Today Is Anniversary of Phillies Parade

Remember hugging total strangers three years ago?

From a sports perspective, it’s fitting that Halloween has arrived, since it’s feeling a lot like the Twilight Zone around here lately. Cliff Lee was 94-1 in games when he had a four-run lead, until the Cardinals comeback in Game Two that propelled them to a series victory and sent the World-Series-favorite Phils home early. The Sixers have new owners who, so far, are saying and doing all the right things; they just don’t have a league to play in. The Flyers finally signed a marquee goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, whose self-described “terrible” recent performances prompted him to apologize to his teammates and the fans. At least the Eagles finally lived up to their potential in last night’s spanking of the Cowboys, but a playoff berth is far from guaranteed. Amid all the darkness, here’s something to smile about: Today marks the third anniversary of the Phillies championship parade.

It’s hard to believe it was only three years ago when we mobbed Broad Street. Sports cycles are like dog years, so it feels as if a decade has passed since then. Three consecutive playoff runs for the Phillies that fell short. A Flyers team that seemed destined to hoist the Stanley Cup, then collapsed in the finals. The rise of Michael Vick and a continued lack of post-season success for the Birds. That’s a lot of high hopes dashed on the rocks. These past three years have been tough to stomach partly because of that 2008 celebration. It changed us as a fan base. A quarter century of failure and coulda-woulda-shouldas and boos and cheers followed by tears—that left us with a few scars. The Billy Penn curse felt real. Old heads and young bucks alike wondered if they’d see a parade in their lifetime. Even that World Series against Tampa Bay seemed like another set-up for disaster when the potential series-ending Game Five was suspended for rain. We were Charlie Brown, and Lucy was ready to yank that football away once again. Two days of rain and torture followed as the baseball gods toyed with us a little longer. Then came the image forever branded in our collective memories—Brad Lidge on his knees, arms up to the heavens in jubilation.

The rain delay ended up pushing the parade back to October 31st. It was perfect—what better way to exorcise Philadelphia’s sports demons than with a millions-strong party on Halloween? Whether you watched on television or jammed the city streets or filed into Citizens Bank Park, it was everything we imagined, the ultimate catharsis and a salve for decades of wounds. The sun was shining. Strangers embraced each other and cheered in unison. More than any eloquent speech, it was Chase Utley’s f-bomb that best represented what we felt—an expression of pure joy and pride, spoken not from the head, but from deep inside the gut.

That Friday parade created a three-day celebration that no Phillies fan will ever forget. Still, it seems like the shine has already worn off those memories a bit. We sipped that championship bubbly, and we wanted seconds. The town of perpetual failure and 10,000 losses was suddenly thinking dynasty. In a way, the disappointments hurt even more since 2008, when we were reminded just how good it feels to stand on top. I only watched a few innings of the World Series this month, despite knowing it was considered one of the best in recent years. I’m a baseball fan, but the sting from the Phillies loss was still too intense. So let today’s anniversary of the ’08 parade be a cleansing, a chance for renewal as we move past this season and look forward to another trophy-hunting campaign next spring. Let the memories from Broad Street in ’08 bathe us in a ray of hope for the rest of our teams still in the hunt. It might be the only way to keep warm in a winter that could be a lot colder than expected.