
But that’s one of many. There’s the night we saw two grand slams in one game. The night my brother caught a ball thrown by Ray Lankford. The night Kevin Stocker signed my glove. The night I snared Mike Williams’ autograph after the game, because Dad often let us hang out at the player’s entrance up to 45 minutes after games. The night we berated Mark Kotsay because, hell, he was the outfielder playing near our section. The night Juan Samuel knocked a game-winner.
Dad was there for all of it.
The Phillies were bad for most of it. Maybe 89 percent of those games. But it didn’t matter, because I wanted to keep score and watch baseball and root for the Phillies, no matter the outcome. And Dad, as long as I was in a good mood, didn’t mind staying the whole time, even if the sun was scorching his fair skin, even if Mom didn’t like us being out for too long. It just didn’t matter.
It sucks right now. Also, it’s sucked for a long time. We had 2007-11, and man were those ridiculous, amazing years, but for the most part, we’ve sucked. I hope and pray for a team like those 2007 Phillies. I would love to see playoff baseball back in Philadelphia. But it doesn’t matter. No matter what, I’ll watch and roll my eyes, grumble and scream at the TV, even if the Phils are 40-89, because Dad took me to those games in 1988, and 1990, and 1995 and 1998.
The hope is in every game we watch with our loved ones. The hope is every pitch and hit from some youngster we didn’t see coming. It’ll happen again, and when it does, we’ll swear we were the ones who saw it first, and we’ll salivate over watching that player’s entire career unfold before our eyes. But until then, it sucks. And we wait.
I called my dad today. We wished each other a happy Father’s Day, then pretty quickly, we were talking about Markelle Fultz and the Sixers. Surely in a couple weeks it’ll be Nick Williams or Dylan Cozens, or Scott Kingery or whomever is finally up with the big club. It’ll happen because it always happens. Because he took me to the Vet 25 years ago. Because I’m taking my daughter to Citizens Bank Park this year. Because baseball runs through us. It never leaves us. We’re suckers for hope. We wouldn’t have it any other way.