I have to think as far back as my first year of sleep away camp to rival how homesick I was in October of 2008. Back then I was 5, right now I am 25, and I'm merely 2 hours away from Philly. How could this be?, you might ask. Being a Phillies phan in New York City isn't the worst situation in the world (after all, they come up to Shea quite often), however during the September division run, then October's playoff madness, and ending with a final week of complete mayhem, the whole time being in a city that pretty much could care less about any of this, I've had quite a whirlwind of emotions.
I went to 8 games in 2008: One at Citizens Bank Park against the Blue Jays (the annual Brock family Mother's day-ish ball game, where there were 2 rain delays and we lost), one at Dodger's Stadium (the one that the announcers kept talking about whenever the Phils were beating the Dodgers in the NLCS games because the Phils had blown a 6-1 lead after the second inning in that regular season game), and oh yeah, 6 games as Shea, the first 5 of which the Mets won. It took me 8 games this season to finally witness a victory in person. The Mets fans were saying that in '08 there would have been a 10 or so game swing in the standings between us and them if baseball games were 6 innings long (which they aren't). That whole time I was saying there would have been a 12 game swing if the Phils won all the games at which I was present (1+1+5x2).
In my workplace, I am the only Phillies fan (or at least the only vocal one) among the many dozen people that I interact with on a regular basis (coworkers, consultants, clients, subs...). Any reciprocated excitement the morning after a nice win would only be found merely out of respect and very rarely out of a mutual deep excitement, like one I would find anywhere in or near Philadelphia. But New York City is near Philly, I don't get it. How can there be no other passionate Phillies fans in NYC except for a friend from Lehigh and his roomie, a couple church friends, a few scattered others and anybody I would find at a designated Philly related viewing (like at Town Tavern). Hi-fives and hugs are usually replaced with IMs and text messages. It makes it tough because I have to mock the Mets fans all by myself and they far outnumber me. Sometime I would get scattered Yankees fan support when we played the Mets, but other than than, it was pretty lonely.
Because of this, October was both amazing and depressing, and overwhelming to say the least. It turned out to be the greatest October of my life thus far, but getting there took a roller coaster ride for blood pressure and fingernails. The Division Series vs the Brewers and the NLCS vs the Dodgers kept tempting me to go home and watch at least ONE game at home with the comforting fellow cheers and hugs of my family, but it never happened because of obligations. I even tried to take a sick day one Monday to accomplish this, but it was not allowed due to work responsibilities. I didn't have the means or opportunity to actually go to any of these games, so they were all watched alone or with some NYC buddies. Night classes made certain games tough as well. But by the time the Phillies were actually in the World Series (IN THE WORLD SERIES?!?), I was in both a cloud of euphoria and delirium. The anxiety was intense, quite a mixture of emotions.
On Monday night, of game 5 of the World Series (Phils were up 3-1), a few of us went to Town Tavern to attempt to will into submission a historical and epic victory that none of us really knew what felt like. 1980 was before my existence, and the existences of most the other people in the bar as well, and all we knew right now is that we wanted to see our first World Series championship of our lives. (Was it the right decision to skip two classes to see this? I refuse to grace that question with a response.) Monday night's game was suspended by rain in the middle of the 6th with a 2-2 tie. Wednesday night's crowd which came to watch the continuation of the game looked eerily identical to Monday's. Every single person in the bar was a phan except the bouncer (wtf?!?) and some random guy who almost got rolled on. But why woudn't it be, we all knew we were going back. Just because a game is resumed after a 2 day break by a 3 1/2 inning chunk, doesn't mean it doesn't deserve just as much passion and excitement. Initially, the vibe wasn't good after the delay started and continued for what felt like eternity. But the second that game resumed, as we were all standing there like sardines locked onto the screens. We sensed the proximity of something that could be truly amazing.
It started off with a bang as Jenkins hit his pinch hit leadoff double and Werth knocked him in for a 3-2 lead. The crows was ecstatic until Rocco Baldelli tied it with a solo shot in the top of the seventh. But then after a Pat Burrell double and a Pedro Feliz RBI, the energy was again through the roof. 6 more outs. 3 more outs. Then Brad Lidge did again what he did all year: violate batters with the dirtiest slider ever. The final at-bat to Erik Hinske was definitely in slow motion. After a swinging strike three, the eruption was immediate and intense. We could not believe what we were seeing, and nobody could contain the screams of joy. There was hugging of strangers, crying, spas attacks and just pure and perfect elation. I will forget every other single occurrence in my life before I forget that one.
The celebration parade was set to be on Friday. I really wanted to go, but seeing as how my coworkers had to deal with losing my focus all month due to the Phillies, I felt that the tolerance for such distractions was expired. The parade was something I definitely wanted to go to, but there were too many things going on in NYC, including the big Halloween parade followed by a party I was to co-host. Just to give perspective, Halloween is something I have taken extremely seriously, spending much time on the thought, creation and wearing of my costume. And I couldn't miss a party I had invited a whole bunch of people to. On top of that, I had substantial work responsibilities. However I asked the question anyway, but was rejected as expected. That was until Mike (my boss's boss and the nicest and most enthusiastic man alive) asked me if I was going down to Philly for the parade. I told him that obviously I would have loved to, but it just wasn't feasible. At that point Mike responded with what sounded half disappointment in my lack of effort to go and half reassurance that I was in fact going to the parade because it was, in his words, "a once in a lifetime opportunity." Rather than correcting him in that I am anticipating this opportunity at least several more times within the next 10 years, I quickly pleaded for his help in speaking with my direct superiors as to ensure my ass was covered for Friday. He of course did, and after finishing my work for the day, I headed home in what seamed to be a baseball hajj. I arrived in Philly close to midnight, shortly after Beav's arrival from Pittsburgh. For the next hour, sitting in the living room was Beav, Kate, Kate, JB, Mom and I (too late for Dad). The comforting atmosphere of being in Philadelphia, being in my home, being with my family, and talking about the glorious victory of the Phillies, was incredibly warming to my soul.
The parade was fun, as was running through South Philly to the stadium (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiDs6JYs6uQ). I ended up scoring a ticket from my close friend/season ticket holder and getting into Citizens Bank Park to see the entire ceremony, Sitting there in that beautiful ball park, seeing all that red, warm sun on the side of my face, hearing the sounds of fans chatting away before the ceremony was to begin, taking it all in, I was just 100% satisfied with life. The ceremony was fun and entertaining to say the least. It was the perfect conclusion to the season. I then headed back to NYC to go to the halloween party. Halloween is fun too...