Thursday, October 29, 2009

as american as baseball...

I'm not much of a sports person-- I dabbled in CYO basketball and track in elementary school, cross-country in high school, and had a go at gymnastics sporadically throughout my childhood. I've thrown a frisbee around more times than I can count, but growing up, I was never the little tyke in a bright magenta t-shirt and black shorts down to her ankles running after a soccer ball, or pushing a too-large helmet up from her eyes to swing at a softball. I don't know whether it was the fact that my family didn't stay in one place for too long when I was young, or that I just was more interested in reading, but I don't think athletic is the first word that comes to mind when people look at me.

There is, however, a part of my character that I can definitely attribute to the way in which I grew up, and that is my basic lack of excitement towards most sports as a spectator. Until the age of eight I lived in England and then Ireland, and just when I could have matured enough to adopt a soccer or rugby team into my heart, we left for America. I had no idea why every boy (and many girls) in my fourth grade class wore Starter jackets (see here) and spoke of touchdowns or homeruns, and I feigned understanding when I started to play "two-hand-touch" football out in my neighborhood with some of the guys.
In high school, I got better at two-hand-touch and developed bare bones knowledge of some of the rules of American sports, but still never felt much affiliation for the Phillies, or the Eagles, or the Flyers. And you can be sure I always bypassed the games on TV.

I think a lot of my outlook on sports has come from my parents; they're still not big into any team, though these days my dad has gone back to his rugby roots (he played in high school). I've found rugby to be pretty great to watch-- over in a set amount of time, quick, and interesting. Plus, rugby jerseys are much more flattering for a female fan than football or basketball jerseys!

But I digress.
It was in college that I really began to understand a fan's affection for a team. Villanova University (my alma mater) has a pretty stellar men's basketball team, and last March, my roommates and I took a roadtrip out to Detroit, Michigan, for the NCAA Final Four games. Though we were disappointed at our loss to UNC, being among so many other fellow students and fans really changed my view on spectator sports, at least where college basketball was concerned. March Madness really is an exciting tournament, and I was sad to move on from being a student spectator to a Villanova alumna, mostly because tickets are no longer free.

Now that I've been spending a lot of time in Philadelphia, and South Philly specifically, I can't escape the Phillies "Phever" that has taken over the city. Though Phillies fans are out in full force all season, now that we're facing the Yankees to take the World Series title two years in a row, the excitement is palpable. And the other day, after reading yet another scathing article dissing the Yankees in metro on the train, I found myself understanding that though my days as a Villanova student were over, I could find a similar love for Philadelphia teams. I am not and never will be a diehard baseball fan (I just can't understand the point of watching people plan throws for five hours), but in talking to people with whom I work and friends from the area, I'm beginning to find a real place in my heart for those Phillies.

While I can't say I'll be crying if the Phillies end up losing the World Series to the Yankees, I will feel pretty happy if they take it again this year. I don't understand all the rules of baseball, but I do understand the great dedication the Phillies have to their fans and the city of Philadelphia.
And who can protest such cause for celebration! The best thing about working on Broad Street? I've got reservations for front-row seats if the champions happen to be parading down the streets of Philadelphia (and not New York!) next week.

Photo courtesy of wallyg

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