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Pass the Kool-Aid, cuz. The Phillies are champs!
Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Sun, 09/30/2007 - 7:35pm.
Just about every day for the past two weeks, my cousin Jay and I have sent e-mails and text messages about the performance of our beloved Philadelphia Phillies. This run of correspondence began as the Phillies were in the middle of a three-game sweep of the then-first place New York Mets at Shea Stadium. The Phillies began that series seven games behind the Mets in the NL East, and I told Jay and his brothers: "Don’t any of you starting thinking about the division!"
You see, as a typical, jaded, frustrated and oft-disappointed Phillies fan, I saw too many losing seasons in my childhood give way to an adulthood of late-season collapses and failures, including the last two seasons, in which the Phillies missed a play-off berth during the final weekend of the season. The team's only World Championship came in Oct. 1980. When Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals to end game six and the series, I was more than two months from my second birthday and likely fast asleep in my family's home 30 miles away. In the last few weeks, I've told Jay that because of all of that, I refused to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid of Phillies optimism until the Fightin's actually clinched a play-off spot.
Jay, on the other hand, had been drinking the Kool-Aid all season long. So much so that I'm pretty sure if he shaved off his facial hair, he'd have a bright red stain of a moustache on his face. All season long he's been playing the role of Little Susie Sunshine when it comes to the Phillies. On a gorgeous Opening Day in Philadelphia, we sat amongst dozens of relatives, significant others and friends in the right field bleachers of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, where Jay told me the Phillies would make it to the World Series, if only because the birth of his first child was due around the same time of the year, meaning he would likely have to miss a championship-clinching game. The Phillies went on to blow that game in 10 innings and start the season 4-11.
So when Jay began his sunny predictions anew a few weeks back, just a couple weeks after the Phillies completed a four-game sweep of the Mets in Philadelphia followed by a diastrous road trip that included a couple of blown five-run leads, it was understandable that I again tried to rain on his parade. After all, it had been a summer full of blown leads and early-inning deficits dug too deep.
But as the Phillies began to surge and the Mets began to collapse down the stretch, Jay's enthusiasm only gained strength. Again and again I told him I would not drink the Kool-Aid though he kept pushing the cup toward my face. When the Phillies fell a couple games behind the Mets early last week, Jay, somewhat conceding the division and focusing on the still-in-reach Wild Card, sent messages about me coming up to Philadelphia for a playoff game. I actually answered back before catching myself, sure that we had just cast the final jinx. Then the impropable happened: The Phillies kept winning, and the Mets kept losing. By Friday morning, the two teams were tied a top the NL East. At 6:31 a.m., as I sat on the set during Good Morning Carolina, my cell phone starting vibrating in my pocket. It was a text from Jay: "Kool aid?"
Still, I held out. Friday night a Phillies win coupled with another Mets loss meant sole possession of first place for the first time all season. Saturday, Jay sent me text updates on a Phillies loss as I attended a wedding in Salisbury. A Mets win earlier in the day meant another tie with the division title coming down to Sunday afternoon, when my fiancee and I would be driving four hours home to Wilmington. Again, Jay provided the scoring updates, starting with a seven-run first inning by the Florida Marlins at Shea to bury the Mets early and a one-run first for the Phillies. With each run scored came another text. As the Phillies drew closer to their first playoff appearance since their heart-breaking World Series loss to the Blue Jays in 1993, he began updating the number of outs to go. Just moments after the Mets lost again, Jay called. "0-2, two outs," he said. "Now it's 1-2. I think every rally flag east of the Mississippi is waving." As I drove east along US 74/76, I held my breath. "He froze him!" Jay yelled of pitcher Brett Myers's curve ball for a called third-strike. "It's over! The Phillies are National League East Champions!"
It had happened. Unbelievable as it was, it had happened. I am truly satisfied with a postseason berth after all these close calls. That's why I will be OK if the Phillies lose in the first round. (We'll work on winning playoff series next year if need be) But I'll join Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the man who should be NL MVP, who said in Spring Training that the Phillies were the team to beat. He was right. Jay was right. True to my word, I am drinking the Kool-Aid. The Phillies have finally made me believe. I have Phaith they can win it all.
By: Kevin Wuzzardo