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162 Games: Another Perspective on Opening Night

April 6th, 2009

Sarah S. Davis

Last Wednesday I said out loud, “the Philadelphia Phillies are the 2008 World Series champions.”

In any of the past, oh, twenty eight years, it would have seemed like the perfect April Fool’s Day joke. For my whole life, I, like many others, had grown up with the idea that “championship” and “Philadelphia” were two antithetical words. Where were we a year ago today? Certainly not expected to win the World Series. But we did. And on Sunday we began the six month long baseball season as the reigning champs.

There’s something to be said for why it is so satisfying that it was the Phillies who broke the curse. Much of the spirit they embody mirrors how we get by. The trite observations of the players that we read about in the papers the next day do hold some truth to them. “I’m just trying to take each game one day at a time,” and “It’s a long season. We’ll work harder and try again tomorrow,” we have all heard ad nauseam. But perhaps more than any other sport, baseball can teach us essential lessons about how to get through difficult times. Taking things day to day, and the long season that allows for so many opportunities for correcting errors, is crucial to success. If the Phils win, that leaves us feeling good for the next day. If not, if they lose, there’s always tomorrow night to try again. What a forgiving sport. It’s not the same with the Eagles, where come Wednesday, Sunday seems depressingly far away. When the Birds win on a Sunday, and god forbid they lose, where do we find the motivation and optimism necessary to propel us through the other six days?

The baseball season is, for better or worse, extremely long. I know that I might come down with a bad case of Phillies Phatigue as I did last year, when the monotony really started to get to me around the middle of July. But more than ever, the Team to Beat’s daily struggle to keep up the morale and excitement is relevant. We all know what’s going on out there. We watch it on the news, read it in the paper, or, far worse, experience it ourselves. It’s bleak. Yet we escape into the game for a few hours, and get lost in on our always impressive team. I think it’s safe to say that we can rely on baseball, and the Phillies in particular, to help us deal with the little disappointments that inevitably come along with our little triumphs. We learn to play the small ball of daily life.

Of course, last night was of considerable importance. But I think that we are taking the outcome way too seriously. Let's be honest, we have many, many other chances to win. You don’t win the season on Opening Night. You win it by coming out each night to play your hardest. We all help win it by tuning in each night and supporting the twenty five or so men who we put so much of our trust and hope into—as individuals and as members of the Philadelphia community, no matter if you are in the 215 area or half-way across the world. The Phillies won last year because they never gave up on themselves each day, and we never gave up on them either, despite what Jimmy Rollins thought at one point. Yes, the team didn't look good last night. But remember how we lost a game in the World Series, and that didn't end up mattering too much in the end? Countless games in last season the Phils rallied from behind to win, so just because Howard didn't pull through last night doesn't mean he won't sometime soon in a big way. Who can forget that amazing come from behind win against the Mets that lasted thirteen innings and included one of my favorite moments from all of last season: Brett Myers happily—and successfully—screwing with Scott Schoeneweis’ composure when called into action to pinch hit in the early morning hours.

Indeed, so much of last season was decided by the daily courage and dedication of each player. Who would have thought that Myers, one of the most opinionated players, would accept a demotion to Triple A, all for the sake of rediscovering how he could benefit the team as a whole? Much has been said of his at times uncontrollable emotions, but he is also a great pitcher, and if he gets a bit caught up in his failures, it's only because he knows that he can do better work to help the team. Another player who exemplified that same courage was Chase Utley, always a shining example of dedication, who played through excruciating pain to come to the plate each night and contribute outstanding defense in the field. The sage Jamie Moyer helped us win in game three of the World Series, despite being sick and, most likely, exhausted when the rain-delayed game finally started at ten o’clock. The Phillies are truly a team that plays and wins as a team.

I believe that it is that unique, inspiring spirit that will get us far again this year. All signs from spring training show that the Phillies’ pluck has not let up. With Myers and Howard showing up in great shape after losing many, many pounds we see commitment to the greater cause. With Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz dedicating themselves to recovering from their injuries we see commitment to the greater cause. Even with Chan Ho Park battling it out with J.A. Happ for the fifth spot in the rotation we see commitment to the greater cause.

Let’s start the season out right by showing the world that we are the same team who wants to win and plays to win every day. Let’s put Sunday’s disappointment behind us and focus on the next game instead of over analyzing what went wrong. We--the players and the fans both--are better than this, and we know it. After all, we are still the World Champions.


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