Thursday, March 30, 2006
By Tim McManus
1980 ruined everything.
Just imagine, for a moment, life without the Phillies' lone World Series title. Remove Michael Jack's swing; Steve Carlton's windup; and (here's the hardest part) Tug McGraw's leap into midair.
Extract that speck of euphoria and that one march down Broad Street. Cork the champagne and erase the city-wide celebration.
Why on Earth should you want to give back the lone championship in an otherwise tortured existence?
For the fact alone that the Phillies' existence has been otherwise tortured.
Consider: The Fightin's are the losingest franchise in all of sports history. Sitting at an astounding 9,879 defeats, your boys are just two seasons away from becoming the first organization to crack the five-figure loss mark.
Here's another fun one: The club has been around since 1883, and played the majority of its first 80 years in an eight-team league. Care to guess how many World Series appearances they've had? How about five.
Here's the point -- the Phillies stink. I mean they not only stink, they stink on a legendary level.
They are far worse than the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, who have both built their identity and grossed an endless amount of income based on their failures.
They were proclaimed cursed by fat men and equally unkempt farm animals because they hadn't won since 1918 and 1908, respectively. Dozens of books and countless movies/television segments/magazines/newspaper articles have thoroughly investigated this grand "mystery" surrounding the teams and fans' plight.
Well how cursed would you be if you hadn't won since 19-O-ever, despite being around since Chester Arthur was President? (Yes, there was a President named Chester Arthur. I didn't know either; I just Googled it).
In a city and media market this size, the story of Philadelphia's 123-year 0-fer would have become monstrous by now -- especially in the Internet age. Last season's one-game shortcoming would not have faded to the back page in a blink, but rather would have prompted ESPN to run a collage of all the near-misses in Philadelphia history. David Bell's error, the infield single and Billy Wagner's subsequent blown save against Houston would be analyzed over and over by media outlets across the country, many of whom would blame a metaphysical force.
And think of the weight that the 1993 World Series loss would hold now. Bottom of the ninth, Phillies holding the lead and about to head home for a title-clinching Game 7, Joe Carter steps in...
Would Dent, Buckner or Bartman be nearly as captivating?
Take away our one championship, and the lore would be all ours now. There would be stories of old men who dedicated their lives to Phillies baseball, but died before seeing a title. A tale of a Shaman who hexed the team because the original stadium was being built on sacred Indian land. There would be a coalition dedicated to elevating William Penn above all skyscrapers.
Players, like Curt Schilling said he did for Boston, would choose Philly with the mission of restoring hope to the city. And as one failure piled upon the next the anticipation would grow; the seats would fill up more and more to see if this is the year; and the nation's eye would focus in even closer.
In short, this would be one of the best baseball towns in America. Instead it is a mediocre baseball town who happens to host the worst team -- literally -- in the history of the world.
Truth is, with the World Series win, we're just not all that interesting. And that's worse than being bad.
-You can reach Tim McManus at TMcm1997@yahoo.com