When I boarded the Broad Street Line with my son last weekend, heading toward Pattison Avenue to watch our Fightin’ Phils finish unravelling into another season of mediocrity, for a moment I marveled. The train was packed with fans! I quickly realized nearly all of them were headed to see the Sixers. Sigh.
We arrived and walked out into the crisp early autumn air, past the larger-than-life statues of great ball players from other eras, past the street vendors hocking bargains on bottled water and soft pretzels, past the scalpers looking to finish the season with one last sale. We entered the ballpark and made our way to our seats, determined to have fun.
The game — much like the season — started out promising, but eventually deteriorated, fueled by defensive miscues, more strikeouts than I could count and a general offensive malaise.
In the fourth inning, my son devoured what he claimed was the best hot dog he ever ate. By the fifth, the home team had lost the crowd. Chants of E-A-G-L-E-S became so persistent that my son turned to me and said earnestly, “Daddy, I think some of these people might be confused about which stadium we’re in.”
His personal concerns were put aside in the sixth, when he ascended to the pinnacle of 8-year-old fame by making it onto the Jumbotron. Afterwards, he credited the inspired floss dance he’d been performing — but I suspected it might also have to do with the sparseness of the crowd.
We each had our own row of seats for a while, before I had to share mine with a pair of young Braves fans arguing over the last of their Crabfries. My son’s row crackled and popped with the sound of Nikes treading on discarded peanut shells as he attempted the challenge of watching each batter from a different seat.
In the eighth, when Philadelphia’s deficit reached six runs, an older man in a vintage Mike Schmidt jersey who looked like he might have watched the 1964 collapse in person began a rousing solo chorus of “Let’s go Phillies.” Though as out of sync with the moment as a ballpark frank at Barclay Prime, my son joined in, fully committed — and then carried on for an extra refrain, even as the man’s effort faded .
The man, surprised someone had joined in his futile effort, turned to face my son and encouraged him. “Keep it going, kid,” he said.
Yes, keep it going.
Keep making that trek down the Broad Street Line.
Keep watching a sport whose quirks outnumber its fans under age of 60.
Keep cheering when the games become meaningless and your team has yet again dashed hopes of extending the fun into October.
Keep rooting for those Fightins. Just like the man and his dad had done, and probably his father before that.
Later that night, as our subway ride home jerked to an end, my son looked at me wistfully. “Just think Daddy,” he said, “only six more months until we do this again next season.”
Keep it going, we will.