Last night, The Philadelphia Phillies received their 2008 World Series Champion rings – only the second time in franchise history that such an event has ever happened.
My dad, Hank Fried, was a die-hard Phillies fan. He was at the Vet in 1980 (with my mom and grandparents) when Tug McGraw struck out the Kansas City Royals and sealed the Phils first World Series title. After 60 years of waiting, The Phillies were finally World Champions. For my dad, 30 years of agony finally paid off. When the Phils did it again last October (this time in the hands of Brad Lidge and his perfect season), I was in New York City, at the apartment of a girl I was dating. I was from South Jersey, she was from Montgomery County – it was a very momentous for both of us. 28 years later, The City of Brotherly Love was about to enjoy another championship.
It’s very hard for me to take New York sports fans seriously. Actually, to be more specific, it’s hard for me to take New York Yankees fans seriously. Here they sit – whining and moaning about a stupid NINE season drought. The New York Yankees were founded in 1903 and are the owners of 26 World Championships – which roughly calculates to ONE championship every FOUR years over a ONE HUNDRED AND SIX year franchise history. The Phillies have been around since 1883 – that’s ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SIX years – and just now got their second trophy. My advice to Yankees fans: SUCK IT UP. Not every baseball franchise can have their destiny written in the stars. You guys are extremely lucky; 106 years and you’ve never had to wait.
When I first moved to New York City, I became a Mets fan; I didn’t know about the Mets-Phils rivalry. Let’s be honest: nobody did until Jimmy Rollins opened his big mouth back in 2007. I stuck by The Mets for two seasons because I wanted to have a New York team to root for; even though it betrayed my dad’s memory. Some people experiment with bisexuality to piss off their parents; I experimented with baseball teams. I went to the Mets because they weren’t glorified champions like the Yankees. The Mets were scrappy, raw, and they were lovable losers. Until last season, there wasn’t much of a difference between either franchise. Then, of course, The Miracle happened. Somewhere in Heaven, my dad was laughing. Not completely at my expense, but I know he whispered in my ear, after Lidge’s final pitch, “Hey Matthew, how ’bout them Mets?”
On Halloween day, I traveled to Philly to see the championship parade. When any Philadelphia team wins big, your ass better be there – it could be another 30-60 years before the next one. For the first time in my life, the city was jubilant. People cheered their sports heroes. The Phillie Phanatic could have been the mayor. Forget about the market crashing only a few weeks ago, the possible threat of a McCain/Palin America – The Phillies won, man! It was time to celebrate. Hank would’ve loved every single second of the party.
After the parade, I was supposed to meet my mom and Aunt Bea for lunch. Mom chose to ignore my claim to The Mets. I think she knew how much it would’ve hurt my dad. When I was born, he stocked my room with plush Phanatics. During their ’93 World Series run, my grandfather (a die-hard Eagles fan) begrudgingly took me to Phils games. He was still waiting for The Birds to win The Super Bowl, so he was indifferent to baseball. My mom, however, also sought to get me out to the Vet as much as possible. She knew that once, The Phillies meant something to me as they did to my father.
The parade crowd was massive. Center City was overflowing with at least four million people – three times the city’s population. This caused the citywide wireless network to crash, leaving me with no cell phone signal for two hours. I missed lunch with my mom and Bea. When I finally did get a signal, my train to New York was leaving in an hour.
“You can’t leave!” my mom shrieked over the phone “I have to give you something.”
We met up at the corner of 18th and Market. From her purse, my mom pulled a medium sized t-shirt – “The Philadelphia Phillies, 2008 World Champions”.
“Here, put it on.” she said. There was a tone in her voice and a look in her eyes. As if to say, “All sins are forgiven.”
I slipped the shirt on, put my Phils cap back on my head, and that was the end of the story – I was back. Matt Fried was a Phillies fan. My mom smiled at me.
A few minutes later, I was quickly scarfing down a bacon cheddar burger at the Marathon Grill. My mom sat with me and asked about the girl I was seeing. Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins was down at Citizens Bank Park, bragging about how The Mets could buy all the Johan Santanas in the world and they still wouldn’t win. I’m not going to lie: I thought it was a douche move on J-Roll’s part. You never read about David slaying Goliath and then calling himself God (that is, unless you read the Woody Allen adaptation). But then again, J-Roll wasn’t The Phillies. The Phillies were The Phillies. And The Phillies were champions.
As I sat on the Acela ride home, I looked back down at my t-shirt. I thought about what it represented, about what I represented by wearing it, about what my dad would’ve said about all of this. In that moment, I looked back out at the Philadelphia skyline. The Frieds have been in Philadelphia almost as long as The Phillies. My father had been gone for 21 years. Like my grandfather, The Frieds leaned towards the Eagles first, the Phils second. Hank Fried was the only exception. With him, it always was and always will be The Phillies. After Hank, who else in the family would continue a tradition of anarchy? This story ended the way it was meant to: Matt Fried saw The Phillies win a World Series. Hank Fried saw The Phillies win a World Series. Matt and Hank are Philadelphia Phillies fan. In Heaven, Hank Fried is smiling.