Woke up this morning. Listened to an hour-long car ride of nonstop radio chatter proclaiming Roy Halladay's greatness. Got to work. Heard around the water cooler about why the Phillies are virtually unstoppable. Surfed the 'net during my break. Read up on why the Phillies are the team of the decade and a legitimate dynasty. Puked.
And amidst the anger and disgust, I began to identify an even more unsettling feeling that is growing out of this Phillies nightmare, a feeling that this is all too familiar. Beyond just the typical jealousy and the resulting reflections about my own team's inferiority, there's something else brewing here. Think about it: A direct rival having unparalleled success, numerous playoff victories and World Series rings, multiple watershed moments that will no doubt resurface in highlights for years to come. As much as I hate to actually face it, this Phillies run is looking more and more like the Yankees return to greatness of the late 90's by the day.
Especially from a Mets fan's point of view there are many of the same, gut-wrenching elements at play here. For one, like the Yankees the Phillies share an intense rivalry with the Mets and in both cases, it was this rivalry that directly curtailed any sort of championship aspirations in Queens. For the Yankees, they managed to cap their run of World Series titles in 2000 by holding down the little brother, toppling the 2-3 year ascent the Mets had been building like a bad game of Jenga. Back-to-back (and belly-to-belly) titles weren't enough for them, they had to keep us down by pulling the rarely seen three-peat.
For the Phillies, this dagger came in the form of two consecutive late-season runs in '07 & '08, effectively pulling the carpet out from under a Mets team that had no business watching the playoff on TBS both years after forming such a strong foundation in 2006. Once again, a burgeoning championship fire was rapidly and effectively extinguished at the hands of one of these rivals and the window for temporary greatness slammed shut on the fingers of the boys from Flushing.
Besides closing the door in the Mets faces, the Phillies and Yankees share a number of other stomach-turning aspects to their respective dynasty runs: For one, if it wasn't enough to merely dominate in the wins column, each was highlighted by a handful of all-time great, truly special moments that will ensure none of us will ever go more than a couple days without hearing/seeing some evidence that all this nastiness actually did take place.
Who can forget the Yankees run of no-no's/perfect games in the late 90's? David Wells' "half-drunk" perfecto, the David Cone perfect game on Yogi Berra Day and of course, the most poignantly painful, Doc's no hitter to kick the whole thing off in '96. And of course how could we forget the Jeter backhand scoop to nab Jeremy Giambi at home?
Well last night the Phillies entered this same hallowed territory in a big way with Roy Halladay's epic performance, the last playoff no-no since Don Larsen did it for (who else) the Yankees back in 1956, just the second time it has been done. Ever. Couple that with his perfect game back in May and you've got the first pitcher to accomplish both feats in the same season as well as a Golden Age of Phillies Baseball that has now received the mandatory "cherry-on-top" moments that will keep the guys who make those "This is Beyond Baseball" commercials in business for years to come.
And don't forget the obvious trash-talking implications that comes as a result of all this. For a Mets fan living in a decidedly pinstriped New York during his/her middle school & high school years, I don't have to remind you that the late 90's were the equivalent of a Biblical plague. Us cursed ones couldn't go a day without catching hell for our less than ideal alliance; honestly I can't count the amount of friends, coworkers, teachers, parents who gave me a hard time during that Yankee run.
And just when I thought it was over and the Mets-Yankees rivalry waned a bit, probably the only fan base more loud and obnoxious than Yankees fans got the upper hand on us Mets fans. Fortunately, for most of us Philly is far enough away that there's at least a slight buffer so you probably don't get the business on a daily basis like in 2000 but let me tell you, multiply the whole experience by ten if your college years were spent in central PA and you were knee deep in cotton candy-colored apparel.
But beyond all this, beyond the clear and obvious rivalry defeats, beyond the timeless moments (of which we've got only a couple in our entire history), beyond even the ruthless trash talking, there is one aspect of these parallel runs that hurts worse than anything else. It's the fact that it could have been us. That could be Wright & Reyes on the Wheaties boxes, those could be our World Series giveaway keychains, it could be Endy's Catch that they play during the Fox baseball disclaimers, it could be Citi Field that is hailed as a home for October greatness. That could have been the Mets, if not in the late 90's then definitely the '06-'08 version.
Like Yankees fans, Phillies fans have now achieved the Holy Grail of fandom, a dynasty run, littered with epic moments and celebration parades, the kind of run that may come along once in a fan's lifetime, if he/she is lucky but realistically probably won't. They received what sports fans pray for. Like the Yankees of the late 90's, the Philles are achieving immortality and the absolute worst part about all of this is that just like last time, us Mets fans have a front row seat. God it's rough being a Mets fan sometimes.