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What It's Like to Root for the Phillies

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What It's Like to Root for the Phillies

Sports

What It's Like to Root for the Phillies

What It's Like to Root for the Phillies

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In 125 years, the Philadelphia Phillies have one won world series –- and that was almost 27 years ago. Humor writer and Philadelphia Phillies fan Joe Queenan talks about what it's like to be a Phillies fan, and bear the burden of 10,000 losses.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Coming up, a British pensioner rocks out on YouTube.

But first, baseball loves history and baseball fans love to crunch numbers. Well, congratulations, Philadelphia fans although your Phillies had a decisive win last night in St. Louis. They are on course to lose their 10,000th game probably before the All-Star break. That is the most losses for any sports franchise ever.

Long-suffering Phillies fan and writer Joe Queenan joins us from our New York bureau. I guess - I hate to say this - but welcome.

Mr. JOE QUEENAN (Author, "True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans"): Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: In 125 years, the franchise has won one World Series and that was almost 27 years ago. Could you just help us to understand what's it like to be a Phillies fan and bear the burden of 10,000 losses?

Mr. QUEENAN: I said that I have hated the Phillies since I was a little a kid because I used to park cars down the street from Connie Mack Stadium in the '50s and early '60s when the Phillies lost 23 games in a row. And unlike other teams in Philadelphia like the Flyers and the 76ers and the Eagles who were sort of beloved, the Phillies are - I hate them. They never win and they never win because they never really field a good team.

WERTHEIMER: But don't you sort of secretly somehow loved them and checked the scores and (unintelligible)?

Mr. QUEENAN: No. Oh, I check the scores every day. Yeah, because, I mean, it's like checking to make - to see if a relative is still breathing. And the thing that's very interesting about the Phillies is that the Phillies managed to be pathetic without being lovable. The Cubs in modern history are a far less successful franchise than the Phillies. The Phillies have won five pennants in the 20th century and one World Series.

The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. But the Cubs are beloved. You know, they have cute little uniforms. They're a totally harmless team and they have a great stadium. Philadelphia doesn't have that. They're just pathetic but they've somehow not entered the mythology of the nation as a lovable team. I think they made a mistake winning in 1980. If they've got 125 years without winning then they just have this kind of mythological power.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now Phillies fans don't have a particularly good reputation either. I mean, this is - they have a reputation for being, shall we say, surly. I mean, as one thing feed into the other, do you think? Is this a general bad karma?

Mr. QUEENAN: That's what the players always said. The players always say that. But if you had spent 97 years waiting for your team to win the first championship in their history, you'd be in a pretty surly mood.

WERTHIEMER: Why don't you personally divorce the Phillies fan? I mean, why don't you decide to be a Washington Nationals fan or - God forbid - New York Yankees fan?

Mr. QUEENAN: Because people who switch allegiances go to hell, just like people who switch parties. I mean, just think - I've just basically believe that you have to play the cards that you're dealt with. And when I meet people from the Midwest who root for the New York Yankees, I just have contempt for them. You have to like the Scots.

It took about 700 years for the Scots to beat the English, but when they finally beat them it was fantastic. It was a great rush when they won the Battle of Bannockburn. But, boy, it took a long time.

WERTHEIMER: So was that something like the feeling that you had in 1980 when the Phillies actually did win?

Mr. QUEENAN: The feeling in 1980 was pretty much disbelief by everybody because that was not a team that should have won. The team that should have won was in '76 or '77, they were far better teams. The Phillies won in 1980 in part because they brought Pete Rose in, and Pete Rose had a big heart and he really had an emotional effect on the team. But everybody was shocked when the Phillies won in 1980.

And I consider myself very lucky to have lived in a, sort of, 125-period when the Phillies did win a World Series because if you were born, say, yesterday you're going to have to live a long time to see them win another one.

WERTHIEMER: Philly fan Joe Queenan. His books include "True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans." He joined us from our New York bureau.

Thank you very much.

Mr. QUEENAN: Thank you.

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