Saturday, October 25, 2008

Philadelphia's finest hour is at hand

By Steven Lienert

The Phanatic Magazine

Philadelphia sports fans have a rare opportunity over the next three days.

They have the chance to will one of their teams to a world championship.

The Tampa Bay Rays come to town for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the World Series and I'm quite certain they have no idea about the cauldron they are about to walk into.

You see, in the first two rounds of the MLB playoffs, the Rays had to go through the White Sox and Red Sox, both of whom have won a world title in the past few years. It was different for those fans before they won their titles – they were hungry, hurt, frustrated, angry.

When they played the Rays, they were sated.

Needless to say, Philadelphians are pretty f-in far from sated.

That was clearly evident in Game 2 of the NLDS, when the fans intimidated CC Sabathia and the home plate umpire as Brett Myers worked a walk. It was Burt Hooton all over again, minus the middle finger after getting pulled.

I hate to do it, but I'll give Red Sox fans credit for setting the precedent. Let's face facts here: Boston was downright cooked after the Rays took a 7-0 lead in Game 5. The locker room attendants were putting plastic over the players' lockers so their clothes didn't get pummeled with champagne.

But the fans said 'Not today. Not on my watch.' The Red Sox clearly fed off their collective want and, perhaps most importantly, the Rays wilted.

The Rays bowed up in Game 7 because they were lucky enough to have home-field advantage.

Philadelphians, on the other hand, have built up 25 years of angst. One hundred seasons without a major sports championship. The frustration has been, and remains, palpable.

Fans at Citizens Bank Park, though, have the chance to vent all of that over the next three games. They have the chance to get in Matt Garza's head. They have the chance to heckle B.J. Upton, who's already a head case, to tears.

They have the chance to introduce a group of 25-year-old kids to manhood and, as most of us know, growing up can be a bitch.

On a side note, there's no way the Tampa Bay Bucs, Lightning and Rays can all win a world championship before any Philly team has. It just isn't right – I really think that would be the seventh sign of the apocalypse.

But I don't want to go there. One thing's for certain: Philadelphia will explode in victory or implode upon defeat.

For a rare moment in sports, fans can influence the outcome of a series almost as much as the players can. Bring 25 years of hate, angst, frustration, anger and disappointment with you to the stadium and let it rain down on the Rays and their front-running fans.

For Philadelphians, the next three days could be our finest hour.

Steve Lienert can be reached at

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