It took me five days to write this post, so I want to take you back to Friday night.
I feel like I ought to explain how I came to be sitting alone in my bedroom, tears welling up in my eyes, listening to “Nearer My God to Thee” over and over on Spotify. If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely done whatever approximates, for you, sitting in your pajamas, mourning the passing of the most remarkable regular season Philadelphia has seen in a generation, all while listening to the song the band played while the Titanic went down.
If anyone has a better idea, I’m open to suggestions. The pain has hardly dulled in the interim.
What hurts is not so much that it’s over–that was likely to happen at some point, no matter the means. It’s not the possibility of not seeing Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, or Raul Ibanez put on red pinstripes ever again. Neither is it watching your franchise first baseman and cleanup hitter end this season with a weak groundout, then possibly end next season (for him at least) with a torn Achilles tendon, all on the same play. Or the pain of seeing your team lose, though as a 24-year-old, I really shouldn’t be moved to tears by a baseball tea m losing. But I am. I’m not counting down the days to next season. I’m not getting more amped up for Flyers hockey, or the Eagles, or Arsenal, or South Carolina, or any of the other teams I follow rabidly–that is to say, with about 2/3 the tenacity and emotion with which I follow the Phillies–or even looking forward to the rest of the MLB postseason.
Friday’s loss was a gut shot for two reasons: first, because this season represented a bread-and-circuses-type distraction that we all need from time to time. When your world is not a pleasant place to live in, sometimes you latch on to whatever is going right and give it undue importance–in this case, the Phillies. Now it’s over, three weeks early and without even a moment’s notice. Second, because as much as I’ve tried to be hyper-rational and prepare for the worst, it never actually occurred to me that the Phillies wouldn’t win the World Series. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t watch another minute of baseball for the rest of the postseason. I’ve already foregone both league championship series so far, and honestly, even though football and soccer have proven to be less diverting post-baseball endeavors than usual (such is life for Arsenal fans these days), I feel no urge to come back.
It’s almost as if, by refusing to watch, I can make believe this season isn’t over. Either that or I won’t have to think about Ibanez’s fly ball almost going out, about Chase Utley trying to do to much on the basepaths in Games 4 and 5, about Cliff Lee getting dinked and dunked to death in a Game 2 start where every ball that hit a Cardinal bat seemed to fall in for a hit. I did this once before, boycotting Super Bowl XXXVIII because the non-calls on Ricky Manning and Will Witherspoon, of Duce Staley being overthrown on that sideline route, and every other scream-inducing, shield-your-eyes moment of that disastrous 2004 NFC Championship game would flash through my mind every time I saw Jake Delhomme or Steve Smith on the television screen. I don’t care how these playoffs shake out anymore, as long as the Cardinals lose. And I’m content to read about it the next morning in the paper.
It was a defeat so improbable, so bizarre even for a Phillies fan that it literally tests the bounds of believability. This is a feeling unlike anything I’ve experienced as a Phillies fan–not the solemn pride at having watched a team perform at its best and be bested by a stronger opponent, as in 2009, nor the wry laughter of watching a Rube Goldberg machine of random chance and poetic overachievement, as in 2010. This time, no explanation was satisfactory.
This will be perhaps the most interesting offseason in recent memory for a Phillies front office that has made the interesting offseason its calling card, and I have strong opinions about Jimmy Rollins, the bullpen, first base, and various other questions that Ruben Amaro must solve between now and next April. Expressing those is the next logical step, and while many of us have already moved on, you’ll have to forgive me–I need a little more time to grieve.