You’re familiar with the Kübler-Ross model (also called the Five Stages of Grief), right? If you need a refresher, the stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Well, I’ve reached acceptance with this Phillies season. Actually, I’m pretty sure I reached acceptance a week or so ago, but I’m talking about it now because we’ve reached the official and unofficial mid-point of the season. (Official in the sense that they’ve played more than 81 games and unofficial in the sense that it’s the All Star Break.)
I have accepted the fact that the Phillies will not be winning their sixth consecutive NL East championship, nor will they make the playoffs (two wild card teams or not). And I’m sorry, Chase Utley, if you think I’m giving up on the team. I’m not giving up on the team, I’m giving up on getting my hopes destroyed and my heart broken.
Honestly, rooting for a team that was expected to do well never really sat well with me. Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy rooting for a team that was legitimately good. (Because only an insane, crazy person wants his or her favorite team to suck.) I don’t know if I can really explain it, but as a lifelong Philly sports fan I expect my favorite teams to fall short of greatness. And when they do well and things are looking good I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. You have to understand, in my lifetime, Philadelphia, which has a team in all four of the major professional leagues, has only won three (3!) championships. And the first two were won when I was much too young to be cognizant of them. Then there was the Curse of Billy Penn and the 25-year stretch without a championship.
It’s not like all Philly major sports teams were consistently bad for those 25 years, either. Each team made it to its respective championship game or series at least once, but it never ended well. (At least, not if you were a fan of the Philly team.) Even when the Phillies won the National League pennant in ’08 and secured their first spot in the World Series in 15 years, I expected them to lose. To the point that I started hardcore rooting for the Red Sox in the ALCS. This wasn’t just my usual rooting against the Rays, either. This was rooting for the Red Sox because I would’ve much rather the Phillies lost to the Sox instead of the Rays. Normal people don’t look at their team’s potential opponents in a playoff series and root for the one that would be least offensive to lose to. Unless, of course, you’re a Gen-X or Gen-Y Philly sports fan and you’ve spent your life being conditioned to expect your team to lose.
So if the Phillies manage to put together a crazy second half and make a playoff appearance, great. I will gladly eat my words and pull myself off the Kübler-Ross model. But I’m not expecting anything. It may even make the games more enjoyable if I’m not worried about where the Phils are in the standings and what’s going on with the other NL East teams. I just want to watch baseball and root for my team and have fun.