ALL RIGHT! Here's a slap of the hands and a clap on the rear -- just like the big boys -- for the Philadelphia Phillies. They triumphed supreme in the realm of baseball by beating Kansas City in the World Series Tuesday night. A team that has not won a championship before in its 98 years, the Phillies went for this championship like a dog goes after a bone. In TV sportscasterese, that means not only that the team was "hungry" for victory (as you might expect after nearly a century of deprivation) but also that the team had the "dogged determination" and the "bite" to win. So it is that this winning Phillies team is no group of nice people: they throw elbows at catchers who block the plate, and they hate their boss. Tough guys.
The Phils' preoccupation with being tough is what is so interesting about them. That "bite" of this year's team was said to have been missing in past seasons. It was blamed for all the losses that made Phillies fans keep on repeating, "Wait till next year." The Phillies' reputation was that of a group of friendly ballplayers who regularly finished their season watching the Series, beers in hand, with the rest of us.
But then management, in the great tradition of top American companies, got tough; no more would Philadelphia be a country club for overpaid ballplayers. First, management hired an aging ballplayer known for his meanness and determination, Pete Rose. He said he was going to teach the Phillies how to win. Then management replaced a nice old man with a nasty new fellow who publicly said he didn't like many of the players and the team couldn't win a game of kickball against a team of little girls. The change in management caused feuds and bad feelings. Some players did not talk to the press; others did not talk to each other, while others talked about the manager's being a bad guy. A tough and unhappy team.
So what happens? After all those years of friendliness, no pressure -- and losing -- the Phillies go out and win it all. They win tough games by knocking people over, and they win the hard way, coming from behind, game after game. They win with all the pressure on them, with all that hate in their hearts. What about self-motivation, maturity and the team-that-plays-together-wins-together? Remember last year's champions, the Pittsburgh Pirates, singing "We Are Family"? None of that for these Phillies. They may be proof of that awful baseball adage -- "Nice guys finish last." Too bad.