Phightin's Fans Can't Be Beat

The year was 1930. It was Game Six of the World Series. George Earnshaw threw a five-hitter and the Philadelphia Athletics won their fifth championship, becoming the first team in series history to win back-to-back championships. The success of the A's make them the most successful franchise in Philadelphia sports history. Interestingly enough - and perhaps, not surprisingly - the Phillies finished eighth that year; call it foreshadowing. Even so, the fans haven't abandoned their team.

In all the years that followed there was season after season of disappointment, misery and broken dreams. See 1964, 1993, and of course, most recently, 2004. When Connie Mack's "White Elephants" were moved to Kansas City in 1954 the Phillies would be the city's only baseball team. And they have never lived up to Mack's superbly fine-tuned A's teams that included future Hall of Famers like Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Ty Cobb. Phillies fans certainly have a lot of great memories and experienced moments that we savor and celebrate. But the fact stands that Philadelphia sports fans, specifically Phillies fans, have seen more years of misery than joy.

We've held on through thick and thicker - I don't believe there has ever been thin - and we've held on longer than any other fans. The line is well known; The Phillies are the oldest and least successful sports franchise in history. And the fans are still here. That's what is so stunning about pitcher Brett Myers uninformed opinion on the fans in this city. His comment that the fans here "turn their backs" on the team is a bold statement and completely false. I have no problem with a player voicing his displeasure, or using other forms of communication, when fans are booing or giving a player a hard time. But to take one hand and erase the fans devotion to the Phillies is grounds for a verbal war. Them's fightin' words, Brett.

I don't know which I hate worse: The Phillies not making the playoffs or the passion of the Phillies fan being questioned or skewered in any way. If our devotion wasn't solid, then how do you explain after one hundred and fourteen years, and counting, why we are still here? Meyers is way off base. While he has a right to his opinion, it seems he doesn't have a grasp of this city's rich history of losing and its very rich history of screaming, bleeding heart, worn and torn fans. It is certainly not fair for players to carry the burden of the past, but the issue here is fan dedication and Phillies fans have plenty of that. One World Championship win, five pennants, and nine, count ‘em, nine playoff appearances.

As spring training arrives, I would like to remind Brett Myers of one more thing. Our frustration is not personal or just with him. It is frustration with the way this team, this franchise, has been and is currently being run. Phillies fans are restless and feel cheated. We have put the bodies in the seats and given a lot of money to various owners. In 2004 the glorious new ballpark they had built had enough revenue-making attractions within the park, that you could have easily forgotten there was a game. Having a new ballpark should not have deceived us though. There was no indication in Phillies franchise history that a new park meant there would be a competitive team on the field. The distractions were there for us and the "product", as Phillies President David Montgomery likes to call the team, was presented as the group that would make the playoffs and win a championship after twenty four years. Dethroning the Braves was the goal and Larry Bowa was clear: "I want the division," he would say. The "build it and they will come" theory would prove true and the owners would reap the financial benefits of record breaking attendance. The fans? They would be left with nothing. No contention and no playoffs. There was no ceremonious-like moment of glory watching the Braves come down from their perch.

And let me ask you this. Where do you think the fans will be this coming season? Do you think the past season will change their devotion and desire? When Brett Myers takes the hill I want him to take a look around and realize that even after last season and the shock and disappointment of it, that we are still there and still hopeful. Oh, and by the way Brett, eleven wins is good. But another thing about Philadelphia fans is that we're knowledgeable and we know you can do better. Everyone knows you can do better. Myers attitude and comments remind me of when Roger Angell once wrote, "The players are as young as ever, and we, perhaps not as old."

The first article I wrote for the site was also about Phillies fans, and I thought it would be interesting to revisit it now that a new season is about to begin. I think that Brett Myers might be out of touch with the fans in this city, but I also understand he's taking a lot of criticism for a season he felt good about. But to say the fans have turned their backs on the team is out of line. Call us "rough and tough", but remember to also call us "loyal." Jim Thome recently commented that the passion of the sports fans in Philadelphia is "awesome." I'd like to thank him for noticing.

I know the fans and I know that they will never give up. Turning our backs is not our style, and after 114 years I think we've proven it.

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