October 29, 2008. Game 5 of the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies held a 3 games to 1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and were leading game 5 by a score of 4-3 in the 9th inning. Phillies' closer Brad Lidge had recorded 2 outs and was one strike away from securing only the second world championship in team history. My chest tightened as the final pitch was thrown and as I watched the batter swing and miss, the reality slowly set in: THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES HAD BECOME THE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!
I had waited my whole life for this!! The Phillies won their only other world championship in 1980 when I was 4 days old. So quite literally, I had waited my whole life for this!! After grinding through all the losing seasons by a franchise that is notorious for being the worst sports team of all time, and in a city that had not seen a major sports championship in 25 years, being a Philly fan had finally paid off!
The scene was surreal. When the final out was made, I went completely speechless as my friends -- some of them much larger than me -- piled up on top of what had previously been my personal space. It was the most exhilarating sports moment ever. After the game, pretty much everyone in the city of Philadelphia piled out into the streets and made their voyage on foot to City Hall. How could my friends and I not take part? Even my wife Tara got caught up in the pandemonium. I spent the night hugging and high-fiving total strangers. One guy I walked past was wearing the same throwback style Phillies jacket as me. When he noticed this, he uttered some sort of male growl (which I probably uttered back) and pulled me into a huge gorilla hug. I think this sort of thing happened a few dozen times throughout the night. In the midst of all the euphoria, I realized that all those imaginary societal lines and utterly foolish prejudices and divisions that dominate our culture (race, socio-economic status, etc.) simply evaporated in light of winning the World Series. Never before had Philly been so like-minded. The City of Brotherly Love was indeed just that for a night. Why can't it be like that all the time?
Two days later, I attended the massive parade in honor of our newly crowned world champions. I'd never seen the city of Philadelphia so packed. There was no room to move. None! If you were there, then you know. Seeing the world championshp trophy paraded through the streets was a sight to behold, and it was pure joy to scream like mad for the players who had made it all possible. After 28 years, it was all worth the wait.