As a boy, I started paying attention to sports when I was about 7 years old – and of course I rooted for “my family’s” teams, the Phillies and the Eagles. The Phillies that year ended up in last place, losing 97 games. The Philadelphia Eagles went 2-11-1 and the two games they won, they won by 1-point each. As you can imagine, even in the exuberance of youth, this set expectations pretty low.
Over the years, there have been a few bright spots though – the Phils’ World Series victory in 1980 is still memorable, and the Eagles have had some pretty good seasons, though a championship continues to elude them. Along the way, the Phillies became the first franchise to lose 10,000 games.
Putting that aside, something has happened over the last couple of baseball seasons that have turned being a Philly fan on its ear. The Phillies have been good. Really good. In 2007, they won their first NL East title in nearly 15 years. In 2008, they surprised a lot of people and rolled through the post season, going 11-2 and winning the World Series. In 2009, they went back to the World Series – this time losing to a (I hate to say it) better Yankees team.
This season, the Phillies are back again. After muddling through half-a-season full of injuries and lackluster play, the Phightins got healthy and played 0.700 ball during the last two months of the season, racing to another NL East crown, finishing with 97 wins.
And here’s where it gets weird. The Phillies enter this post-season the favorites to win the World Series. I can guarantee you that in my lifetime, that’s never happened. After decades of rooting for Philly teams, I have no idea how to root for a front-runner. How to deal with expectations. Usually, our very good teams have underperformed (I’m looking at you mid-00s Eagles) bringing with it, the bitter draught of crushed expectations.
And so, it was with a little nervousness that I approached this opening NLDS series. Sure, the Phillies had been playing great, and the Reds sort of limped though the last month of the season. But in a five-game series, anything can happen, right?
Well, Roy Halladay — likely NL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay — went out and pitched a no-hitter amidst the Phillies phaithful at Citizens Bank Park and the Phils cruised to a 4-0 win in Game 1. No one had pitched a post-season no-hitter in 50+ years.
Okay — that made me feel a little better about things.