MORE THAN A PHEELING
Let me briefly put aside my media persona and revert back to being the Philadelphia fan I grew up being.
It really feels good.
I love the sport of hockey, but it always took a backseat for me to baseball. Everything took a backseat to baseball. In a lot of ways these days, things still take a backseat to baseball.
So, to spend Oct. 29, 2008, a day that will never be forgotten in Philadelphia, with family and friends was as special as it can get.
And it was a blessing in so many ways.
Consider Game 5 started Monday, while I was in Atlanta with the Flyers. Sitting at a hotel bar with Ed Moran of the Philadelphia Daily News was nice and all, but it wasn't home.
But then, things swung in my favor. The rain. The never-ending rain, suspended the game.
It was rescheduled for Tuesday, again while I was in Atlanta. Peering out the corner of my eye while trying to watch a Flyers' game hundreds of miles from home would have been the least ideal situation of all.
Then, the rain canceled the game for another night.
At that point, I felt selfishly, that this was all meant to be for me.
Last night, after finishing my daily Flyers story, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to my cousin's house for an abbreviated party.
The weirdest thing about the party was, I was the oldest person there. That's rare for me. I'm used to being one of the youngest guys in a group. But not last night. No, last night I was the only person able to remember not only the last Philadelphia championship (Sixers 1983) but the last Phillies championship (1980).
It was a house full of late 20-somethings who have never known a championship, at least not since they were toddlers.
But the most important person there was my 12-year-old son.
Because of a cursed schedule, Anthony Jr. was forced to watch each of the first 4 1/2 games elsewhere than with dad. But not this night.
When Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske, he jumped into my arms screaming euphorically. I tacked him onto the couch. My cousins spilled out into the front yard spraying champagne all over one another.
Anthony and I were still inside, and he looked at me and said, "I'm so happy that I could watch this with you."
Let me be honest - the tears flowed. It was a combination of 28 years of baseball failure with the good fortune of being able to have one of those father-son moments that will never be forgotten - by neither father nor son.
I only wish my six-year old son and my eight-year-old daughter were with us to celebrate too, but when I saw their smiling faces this morning, they ran at me and tackled me in my kitchen saying, "Phillies win, Phillies win." That at least filled the void of all the hugging and kissing without them 10 hours earlier.
But back to last night. Just celebrating the win by feeling the sticky champagne dripping down our necks wasn't enough. We needed to celebrate - with the people of Philadelphia.
Remember, these are my people. I grew up in the city. They represent my roots.
We piled into my cousin Kevin's Hummer and drove to Broad Street. We parked near Chickie's and Pete's and paraded ourselves down Broad Street into South Philly.
When we reached Broad and Shunk, we had to stop. There were thousands of people dancing in the streets. You couldn't move.
And as wild as the partying was - fireworks being shot off every five minutes, street signs being ripped out of the ground, fans climbing traffic light stands and being pelted with full cans of beer - nothing was more surreal then seeing many of the same guys I grew up with suddenly appear out of nowhere.
There they were, guys from my youth who celebrated with me on Oct. 22, 1980 at Granahan Playground in Overbrook prior to going to school at St. Donato's after the Phillies won the night before, all marching down Broad Street in a sea of red.
There was Rocco, and Meemo, and Pigeon and Louie and Trongo all hugging, high-fiving, and reveling in the moment.
At one point, I looked down at Anthony, who was wide-eyed taking the scene all in. He said, "Dad, this is nuts."
I just smiled. I knew then it would be a story he told the rest of his life. And I was glad I could write it for him. For once, while not sitting behind a keyboard.