Gluttons for Punishment

 Posted by at 9:20 pm
Mar 242010

by Kevin Franklin

We live a cursed life. No, there isn’t a tattoo that burns like a million suns on our backsides during the Solstice, nor do people burst into flame once we get close to them. You see, we are sports fans. Not only that, but the most leprous of sports fans – we are Philadelphia sports fans. Gluttons for punishment.

For those not in the know, being a Philadelphia sports fan means a life of eternal sacrifice and self-immolation. In the Bible, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. If a Philadelphia fan’s significant other was turned into a pillar of salt, he or she would break out the margarita glasses. If the Greek titan, Prometheus, was a Philly sports fan, and ritualistically had his liver torn out of him every day by a giant, mutant bird of prey, he would say, “Yeah, yeah, just keep it down in the fourth quarter.”

You do not have to be a sports fan to appreciate the suffering of the Philadelphia sports fan. You just have to be a person filled with a Herculean capacity for compassion – either that or a sadistic bastard. Sure, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, but that only made us hunger for more and created a sinkhole in our stomachs when it comes to the other three professional sports teams. It’s like not having sex for a long time, then having it and going into DTs when you go two days without it again. The Phillies have gained amnesty, but the Flyers, Sixers, and especially the Eagles, are the source of our present discontent.

We Philadelphia fans live and die with our teams. We curse our heroes with a vitriol usually reserved for idiot drivers on the Schuykill and then run out and buy their jerseys when they make the All-Star team. We thump our chests at work after a big win and avoid reading the sports page for a week after a loss. We bitch to radio sports shows, second-guess the coaches and swear to never watch another game all the while making sure we schedule our lives around the next contest. Brian Dawkins and Chase Utley could never do wrong while Mike Schmidt and Randall Cunningham could never do right. Bobby Clarke is a god in this town while Bob Clarke is loathed. Allen Iverson is the best thing to happen to the Sixers in the past 15 years – and the worst thing to happen to them. Yesterday’s championship is tomorrow’s “what have you done for me lately?”

We know agony. It’s like a thick woolly blanket on a cold, blustery day. We suffer more than a Jewish woman whose son just opened a Red Lobster or an Italian mother whose daughter-in-law makes a better sauce than she does. It’s a ritual, passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, like cufflinks and sepia-colored photos of immigrant relatives we have no emotional connection to whatsoever. A glimpse into an exchange in a South Philly row house:

Father: “Son, it’s time we had a talk”

Son: “But Dad, I’m too young for the sex talk.”

Father: “No, this is more important than that. You’re what, four or five years old now?”

Son: “Eight”

Father: “Eight. Right. Listen, it’s about time you became a man. You love football and baseball and basketball and hockey, don’t you?”

Son: “Sure. They’re a lot of fun.”

Father: “Silence! They are NOT fun! They are not supposed to be fun! They are bitch goddesses of the season. They will rip out your heart, make you impotent and RUIN your life, but yet, you cannot look away. You must keep watching. You MUST tie your personal happiness to the success of your teams. In other words, you MUST be miserable for the rest of your life! The Phillies won in 2008, but that’s ancient history now. Pack it in, kid! Fun’s over!”

Son: “Sooooooo…Mom’s not coming back, is she?”

It’s grown from a slightly uncomfortable nuisance to a full-fledged apocalyptic locust storm. You could cover me in naked Playboy Playmate nymphomaniacs, and, until we get another football, hockey or basketball championship, I’ll still say, “Can we wait until halftime, girls?” We care more about the running game than running the dishwasher. We are more concerned about the Power Play than about paying the power bill.

Some day, when the planets realign, the messiah returns, and our insect masters force us into building their adobe pyramids, a Philadelphia sports team will win another non-baseball championship. It might take the forfeiting of games by every other team in the league, a nationwide influenza epidemic or a cataclysmic cloud of indifference among other athletes, but, the odds just HAVE to eventually fall in our favor sometime.

Don’t they?

And when they do, we can finally get these damned tattoos removed from our ass.