At the ripe age of nine I was pinned to my seat, eyes glued on the television as Donovan McNabb led a last-ditch effort in the final two minutes of Super Bowl XXXIX. In the biggest two minutes of his life, instead of being the leader Philadelphia yearned for, he collapsed. A fatigued McNabb couldn’t get to the line of scrimmage quick enough, head coach Andy Reid mysteriously forgot how to manage the game clock and time ran out for Philadelphia’s faithful as a Super Bowl slipped out of the fingers of a team, a city and a crying nine year old sitting on his couch.
Philadelphia is a city famous for losing – the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, the Phillies were the first professional sports franchise to rack up 10,000 losses, and the Sixers have posted two of the three worst regular season records in NBA history. Losing is as connected to Philadelphia sports as pinstripes are to the Yankees.
Nevertheless, being a Philadelphia fan is one of the things I pride myself on the most. I’m mocked and belittled for my terrible teams on a daily basis. I’m chirped for my fellow Philadelphia fans’ unwavering ability to be so obnoxious that others can’t stand their company. It’s a thankless obsession that I have, between the losing and the mockery, but it’s still an obsession that I feel a blinding amount of pride for. We lose not with grace but with consistency, and when we win, that obsession feels more validating than anything else could.
When the Yankees win a World Series, or the Patriots win a Super Bowl, it is exciting in the moment that it happens, but it isn’t truly transcendent to those involved. The team celebrates, a parade is had and Tom Brady gets his seemingly 300th Super Bowl Ring. It’s all run of the mill, and it’s all expected; their fans are never satisfied and are always wanting more. On the strikingly rare occasion a Philadelphia sports team wins a title, or even so much as reaches the title game, it is such a profound event that it changes the lives of everyone who witnesses it.
For me, it was the 2008 World Series, when Brad Lidge threw his trademark slider, recorded the final out of the game and the series, and sent the fan base into pure pandemonium. That moment and that team changed the way I looked at sports forever. I was still the classic Philadelphia pessimist, but I held that pessimism with the slightest glimmer of hope that someday a team I loved would get back on top. These life-changing, earth-shattering events don’t happen when you have 27 titles and an unlimited budget to buy your way to glory. They happen when you have a rabid fan base, a blue collar team, and when winning isn’t mundane.
My time as a Philadelphia sports fan hasn’t been easy, but with the hard times have come a few moments of unparalleled glory. As the all too fitting fictional Philly sports hero Rocky Balboa once said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Philly fans, myself included, keep moving forward – with two black eyes, a concussion and a World Series Ring dangling off our broken finger.