A Special Destiny

Like an old squirrel in Rittenhouse Square used to say, it's nut cuttin' time for the Phils. The rest of 2005 is nothing less that an extended playoffs, a kind of baseball tournament. The Phillies have to win nearly every series they play and they absolutely cannot afford to get swept, especially against teams in the NL East. Two outta three, two outta three, two outta three. Not easy to do. It requires slump-proof pitching. Consistent offense. Sharp defense. And fans behind them all the way.

Too bad the Phillies haven't had all those cylinders clicking at once since 1993. Especially not the fans and the pitching. But hey, then again, this is Philadelphia.

At least Bobby Abreu made us all proud with his Home Run Derby heroics. Fellow All-Star Jimmy Rollins even called us out, saying now we have a champion in Philly. That counts, doesn't it?

Um, No.

Nothing against Bobby, who may never again be called "the most underrated player in baseball", but let's face it, the Home Run Derby isn't what we have in mind when we say we need a winner. We're thinking Super Bowl. Or World Series. Let us finally see Sixers' sensation Allen Iverson hoist the Finals trophy not-so-high above his head. Or let us spend time with Lord Stanley's Cup, sipping victory with the orange and black. The Home Run Derby means less to us than the Kentucky Derby, and a Smarty Jones Triple Crown wouldn't have stopped the pain any more than a Bobby Abreu Triple Crown.

We need a championship in the big four. Baseball. Football. Basketball. Hockey.

We need it like a desert needs water, like Romeo needs Juliet, like pain needs relief, like Terry Francona needs WIP. Wait, scratch that last one. More like Curt Schilling needs WIP.

Here's what I have to say to the Phillies, if somehow I had a moment before the game and everyone was paying rapt attention. Wait, scratch that one, too. That only happens in the movies. But here it is, my speech:

You Philadelphia Phillies are a lucky bunch. You are smack in the middle of the greatest opportunity in sports.

No team in any other city has what you have.

You have a special destiny.

But ya gotta believe that you are lucky to be wearing this uniform. And playing for this city. Ya gotta believe that from now until your dying day, you could reach heights that few people on planet Earth ever have. You gotta be thankful for the chance to be right here, right now, with the honor - that's right, honor - of wearing the name "Phillies" across your chest.

Why?

Because if you win, you would be more loved in Philadelphia than Pele in Brazil. More loved than Bobby Abreu in Venezuela. More than J-Roll in his own home run fantasies. More than Ben Franklin and Rocky Balboa. You could be loved in Philadelphia as much as hoagies and cheesesteaks and almost as much as Tug McGraw.

The name "Phillies" is a promise that everlasting glory is within your grasp, glory even greater than if you played for the New York Yankees. The Yankees have had so many World Champs they're a dime a dozen. You think if Endy Chavez cherry-picked a ring with the Yankees that anyone would remember him in New York? How many free steaks are you gonna give away? How many commentators jobs, coaching jobs, car dealerships are you gonna hand out? You gotta have more than one Yankee ring to really count in New York. But in Philly, we are absolutely starved for a winner, starved like no other city in sports. And if you break the current dry-spell, you guys could become the greatest champions in Philadelphia history. In what other city could you cut to the front of the glory line? Down to the last man, you'd be made men. Jason Michaels, Rheal Cormier and yes, even Endy Chavez would be legends for life in Philly if you guys can somehow get us a ring.

Unless you're gone at the end of July. Which is possible if you end the month in a funk. So do you want to be Zero or Hero? Which will it be? Lose with boos? Or rings and wings?

Do you even realize how loved you will be in Philadelphia for ending the worst civic drought in modern sports? Maybe the Thessalonians went a few hundred years without ever beating Athens, but this is getting close. Not one major title in the four major sports since Moses Malone led us to the promised land in 1983. That's 88 lost seasons in a row…and counting. Philly puts the "out" in "drought".

Sure, everyone loves a winner, but you'd have to win in Philly to find out just how great the winner's life could be. Talk about being made in the shade. The entire city would adopt each one of you as it's very own son.

All right you guys, quit laughing. Philly isn't the town for everyone, but trust me, down to the last man, you guys would rule this city if you end up champs. You can do what you want with us, but you would have us in the palms of your hands. We would gladly rip our own hearts out and hand them to you for a title. You can squash them if you like, but whatever you do, just win. Whatever it takes, win now.

But it doesn't just happen. You have to desperately want it. You could own this city if you only really wanted it. But you don't. Not all of you. Not every day. You can't hide that, you can't fake it. You have to want a ring - right here, right now - worse than anything else in your life. But with all the material wealth you guys have at such a young age, you don't want for much. You're not hungry. Not for long anyway. All you want to do is show here and there that you can win if you set your mind to it, but then when you think you've made your point, you go back to your half-mast, good-enough, why-bother ways. You get distracted with life outside of baseball. You lose focus. You blame the umps and fans and even each other. Anyone but yourselves. You're too easily satisfied. Not all of you. But some of you. And it only takes a few.

So now you've all got to stick to the same, simple things! Faith. Family. Health. And a Ring! Glory! Glory! Glory! Keep it simple, keep it focused! Every one of you, seize the day!

Now get out there and beat up the other guys. They want to take away your greatest destiny! They want to relocate your families. They spit on your dreams. You've got to fight to keep your honor. You've got to fight to become Eternal Kings of a great city. Fight proud. Win for now - and forever - every one of you Fightin' Phillies!

Otherwise, get used to our favorite chant…

E-A-G-L-E-S…Eagles!


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