Winning. What is it about winning? Why does everyone want to win so badly? Is it just about getting what you want? Is it really that intrinsically self-centered? Why is winning synonymous with being happy and losing synonymous with being unhappy? I sit here on Saturday October 8th, 2011 questioning all these things. After last night when the Phillies lost a game, and a series that many people expected them to win, I sat there completely annoyed, angry, hurt, disappointed, worried, and basically just sad. And I wondered to myself, why the hell am I so sad right now? The obvious answer was of course that the Phillies didn’t win! But my immediate and subconscious arrival at this answer kind of scared me for a minute. How is it that 25 guys whom I have never met could have such a profound impact on how I am feeling? My inquiry here is not to establish why they didn’t win, how they can do more winning, when they will win again, or even whether this team should have won. I simply am looking to know why am I and every other sports fan so obsessed with the win.
Coming from someone who will readily admit to being the sorest loser in the history of competition, this is not an easy question to answer. Being a Philadelphia sports fan one would think that I should be quite used to not winning. Before 2008 our town went 25 years without a championship in any of the 4 major sports. Technically that’s 100 seasons of losing! Regardless of that, you can bet your bottom dollar that I was somewhere sulking and probably crying every time one of our teams lost. Like in ’93 when Carter hit that home run, I was only six but I may or may not have sent Mitch Williams death threats. Or in 1997 when the Flyers got swept in the Stanley Cup Finals, I literally cried my eyes out. In 2000 when the Flyers squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Devils with two of the last three games on home ice. In 2001 when the Sixers beat the Lakers in game 1 of the Finals and conned us into thinking they had a chance in that series. In 2004, the year we were sure the curse of William Pen would be lifted (T.O.T.O.T.O.) but we still watched Tom Brady and his beautiful hair take another championship up to bean town. How about in 2009 when we watched the hated Yankees celebrate yet another World Series. Or even 2010 when that stupid runt Patrick Kane and his cursed mullet celebrated on our home ice! I remember them all!
So, what is so bad about 2nd place? Sure as hell beats 3rd or 4th. It definitely beats not making the playoffs at all (cough cough Mets and Braves). But seriously, what is it that is so bad about losing that it caused hundreds of Vancouver Canucks fans to literally try to destroy their beautiful city after a game 7 loss. Or in Chicago where the blame an entire NLCS loss on a dude in a green turtle neck and headphones (it’s ok Steve you can come out of hiding now). How about in almost every major city worldwide that has a soccer, excuse me, football team that take to the streets in riots every time their team loses. Or here in Philadelphia where people actually sent Mitch Williams death threats after the 1993 World Series.
Is it expectations? Is it worse when our team is expected to win the World Series and they end up losing in the first round? Sitting here watching the Cardinals celebrate on our home field I am tempted to say yes. But only until I look back to 2010 when the Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers were not favored to win the Stanley Cup that year but their magical run through the playoffs made us hope that they could pull off the seemingly impossible. But what about hope? Whenever we are watching the game we always have hope that our team can pull through and find a way to win until that final horn sounds or the final out is recorded. I am willing to bet that 99% of all the Phillies fans (and I mean the real fans, not you posers who jumped on board after 2008) still had hope in the bottom of the 9th on Friday with Chase Utley, Hunter Pence, and Ryan Howard coming to the plate. And when they didn’t produce all that hope had to go somewhere and for most of us it turned to frustration and despair. And as sad as we all are right now, next October we’ll still be here ready to cheer on our Fightins once again.
Maybe there is some sort of strange genius behind the phrase “There’s always next year”. Maybe I’ll never quite get the answer to my question about why we want to win so badly. I don’t know why I love winning, I just do. Winning is more than bragging rights and glory. It’s more than the final score and the trophy. I surely hope it’s more than what Charlie Sheen has. Winning has a way of making us forget all the bad times and just be – happy. It’s the only thing that allowed the Red Sox fans to forgive Bill Buckner after twenty years. It’s the only thing that allowed Phillies fans to forgive Mitch Williams after 15 years. It’s the thing that makes Cubs fans hate Steve Bartman, black cats, and …goats? It’s the only thing that can make me forget about all the losing seasons, the blown series, Mitch Williams, Joe Jurevius, Patrick Kane, Brian Wilson, Kobe Bryant, Patrick Kane’s mullet, Joe Carter, and the Detroit Red Wings. That one October night in 2008 when we stood outside Citizen’s Bank Park in the freezing cold huddled under a tent, that night I had been waiting for – for 21 years to arrive. That night that I would wait another 21 years just to experience again. And Bud Selig told us to go home because it was raining too hard. So we came back two nights later and all of our hopes and dreams and faithfulness were rewarded. There is only one thing that could make a bunch of crazy fools stand outside in the freezing rain watching baseball on a 30 inch television — Winning.