Right now is that time that I usually start paying attention to baseball again. I mean, REALLY paying attention, not just glancing at box scores and standings. Why not, since nothing else is on. And lookie here! The Phils are dominating of late and are the favorite to get Roy Halladay and create an Arziona-circa-2001 tandem that should blow away people.
The Dodgers, whom I get to see more of than I want to, are admittedly rolling, but they don't seem built for the postseason. The Red Sox and Yankees... blah, blah, blah, infloated payroll, old guys, whatever. The Mets are a walking Stooges skit (Three, not Iggy And The). Both central divisions have yet to inspire anyone. Yes, things are looking good for the Phils, for now and for the future.
Dare I say the recent trend of success in Philly is just getting started? Could it be that the Philadelphia baseball team, which was clearly dead last on the pecking order when I moved there in summer of 2000, is now a constant contender and the class of the city? Even the Eagles can't match their success and are losing people tired of manic-depressive seasons. My lord... cats and dogs are living together. I still remember those late 90's summers where the only bright spot was Mike Piazza lifting the team - not the Phils, but the NL all-stars, and we took that only because he was local. (Was that realy the last time the NL won? Yikes.) I remember the public attack on J.D. Drew (take that as a warning, Stephen Strasburg!) and it really summing up everyone's feelings. Now they have a loaded lineup and almost enough pitching to be relaxed.
All I can say from experience is, don't be relaxed. We can always lose. We can always, always lose. Watch out for Florida. They could sneak up.... maybe....
... AHHHH! Come on! Really, is there any reason to be scared anymore? I used to hope that Atlanta would fall off the face of the Earth and the Phils could sneak into the playoffs with barely 80 wins. The Braves did, but the Phils have done more than that. They're a near lock right now. God help us all.
So I'll be watching the second half with an unbridled sense of optimism that I haven't had since, well, ever. I'm guessing now that I wrote this, Hamels will be thrown off a horse onto Howard's left leg and Rollins will crack a rib laughing and then Utley will trip over him.... but I don't really expect it anymore.... and that scares me a little.
Yeah, I know, I didn't write anything this season and neither did anyone else.
I was going to write in June how awesome it was that Tampa Bay was finally doing something, but it was early and I didn't want to jinx them.
I was going to write in September how awesome it was that Tampa Bay was still doing good and the Yankees and Braves were going to miss the playoffs, but I wanted to be sure.
I was going to write in early October how awesome it was that the Phillies upended the Mets late - again - but then I worried about them running into the Dodgers.
I was going to write in late October how awesome it was that the Phils had finally made it back to the series, but the thought of another showdown with the mysterious area of Tampa scared me for its relevance this decade.
But now it's all over, and I can relax.
I had been pushing for years for a playoff with no Braves. Done. And, though I never expected it, no Yankees. Done. For both! And it would be nice if some new or long-suffering teams made it in. Done for Milwaukee and Tampa, who needed an injection of excitement (but not a title; they'll have to earn that one). And maybe if one or both LA teams could get their bandwagon fans to jump on and then fail, it would be sweet. Both done.
The Mets failed, the Angels failed, and the Dodgers failed as I had a great vantage point. The Cubs had a great year, though without any playoff wins, I don't know how much it matters. But at least that organization has a string of success going for the fist time.
And the Phils brought home their second title, and the first in my real life time (come on, I was 14 months old when the Sixers won, that shouldn't count). So when I look back on this, I will remember it as the greatest season ever for me, even if I didn't realize it during most of the year.
It was reported today that a recent study showed Americans had lost all rooting interest for New England teams and New Englanders themselves, unless they happened to be one. The study comes in the wake of the Red Sox clinching the world series on the same day that the Patriots improved to 8-0 with a 52-7 drubbing of the Washington Redskins. It appears Boston, once the darling of the underdog lovers across the world, is no longer fun to root for.
"I think it comes from the earlier part of the decade, when the Sox and Pats were always destined to fuck up," says Boston street psychologist Sean O' Flannery. "Remember the 2001 Pats? No one thought they'd beat the Rams. They always pissed themselves in the big game. But they won, behind a true underdog in Tom Brady, and it was a great story. And then, my Gawd, the curse. The Sox! Down 3-0! Everyone hates the Yankees! But they pulled it off, and then everyone couldn't help themselves."
The study confirmed that people across the country, exculding New England, began to get tired of seeing the Red Sox and Patriots on TV constantly. The national sports media, once fixated on New York, has made Boston its go-to source of overused footage. The go-fuck-yourself attitudes of Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Sox ace Curt Schilling did not help matters. Former out-of-nowhere, great underdog story Tom Brady now goes through supermodels like a pack of Newports and appears on magazines from GQ to Cat Fancy. The Sox payroll is topped only by the Paris Hilton-esque spending Yankees. The lovable underdog image is clearly gone, according to the report. Both teams were favored to win titles this year, and the Sox have done so.
"You want suffering, we've got it," said longtime Cleveland resident Arnie Biffer. "People thought it was cute that the Sox came back to win the ALCS. CUTE??? We haven't won the series since WW2. We haven't even BEEN to a Super Bowl yet. But there they are, getting all the attention. They think they're cute.