The World Series is now a best-of-five, as the Phillies and Yankees split the first two games in New York, and the series shifts to Philadelphia for the next three days. But, as a Philadelphian, I have to claim victory, however premature that may seem.
First, I think I can speak for many locals when I say that no matter how the rest of these playoffs play out, you have to tip your cap to the home team. To win last year's World Series and then win the division and make it all the way to the World Series and at the very least not get swept by the mighty Yankees is certainly grounds for claiming a moral victory. Not many pundits picked the Yanks to lose, so even though the series is only two games old, most would have to concede that the two teams are a lot closer in quality than first imagined.
Second, you have to like the combination of confidence, grit, and looseness exhibited by the team in red. From Jimmy Rollins' brazen prediction of "Phillies in 5" on Letterman to Cliff Lee's cool glovework in Game 1 to Pedro Martinez not being able to resist a wide grin as he exited to catcalls in Game 2 to the Philadelphia Daily News' snarky headline the next morning ("Yanks Avert Sweep"), the Fightin's are having fun even while they kick butt and take names. Was it just last year that this franchise was known as the first to reach 10,000 losses? Have swagger, success, and serenity replaced the agony of defeat and the choke collar?
On a related note, it is fun to live in a city whose sports team is on an extended run of success. Hey, we still have a lot to clean up, literally and figuratively, whether it's our politics or our schools or our streets. But the home team has galvanized a citywide spirit of happiness and pride the likes of which haven't been felt in, well, maybe ever. (The additional boost from sales of Phillies gear and hosting playoff games doesn't hurt the local economy, either, for that matter.) And, starting tonight, the world will take notice of how much more boisterous Philadelphia fans are than the New York fans who were eerily quiet in Yankee Stadium for most of the first two games. (Recall that, even before the start of a game, Phillies fans can even outshout an indoor auditorium packed with Obama supporters on the eve of a historic election.)
So while I have a strong rooting interest in these final games - got to support the home team, and I have a visceral hatred for the Bronx Bommbers - I can watch them without biting my nails or dreading a colossal letdown, and simply enjoy the contests for what they are: well-played, taut matches between the last two teams standing. Now that said, let's hope the Fightin's beat the Yanks' brains out over these next three games. Go Phils!