In 2003, I moved to Manhattan. At that time, my hometown Phillies had been a laughing stock for many years. That continued for half a decade more. Then things changed.
Hope appeared, carried on a halo from heaven. As I passed a bar in midtown NYC one evening in 2007, I saw the Phillies playing on the television. They were down late in the game and, miraculously, the playoffs were in site.
But the Phillies in the playoffs was still something a Philly fan could not believe. With men on base, a guy named Ryan Howard was up to bat. I decided to wander in and take a glance.
And then it happened. A towering baseball icon-to-be belted the ball so far over the homerun wall that it may still be sailing over boat-house-row on the Schuylkill River.
South Philadelphia erupted.
All of a sudden, like the dawn of a new epoch, a stud appeared on behalf of all of Philadelphia. All of a sudden, real major league baseball was being played in Philadelphia. At that moment, an overwhelmingly well-proportioned baseball god, with one swing, initiated an era during which he would single-handily carry a reeling team to victory over and over again.
Just like that, as if the world had been re- created, Ryan Howard launched a half-decade of baseball superiority in the city of Brotherly Love. He struck fear in ball-throwers from East to West and League to League. Hope and confidence lived again in the Fightin’ Phils.
Howard the hero
I’ve always been a Philly fan - ever since I was five years old, with a Ron Jaworski poster pinned to my bedroom door. But since the day Ryan Howard announced the arrival of a franchise re-born, a franchise of vigor and heart and confidence and a we- will-beat-you-no-matter-what attitude that lived strong for 5 years straight, I’ve barely missed watching a single game.
Even now, with every sports’ analyst and pundit out there downing the Phillies, I have hope. Why? Because of Ryan Howard.
He carried this team for 5 years and I have news for you: he’ll carry it again this year.
He’ll bang homeruns, he’ll knock in runs, he’ll smile his megawatt smile. And the Phillies will win games. They might not win the World Series, but this much is guaranteed – when this season is over, analysts and pundits alike will unanimously declare their shock at how well the Phillies competed this year.
And next year it will get better. Remember, the Phillies started winning in 2007, when they were underrated, undervalued and under-appreciated. They thrive on heart and demonstrating their greatness. Make no mistake about it, 2007 began a permanent trend; the Phillies will be back, sooner than you thought.
Ryan: I am excited to see you fielding and hitting and smiling, all with a big red “P” on your chest. You define this team. Let’s have some fun. Let’s prove ‘em wrong in 2015.