Saturday, October 08, 2011

Congratulations, You %#$@!*

I'm still enough of a Philadelphia fan to feel that the very worst sort of defeat is one where the only possible response is good sportsmanship. The Phillies loss to the Cardinals in the divisional series last night falls squarely into that revolting category.

A 1-0 loss doesn't leave much in the way of second-guessing or bitching. It's pretty obvious why your team lost. The 2011 Phillies won an inordinately large number of the enormous number (77) of regular season games where they scored three runs or less. In the playoffs, where pitchers like Chris Carpenter lurk at every turn, this is not a formula for success. Ryan Howard's apparent Achilles injury on the season's last at-bat was a horrible but apt summary of how the Phils contributed to their own defeat.

But the point is, they didn't contribute that much. The Cardinals won fair, square and impressively. They beat Cliff Lee, they beat Roy Oswalt and they beat Roy Halladay with all the money on the table. Whatever honors Carpenter has or will win in his distinguished pitching career, he'll never get a better tribute than he got last night. Tony La Russa, whose plaque in Cooperstown should show him waving to the bullpen, let him pitch a complete game in an elimination game.

Losing hurts. One would think just getting beat would hurt less, but that's not the case. I mock fans, especially Boston ones, for believing every game is determined by what the home team does or doesn't do, but I understand where they're coming from. It's a defense mechanism. Blaming a loss on your side's flaws carries the implicit assumption that if your side just corrects those flaws, it will win next time out. It's less discouraging to say "our pitchers shouldn't drink beer in the clubhouse" than "you know, those Yanks are tough."

This privilege is denied any rational Phillies fan (hey, there are at least six I know of). My team ran into a difficult opponent on a hot streak and got whupped. I'm enough of a fan to hate it, and still enough of a sportswriter to admire the Cards for their accomplishment. Presto, the worst of both worlds.

It's a curse sometimes, not being able to curse at fate.


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