Citizens Bank Park: It's never too late to think about next season
Us Philadelphia sports fans are used to receiving a consistent backlash from across the country — reverberating claims that we are a bunch of hooligans, who (at best) are a bunch of loud-mouthed, "wudder"-pronouncing pessimists, and (at worst) exemplify a personification of pure malevolence. I mean, I'll admit, it may be beneficial if we could somehow strike the "J.D. Drew Battery Shower of 1999" from the record. As for the Santa Claus incident, isn't the rest of the world over that yet?!
However, I'm here today to spread a new truth — a new understanding of the average Phillies fan — that, instead, celebrates the unfailing passion, devotion, and (even though many would probably be loath to admit it) unconditional love that overshadows all third-party, one-dimensional interpretations of who we are as sports fans.]
Sure, Phillies fans (and Philadelphia fans in general) are cranky, dramatic fools sometimes, no better exemplified than a conversation I overheard between two men at a game earlier this year. These gentlemen somehow found fault with just about every player in the Phillies organization. If it was a single, it should have been a double. A rookie reliever gave up a hit? Forget it. Send him back down to Triple A. I think they were also somehow of the notion that Cliff Lee had turned into baseball's worst pitcher and was single-handedly responsible for the team's 2012 misfortune.
Phillies fans are quick to jump to wild (and sometimes insanely miscalculated) conclusions regarding which players deserve praise, and which ones deserve to be roasted on a spit (trust me, don't read the philly.com comments section if you want to keep your sanity).
But, beyond that, taking in a game at Citizens Bank Park — be it a chilly April-night season opener; an oppressively humid, mid-day July scorcher that you found some excuse to duck out of work early for; or a mind-bending, 19-inning marathon ending at 1:30 a.m. (where your brain is fried from fluorescent lights, but you're so delirious from baseball love you just don't care); an NL East Pennant winning thrashing of the St. Louis Cardinals; or (several weeks later) an NLDS losing heartbreaker to those same midwestern Red Birds, there's a common theme that, no matter what, always rings louder than that massive, neon Liberty Bell.
And no, it's not crab fries or dollar dog nights (which include veggie dogs!). It's not the best beer selection your sports-attending self could ever possibly dream of or the fact that the visitors' bullpen is so deliciously close to Ashburn Alley that taunts are merely a whisper away. It's not the Phanatic (though let's face it, mascots don't really get any better) or that Citizens Bank Park happens to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing sports arenas out there. It's not those pennant and championship flags from 2007 to 2011 reminding us how damn spoiled we've been as fans during this Philadelphia baseball renaissance of late. It's not even the fact that there's no better way to take in a Philadelphia sunset than sitting in the 300 and 400 levels on the eastern side of the ballpark, with summer evening pinks and yellows and oranges making one final stretch as they reflect off that distant skyline in the background.
Instead, it's the fact that there's an electricity, a constant pulse, that you can feel reverberating through those bright blue seats. It stretches from the Diamond Club over to section 301, through the open-air concourse on the first level beneath the Hall of Fame club, wrapping around the outfield, and off that brick wall in center field.
Phillies fans (even though it was not always this way — think late '90s/early '00s, a la Vet Stadium) are frenzied, hyped and always tuned-in. The roaring excitement, the anxious silences right before a big pitch, and the damn near explosive volume when big things happen are just unfathomably awesome. There's a reason we set the National League record for a sellout streak, and that, even though the trajectory of this past season hadn't been all that it could be (though, things were starting to heat up with the second wild card spot suddenly and surprisingly within sights). This city is desperately head-over-heels for the boys in the red pinstripes, and for the past couple of years (save most of the 2012 season), how could you blame 'em? That feeling in Citizen's Bank Park is a small microcosm of that Philadelphia pride that makes this city such a wonderful place to be.
Here's a final example that solidifies my desired point. One Saturday, my coworker, my girlfriend, and myself all decided to get last minute tickets to the night game against the Rockies. Lo and behold, the skies opened up right as we left and continued to shower us with unseasonably cold drops of rain well past the original 7:05 p.m. start time. And, even though that game ended up being canceled, wouldn't you know that an astounding majority of the people there gutted it out, enduring the elements, holding out hope, even with all the turmoil of the 2012 season, until the very last announcement (at 9:50 p.m.) that there would be no Phillies baseball that night. One of the best parts? As if right on cue, at the end of the announcement, the entire stadium let out one fantastic, giant, resounding "boooooooo" that only the truest Philadelphians could muster.
Carly Weiss is a devout, fairly superstitious, Mets-hating, Chipper Jones-booing Phillies fan.
This essay was originally published on the blog Philly Love Notes.