I hate to put so much pressure on one mere mortal, but I'm counting on Andy Ashby to help cure my inferiority complex. If he can win 15 games this season, the Philadelphia Phillies may have a shot (albeit a distant one) at making the playoffs!
You see, I have been a Phillies fan for over 20 years. And in recent years, the Phillies have…uh…sucked. They have managed exactly
winning season in the last 13 years. Think about that: 13 years and just a
single season over .500! When they began
this dry spell, Ronald Reagan was president! How have they done it? You
have to be really good at losing to reach such impressive levels of sustained
I have grown up witnessing the Phils' enduring failure every spring and summer. I was 16 years old when The Phillies began this incomparable run at incompetent fame (The year was 1987). Aside from one fluke year in 1993, my Phils have been perennial losers since my 16th birthday! As I write this, I’m 28. I'll be 29 before opening day.
It is simply impossible for me to ignore the impact of the Phillies' consistent futility on my life. An adolescence spent rooting for the laughing stock of Major League Baseball must have certainly played a role in determining who I am today, right?
And what am I today? I'm a writer who champions beautiful losers and neglected souls. Do I love losers because I'm a Phillies fan? Or do I love the Phillies because I love losers? I honestly do not know! Perhaps if The Phillies had won a pennant or two in the late 80's, I may have grown up to become a successful, well-adjusted pillar of society. Perhaps I'd have a good job and a beautiful wife and season tickets at The Vet. Instead, I'm a struggling writer. I'd be a starving artist if mom and dad decided to kick me to the curb. After spending all those summers hoping against hope that the Phillies could crack the .500-mark ("Oh, wow—if only we could be average! That would be so swell!"), can you blame me for having a somewhat unusual vision of "success"?
So what happened to the Phillies? They were a fearsome bunch in the late ’70s and early ’80s. My childhood heroes were Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. When I grew up, I discovered that both of my childhood heroes were complete assholes. Needless to say, I no longer believe in hero worship.
But I still like Pete Rose. Sure, Pete was/is a douchebag. But he's so up-front about being a douche bag that I can hardly mind. I knew he was a scoundrel when I was 10 years old! But I loved to watch old Pete play. He ran the bases the way Johnny Rotten sang. His line drives cracked like Johnny Thunders' guitar lines. He was obnoxious and brutal, just like the Dead Boys. And the results spoke for themselves: in five seasons in Philly, he led his team to three division titles and two World Series appearances. He was pushed out the door after the '83 season to make room for the immortal Len Matuszek. Since then, the Phillies have gone down the proverbial toilet.
'93 was a sick joke. It was destiny's ironic statement. I graduated from college that spring just as messieurs Dykstra, Daulton, Kruk, and Schilling were starting to make believers out of the baseball world. I kept staring at the standings and telling myself that it was all too good to be true. In spite of the fact that their bullpen closer threw only 6 pitches over the plate all year, the lovable losers managed to beat the Braves in the playoffs. Then came the World Series, Mitch Williams, and Joe Carter. I was right—it was all too good to be true.
In the ensuing years, the Phillies have made an art form out of failure. One could say that I do the same with my life. And perhaps I really do prefer it that way! After all, it's hard to be a success! You've got to spend lots of money and work your ass off and sacrifice for the greater glory of capitalism. And for what? For a nice car? For cable television? I'd rather work my ass off for the glory of literature! I toil away in my little writing dungeon, composing tales of longing, depression, and obscure punk rock bands who will only be loved by those of us who can see the beauty in failure! The Phillies might be a bad ball club, but they are never boring! Remember 1997, when they flirted with the Mets' record for the worst season in baseball history? Remember the J.D. Drew fiasco? I love my dreadful Phillies and all their incurable flaws!
So if Ashby turns out to be a bust, I won't sweat it. If Curt Schilling doesn't recover from his surgery, I won't sweat it. If Bobby Abreu's mega-massive '99 season was just a fluke, I won't sweat it. But if the Phils work a miracle and win 90 games, imagine how many trend-hopping poseurs will jump on the Phillies bandwagon and claim to love my team! I will not allow one of my great passions to become just another ephemeral craze! If you wish to jump on the Phillies' bandwagon, do it now or forever hold your peace!
All in all, I still remain confident that the Phillies will once again find a way to lose in 2000. They always find a way to lose. That's the only thing in life that I can truly depend upon.
[ED Note: As we went to press on Zisk, Andy Ashby has just come off the D-L for an infected finger, and is likely to be traded to a contender before the deadline.]