Losing is the hardest part of playing. Some take solace in the “it was a great season” or “we tried our hardest” or “they were the better team today” but it hurts nonetheless. The winning is why we play; the winning is what makes playing anything possible. Texas hold ‘em, go fish, blackjack; football, baseball, basketball; horseshoes, pool, darts all have winners. Sociologists will tell you we are born without instincts, but sooner or later, we develop the instinct to win or we become hippies on a commune seeking equilibrium through farming together and not shaving. We have Oscars, Tonys, and Grammys to celebrate the best in entertainment. We give honors to the valedictorians of schools. We have gold medals for ridiculous sports like curling and synchronized swimming. Humans reward the best.
As I watched the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals match between the Australian Wallabies and the Republic of South African Springboks in a crowded pub in downtown Seoul, people desperate to win surrounded me. USA had long since been eliminated and, as anyone knows you can only truly root for one country during a World Cup in any sport. It was a close, exciting game with Australia emerging victorious. However, I was sitting with South African supporters and could feel, sympathize and understand their unmistakable pain, for I am a child of Philadelphia sports. The shocked, gaping mouths, hands grasping heads, teeth gritting, quiet cursing, it is all very familiar to anyone who has lived near Philly since 1981.
Oh sure, the Phillies stole the championship in 2008 from a quiet little team in Tampa Bay, and the city rightly celebrated. Philadelphia is the only team to have sent all four major American sports teams to the finals in the 2000 decade. We have great teams, great players and great fans. We are not losers; we are simply not winners. The 76ers were outmatched against a Shaq and Kobe led dynasty; the Flyers were outmatched against the young, surging Blackhawks; and the Phillies were outmatched against the A-Rod destiny. That leaves the Eagles, the quintessential team of Philadelphia no matter what anyone says. It is the team of the town. They might actually be losers. They are the only team of the four to have never won a major championship. They have had amazing athletes come through the gates and failed. They have had a myriad of chances through the 90’s and 00’s and failed. They provide the reason to ruin your Sunday for 5-6 months every year. The loyal fans will boo and talk down until they lose their voice, but the “Linc” will be sold out every game they play there ad infinitum. Therein lies the charm and the madness that is my hometown.
And also, the greatest pitching staff, the best hitters, the best stadium filled with the best fans the Phillies have ever had wasn’t enough to avoid that colossal, dreadful choke to the Cardinals in the NLDS. It was a great Phillies season, and loads of fun to watch, so who cares, we’ll see you next summer, but for God’s sake, Eagles, tighten it up!