For several years in a row, I’ve had tickets for the final game of the season. And I’ve sat through a string of cold, dreary, meaningless games. Today was different. The Phillies and the Mets were tied for first, and the game with the Nationals mattered.
I got to the ballpark in time to stand in an absurdly long line for crab fries before heading out to the outfield (I sat in Section 103, if you’re [inexplicably] keeping track). It was a gorgeous, more-like-summer-than-autumn day. In fact, in the late innings, as the sun found just the right place to get to me, I might’ve gotten too much sun on my face. The ballpark was packed, of course; it was a sea of red and white—and rally towels.
By the time I was in my seat, the Mets—whose game started 25 minutes before the Phillies’—were already way behind. The Phils took an early lead (thanks, primarily, to Jimmy Rollins, who got on base and then stole two bases), and they never trailed. As the game progressed, and especially after the Phillies took a 5-1 lead in the sixth, it started to sink in—with me and everyone else, it seemed—that the Phillies were going to win the Division. “Wow,” I kept hearing people say. And they were right. Wow.
It was an amazing season. The Phillies had a dreadful April, but they recovered and hung tough. During most of the season, I figured the Phillies would finish, inevitably, as they so often do, two or three games out of the Division lead. Indeed, at the beginning of September, the Mets were seemingly a sure-thing to win the NL East, leaving only a possible wild card for the Phillies. As everyone knows, though, the Phillies played like demons in September, and the Mets collapsed in spectacular fashion, becoming the first team to lose a seven-game lead with a mere 17 games to play.
When the game was over, fireworks accompanied the players’ on-field celebration. In the stands, there were high-fives aplenty and at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted cheering. I’ve never been a part of anything like it. Noisy, communal joy. Today’s game absolutely made up for all those dreary, end-of-the-season games.