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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Real Fans Don't Get Scared

“I hope they win, but I can’t get all the way onboard.”

As the Phillies start what will hopefully be one of the most exciting 10-day stretches (and beyond) of baseball this town has seen in more than a decade, that is the wimpy refrain heard time and again from callers to sports talk shows.

Yes, the Phils have been here before and come up short. Yes, they’ve had a poor history in recent years. Yes, they’ve only won one World Series in their 100+ year history. And, yes, there is plenty of reason to think that they might not capture their first playoff birth in years despite being tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the N.L. Wild Card as the Dodgers enter play tonight.

Get over it, Philadelphia.

Being a sports fan is all about weeks like this. The crisp fall air seems to be settling in, every game will likely mean something in the next 10 days, one eye will be on what the Dodgers are doing (along with an ear on the San Diego Padres), the chance to hang on every pitch is here after a long summer, and to top it off Ryan Howard is chasing Roger Maris’ steroid-free home run mark.

And you’re scared?

I’ll even admit something left my Philly fan heart after the Eagles lost their third straight NFC title game, and that I’ve only been back to watching the Phillies every day for a couple years.

But it’s so pathetic to hear fans cry on the radio about being afraid to lose. It’s just one more reason being a Philly sports fan has lost its luster. The more we buy into this loser mentality, the dumber we sound.

It’s right up there with guys that talk about the running clock on how long it’s been since the town’s last title. It’s as bad as those who revel in bad losses by recounting every other bad loss.

If you’re not pumped for the coming week, stop calling yourself a sports fan. If the Phils come up short, feel the pain, and hope the Eagles knock the crap out of the Dallas Cowboys the week after the baseball season.

But, at the very least, please, oh please, stop calling sports talk stations and making Philly fans sound like a bunch of girls.

Picks. I’m not liking much at all this week. Too many good teams playing good teams and bad teams playing bad teams. I’ll stay in the NFL and take Baltimore –6.5 at Cleveland, Seattle –3.5 vs. the Giants, and Chicago –3 at Minnesota.

Too many injuries in the Eagles secondary have me steering clear of an official pick on this game. I’ll predict a win, based more on the fact that I still think this is a team that will have a good year than on any feel I have going into the game. A second loss in a row after last week’s debacle wouldn’t be disastrous (except for the psyche of fans), but I think they’ll escape with a W.

Week in Review:

· The time may have come to accept that Donovan McNabb simply does not possess the indefinable yet unmistakable winning quality of “it.” Sunday’s choke wasn’t on him, but I can’t see a guy like Roger Staubach, Joe Montana, or even Tom Brady allowing his team to lose a game like that.
· It’s utterly ridiculous for Eagle players to talk about “learning” from the loss to the Giants. This is supposed to be a veteran club looking to get back to a Super Bowl.
· The USC Trojans should get over themselves. They’re whining because during last week’s broadcast Brent Musburger mentioned the meaning of their QB’s hand signals as he approached the line. They ought to be more upset that their starting QB John Booty was dumb enough to reveal it.
· Pete Rose has now signed baseballs with the confession that he bet on baseball. Not that he deserves points for such stupidity, but since baseball has no intention of tossing out tainted records or other less-than-respectable Hall of Famers, put the Hit King in the Hall!

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