22 October 2008

...while wondering what ever happened to Kevin Stocker

So there are signs everywhere that say the Tampa Bay (don't call me Devil) Rays will beat my beloved Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. But right is on our side! (although Jesus may be with the Rays)

First the history -- the cities of Philadelphia and Tampa have met three times in the playoffs. The first was a 1979 NFL playoff game, in which the Buccaneers, in their first NFL playoff appearance ever, beat the Eagles 24-17. (Tried to find the classic shot of the rain pouring down the stairs at the Old Sombrero, from NFL films, but couldn't find it. This is a pretty good substitute, though.) Fast forward to 2002, and we find the Eagles, fielding arguably their best team in the Super Bowl era hosting the Bucs (in their new unis) in the NFC Championship game -- and losing 27-10. Tampa Bay goes on to win the city's first professional sports title. Its second came two years later, when the NHL's Lightning defeated the heavily-favored Flyers in their first-ever Eastern Conference Finals, 4 games to 3, before beating the Calgary Flames, to claim Lord Stanley's cup. So the straight up city vs city outlook is not good. Nor is the Phillies' history. Founded in 1883, the Philadelphia Phillies have reached the World Series five times, prior to this season. In 1915 they lost to the Boston Red Sox; in 1950 they lost to the New York Yankees; in 1980 they won their only title, defeating the Kansas City Royals; in 1983 they lost to the Baltimore Orioles and in 1993 they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays. Their all-time World Series record, by division: 0-4 versus the American League East, 1-0 against everyone else. The Tampa Bay Rays are champions of the American League East, and are the only team from the division not to thump the Phils in the World Series. And there's more. Taking into account the two rent-a-titles down in Miami, no Major League Baseball team from Florida has ever lost a postseason series. But worse than any of these potential pitfalls is U-F'er. While Philadelphia broke out a new alternate uni this season, Tampa went full-on re image, ditching the satanic prefix and going with an entirely new color scheme. So things don't look good for the Phitin's.

But a Tampa Bay win would be wrong on so many levels. Now, I live by a few sacred principals: Billy Joel rules; Al Pacino is greatness; I shall not date a woman closer in age to my daughter than me. (yeah, try google-imaging 'teenage girl' and coming up with something cleaner than that). These have served me well. Similarly, I have a basic philosophy when it comes to professional sports, to wit: no professional team should have a winning season or make the playoffs in its first ten years of existence; no professional team should appear in a championship game or series until their 21st year of existence; no professional team should win a championship in its first playoff run. These things should never, ever happen. The 1980 win was only sweet because of the heartbreaks that led up to it. The 1983 series was kind of anti-climactic by comparison. Victory without suffering is empty.

And these people do not deserve it. Not only has the Tampa Bay fan base not suffered nearly long enough -- they were nonexistent as recently as a month ago! espn.com's Page Two columnists recently posted a piece entitled "100 Reasons We Love the MLB Playoffs". Number 16 was "The sight of 45,000 new caps and T-shirts during Game 1 of the ALDS." And that's exactly what we saw at Tropicana Field -- which isn't even a damned field. It is a room. If there is a door, not a gate at the entrance and there is a roof above, you are not in a stadium -- you are in a room. Call it a dome if you please, but it is a room! And this violates another sacred truth: no team that plays its games on a rug, in a room, should ever win the World Series.

Phillies in 6.


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