Seven Years Ago, Philadelphia Celebrated A World Champion

2008 was a blip on the radar, rather than a sign of things to come. 

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Given the current state of Philadelphia sports, we should be cherish the 2008 Phillies everyday.

The Eagles are a discombobulated mess. The Sixers are in year three of the longest rebuilding phase ever. The Flyers are also rebuilding, but not as drastically. And the Phillies have just started their rebuild a price to be paid after foolishly trying to keep the same championship core I’m about to praise together too long.

When I think about how fast my life is playing out, nothing is more astounding than to hear that the 2008 World Series was SEVEN years ago. It feels like it was yesterday, but when I try to remember that championship parade on Oct 31.2008 my memory is a bit fuzzy,

After watching Brad Lidge strike out Eric Hinske on his notorious slider, I went bananas in East Hall’s Big Onion before making the trek to downtown State College to join for a small but rowdy gathering of Phillies fans. I took the bus home from Penn State the Thursday before the parade, refusing to miss the first Philly sports championship celebration in my lifetime. We drove down in my mom’s old Chevy Venture minivan, the one with the Warner Brothers logo on the passenger side door. Yeah, we had a TV in our car at one point. Baller status?  I think so.

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Anyway, the traveling party consisted of myself, my brother, dad, uncle and two cousins. We didn’t really have a plan of where to head to along the parade route. But we did have free tickets to watch the Phillies parade around the Linc with the trophy before they capped the celebration in front of a jam-packed Citizens Bank Park, which we did not have tickets for unfortunately. So we made our way to the sports complex, where we waited. And waited. And waited some more before finally getting a glimpse of the heroes who ended the Championship drought.

The easy memories I’ll take away from that day, will be the sheer mass of people, beautiful weather and the horrible traffic getting out of there. The crowds were jovial, but a bit subdued. Perhaps still in disbelief. Truthfully, the parade and celebration were a bit underwhelming. It probably would’ve been cooler to be on Broad Street in Center City, the true heart of the city, and watch the parade go by. I didn’t get to see the players up close and I also missed the infamous Chase Utley F-Bomb. It wasn’t until I got home, as soon as we walked in the door, that my mom issued her disgust about it and how several of the players were dressed like bikers. “Settle down, Mom,” remains my reaction to this day.

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After the Phillies broke the drought, I thought the floodgates would open, Boston-sports style, in terms of championships. I was wrong. While the 2008 Eagles, 2009 Phillies and 2010 Flyers came damn close, it was the same old Philly sports letdown. The 2012 Sixers had a nice run, but never were real contenders. Pathetically, they are the last team to advance in a postseason. Thanks for the memories, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen?

As I type this, I just watched the current toast of the town, TEMPLE FOOTBALL, lose a heartbreaker to No.9 Notre Dame at a sold-out Linc. What world am I living on? Kudos to Temple for becoming a legit program, but when they are the most exciting sports team in a city with four professional sports, the outlook for even a hopeful shot at winning is beyond depressing.

I’ve tried to find parallels between other teams that have made playoff runs as that Phillies team, but they never played out like I hoped. I’ve watched far more talented Phillies teams come up short, rather than become a partial dynasty like the San Francisco Giants. I’ve even bordered on the edges of insanity and wondered if that 2008 World Series, and the taste of success it offered a famished fan base, was a bad thing because we expected more in the way of titles than were probable.

Over this last year the heroes of that team, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels joined the exodus of the long-since departed: Pat Burrell, Geoff Jenkins, Jayson Werth, Adam Eaton(lol) to name a few. Only Ryan Howard and Chooch remain. It’s kind of surreal to only see two of them left, but not as surreal as it was to watch the Phillies claim a title and end the championship drought.

Despite their brutal mismanagement in the last several years, the Phillies will likely earn a free pass (most of the time) from me since they actually delivered. The other three teams? No so much.  The feeling of being on top, the ones with the bragging rights ahead of every other fanbase in the league was a great feeling. I loved walking into Yankees Stadium in 2009 with my Phillies World Series edition hat on. A hat I still have and will save for ever. I’d like to experience those bragging rights and shut up the haters, however briefly, in the other sports as well.

Ultimately I should’ve known better than to expect more than one championship in a calendar year or hell, a half decade. Philly sports doesn’t work like that. I can’t explain why, but it’s not routinely successful sports town. We very well could be looking at another 20-plus years before a team celebrates a title.  Anguish and frustration make up the lifeblood of a Philly sports fan.

I don’t know when another title is coming to Philly; I sure hope I get to see another one. If I do, I’ll count my blessings, buy championship merchandise, then praise the team and boast excessively to anyone that gets in my way.

For now I’ll continue to sift through the losses, pondering which of the four franchises will be the next to build a championship winner.

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