“This is joy. This is pain. This certifiably insane. One game is all we got. One game is all we need.”
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I don’t need to tell you how much Sunday means to the city of Philadelphia. Zero Super Bowls wins is something EVERYONE constantly reminds us Philly fans–as was the Phillies being the first to lose 10,000 games, the Flyers not winning a Cup since 1975, and, of course, the general public’s perception of “The Process.” In fact, since the Eagles last NFL Championship in 1960 (pre-Super Bowl era), Philadelphia major sports teams have six titles across the board: the Sixers in 1967, the Flyers back-to-back in ’74 and ’75, the Phillies in ’80, the Sixers in ’83, and the only one I have been alive to witness: the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
Being born in 1990, I grew up in an interesting period of Philadelphia sports. The 90s were volatile with a World Series trip, two #1 overall picks who are now forever enshrined in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center (Allen Iverson and Eric Lindros), and the at-the-time controversial drafting of a two-sport athlete from Syracuse: Donovan McNabb. 1997 saw Lindros and the Legion of Doom make the trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, locking in my love for the Flyers despite a sweeping from the Detroit Red Wings. The 2000s saw each team make their respective finals within a decade–something Boston would eclipse by winning all four majors within seven years. 2001 opened a spot in every Philadelphian’s heart for Allen Iverson after he took one giant step for us all. 2004 saw TO and McNabb electrify the city and finally get through the NFC Championship after three previous tries. But it’s 2008 that holds the biggest place in my heart.
Longtime readers know that I went to a boarding school in Massachusetts: Berkshire School. At Berkshire, we had study hall six nights a week in which we had to stay in our dorm rooms at our desks doing homework. I “watched” almost every game of the 2008 playoff run on ESPN Gamecast and being allowed to go up to Greg “The Prophet” Piatelli’s house to watch a couple games as his mom worked at Berkshire. With the Phillies up three games to one, I watched the first half of Game Five at Greg’s house on Monday, October 27th only for rain to hit South Philadelphia suspending the game for two nights tied at 2 in the top of the 6th.
Which brings us to Wednesday, October 29th, 2008. Greg was on a college visit and unable to host me for the second half of Game Five so I had relegated back to “watching” the game on Gamecast. The Phillies quickly took a 3-2 lead only for the Rays to tie it the top of the 7th. In his last at-bat for the Phillies, Pat “The Bat” Burrell doubled and was pinch-ran for Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett scores on a Pedro Feliz single–4 to 3 Phillies. The 8th flies through, my has been homework long-since thrown aside. My heart racing out of my chest. We move to the top of the 9th inning, Lights Out Lidge time. Brad Lidge, who had been signed in the offseason from Houston, had been a perfect 40 for 40 in save situations, including the playoffs, let up and single and stolen base to put the tying run on 2nd with one out. Ben Zobrist lined out to right field, one out to go. I can’t believe what I’m seeing, the closest I had ever gotten to this point was a last-ditch McNabb drive three years earlier against the Patriots.
Eric Hinske to the plate for Tampa. My eyes glued to Gamecast and my mind racing. Strike one. Oh my god. Strike two. Holy shit, I can’t believe this. Gamecast gives a long pause normally reserved for home runs and third outs. GOOD LORD, HE BLEW THE LEAD. I CAN’T BELIEVE LIDGE BLEW THIS. WE GOTTA RALLY IN THE NINTH INN–Strike Three. Out Three. Game, Series, Championship: Phillies.
I jump what feels like 100 feet into the air and run out into the hall in a full sprint screaming. I remember running down to the first floor to a Mets fans’ room to brag and needing to calmly walk by the teacher on study hall duty, Dr. K. As I walk by, Dr. K looks up at me with a smirk. “World Series is over, huh?”
As incredible as that night was, I was one of a handful of Berkshire students from the Philadelphia area–the rest were all Boston and New York fans. In fact, during Spring Training the following year, a Yankee fan told me the Phillies win was “illegitimate” because the Red Sox lost to the Rays in the ALCS. A Yankee fan advocating for the Red Sox, imagine that! Since that World Series, we’ve had two more shots at a major sports title: the 2009 Phillies and the 2010 Flyers during my freshman year at Lehigh. Since then, we’ve had dream teams and tankers but here we sit on the cusp of finally grabbing the Lombardi trophy. I’ve wanted to have that feeling I had on October 29th, 2008 since October 30th, 2008. Not that the rest of the city hasn’t, but experiencing it four hours away left me immediately needing more. This time, I get to be in the City of Brotherly Love to experience the moment win or lose. If by chance, our Birds deliver and give us that moment, I won’t hesitate to take it all in.
I’ve waited over four years to write this post. I honestly wouldn’t have thought that I’d be writing it going into Super Bowl LII. If you haven’t checked out our preview podcast yet, here’s the link to go listen. Stay tuned for more Super Bowl coverage on the blog but you NEED to make sure you follow us on Instagram as Matty D is en route to Minneapolis as I write this. He’s going to be providing you with the first-hand experience so be sure to follow along!