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10/24/10 – “…and in The End”, NLCS Game Six


In late June and early July, I realized that there would be a strong possibility that the Phillies may not make an appearance in their third straight World Series. As disappointing as this prospect was, I was totally fine with it. I had already experienced a lifetime’s worth of sports-related happiness in the previous three seasons with the Phillies. Not many teams in the history of professional baseball had accomplished what the Phils had done in this time frame. I was not going to complain about one off year. I’ve already been through a plethora of  “off” years. It happens to the best of every team.

The last three weeks of the regular season in September however, completely wiped clean all the shortcomings the team had gone through, from numerous injuries to a season-long offensive funk. In that short amount of time, the team went on a fantastic hot streak. Coupled with various degrees of cold snaps by every other playoff-contending team, most importantly by their division rival, the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies not only won the NL East, but ended with the best record in all the Major Leagues, something they have never done in their franchise history. To be honest, I still could not believe everything that was going on. As pleased as I was, I was not completely convinced that this team was that good. Even before the first pitch of the playoffs, the Phillies ended on top of every pundit’s “power rankings”. Every blogger/writer, TV expert, etc., practically handed the World Championship trophy to Philadelphia.

As Harrison Ford once said, “Never tell me the odds”.

Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the first game of the NLDS against the Reds completely reversed my thinking. This team WAS the real deal. Selfishly, I thought that they were now going to win it all to bring everything that I went through in the past year full circle. The end of the ’09 season ended on the lowest of lows. The ’10 will end on the highest of highs. And while the offense performed as it had for the entire season, the pitching prevailed and easily handed Cincinnati a quick baseball death.

Unfortunately, Doc could not repeat. He lost the first game of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. I immediately retreated to the bedroom. The world no longer made sense to me. There was no conceivable way that loss had just occurred. My fairy tale ending had just had an unwanted and unpleasant plot twist thrown into the story. If the Phillies did not come away from this postseason with anything less than a ring, I honestly did not know what I would do.

Life however, is not a fairy tale. Neither are sports. For every dramatic walk-off World Series-winning home run, there is a fan base who, for the unforeseeable future, will be in utter disbelief, slowly shaking their heads, possibly wiping away tears of agony. In 2001, the Yankees were destined to win the World Series. In the shadow of 9/11, baseball’s most storied franchise had overcome a national tragedy (and late inning deficits) to dramatically bring the Fall Classic to a Game Seven. The ending was written.

That ending did not happen.

The Rock of Gibraltar that is Mariano Rivera did the unthinkable. He blew a save and the Yankees lost. That to me, is what makes baseball the most humbling and beautiful of sports. A team can only win 60% of it’s games and still be the best in the Majors. A player is considered a very good hitter if he succeeds only 30% of the time. Disappointment and failure are a daily occurrence in baseball. Anything can happen, good or bad, at any time during a baseball game. This is why sports, especially baseball, resonates with millions of individuals. These are just games. It’s pure entertainment. But unlike an album, movie, book or TV show where we can lose ourselves in what’s being presented to us, sports add another element: pride. Your team works towards a goal that will bring the ultimate joy to a town and a legion of fans. Yet we all know there needs to be sacrifice. There will be amazing highs and devastating lows. It’s inevitable. The reward for loyalty? Something you cannot put a price on. 

When Ryan Howard got caught looking on a 3-2 cutter from Giants reliever Brian Wilson to end Game Six of the NLCS, and the Phillies 2010 season, all I could do was give a tiny shake of the head and flash a little grimace. The atmosphere of 45,000 screaming fans and a sea of white rally towels did not make this fairy tale end the way it should have for me or the rest of the Phaithful. But unlike Halladay’s loss in Game One, I immediately took this result in stride. Like you would in any negative situation in life, you brush yourself off and tell yourself, in a matter of words, “there is always next season”.

Thank you Phillies for a very memorable 2010 season. Much love…

 

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