I have been a Yankee fan since 1993, the first year that I was old enough to follow baseball day-in and day-out. Living in South Jersey, I still go to 4-5 Phillies games a year, and I've gone on the record multiple times to say I have the utmost respect for the Phillies organization and their ballclub. My sister and most of my friends are Phillies fans. I'd only root against them in the case of a series like this one, or even better, this one. But I must take one issue with the Fightins: the rally towels.
I thought the rally towel was a great touch back in 2007 when the team made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, as well as in 2008 when they won their first World Series since 1980. I was at a game during the last weekend of the '07 regular season when the towels were first handed out at the gates, and I made it to a Phillies playoff game in both '08 and '09 as well - so I can say from experience that a rally-towel waving Citizens Bank Park was a great sight to behold in those days. To appease the pro-Phillies faction that may be cursing me already, enjoy this example of what I'm talking about.
But those days are over with. October is not a novelty to this team anymore, and it should not ask its fans to treat it as a novelty. Rally towels scream "thrilled to be here!" like a married guy who's allowed a night out with his single male friends without his wife. I thought it was especially curious that the rally towels were brought back out for the division-clinching game last year - even though the NL East had been pretty much a formality since the end of August (they won the division by a healthy 6 games).
Here's the deal. The Phillies are far and away the best team in the National League. It's very very hard to imagine them missing the playoffs this coming year as long as they stay healthy. Once you reach the point that they have now reached, the fans' "rooting aides" have to be left out. You don't see rally towels in New York or in Boston. You didn't see them in Cleveland when the Indians were in the playoffs every year in the Thome/Manny era, and that team had sucked for decades prior to that.
You know where you did see them? You saw them in San Diego in 1998, where the Padres were one of the most "just thrilled to be here!" teams in World Series history. You see a stupid Rally Monkey in Anaheim that has to tell fans when it's time to put their iPhones down and slap together their Thunderstix, because they're still largely oblivious to the baseball nuances and have to make noise with inflatable sticks so they can pretend to know what's going on in front of them. And in Tampa in '08, you had cowbells. Cowbells. Let that stew for a minute or so.
And all of that crap is great if you're a team or city that is new to seeing a modicum of success in baseball, or any sport for that matter. But franchises and fan bases should outgrow that phase after a certain amount of time. It's like when you first get your driver's license and you'll volunteer to do every monotonous errand imaginable just because the idea of driving a car by yourself is so new and cool. This is why sports fans in the Northeast have little respect for sports fans on the West Coast - because the West Coast fans never surpassed that "Oh, we need milk? I'll go! I'll run out and get milk! I don't even care that it's 11:30 on a Wednesday night and I just shut my light out to go to bed. I'll go get the milk!" phase.
So, I leave the Phillies and their fans tonight with this. You're already a hard nosed East Coast sports town with some edge. You want Philadelphia to become an honest-to-goodness baseball town? Show us you can make the place rock without the rally towels. Show us all you need on a chilly October evening is your two hands, your voice, 3 or 4 domestics in the parking lot, and your passion. That, and cease with the damn E-A-G-L-E-S chants when you're at a baseball game. But that is a topic for another day.