By Nicole Del Casale
As I think back to the last time I sat in the crowded venue of Citizens Bank Park, I remember the pained expression on my mother's face as I screamed "goodbye!" over the tumultuous rumble of the excited fans. I had to leave the game in the bottom of the 7th in order to drive back to D.C. for a shift. As I kissed my mother and ran up the concrete stairs, I smelled the air, savoring my last game of the season, the Phillies up 6-1 against the Giants, and saw my mom sadly turn away, confused that I could possibly leave at such an exciting moment in the game, but happy that the Phillies were dominating.
My mother's father owned season tickets for the Philadelphia Phillies. He died of a heart attack when she was 15-years-old. Inheriting his tickets, she has kept them for36 years. She took my sister and I to many games, keeping up the family tradition. My first Phillies game was in-utero, and I remember fondly the days when I attended, just three-years-old, screaming for Mickey Morandini, Rico Brogna, and Kevin Stocker (my favorite player) from section 326 in Veterans' Stadium.
As I got older, I wondered why my mother loved the Phillies so much. Perhaps college has oriented me into a more existential mindset, but I have been pondering with more frequency how one becomes so connected and involved with city pride. Sports pride, patriotism, brand loyalty; what does it all mean? It seemed almost unthinkable to me to even consider doubting my loyalty to this great city and to the Phillies.
Steadfast fans, even during their abysmal years, we never missed a game, and it was blasphemous to leave before the game was over. My mother, ever the vigilant and astute fan, has kept a record of every game in each season's scorebook, teaching my sister and I to count the balls and strikes, the difference between P-3 and F-3, and how to properly record pitching changes and pinch-hitters. In the last four or five years my mother's loyalty to the red-and-white pin stripes lies deeper than just Philadelphia pride; she becomes physically sick, experiencing migraines or stomach aches while watching the Phils founder in dire situations.
How could someone become ill over a game? My mother is a shy, quiet, but passionate woman, and I have never seen her more emotional than when the Phillies are down by two runs in the bottom of the eighth, with Ryan Howard up to bat with two men on and two outs. Oh, and did I mention: they are playing against the Mets?
As I have matured, I have begun to comprehend my mother's unwavering loyalty. She loves the Phillies because they provide her with some semblance of a connection between her father and she. In May of 2008, two days before my high school graduation, my grandmother passed away. My grandmother was an avid Phillies fan, attending many games with us until it became too difficult for her to navigate the serpentine stairs at the ballpark. Remaining sharp in her old age, she and my mother phoned each other every week, their discussions always including their Phillies' latest performance. It was shortly after her passing when I first noticed my mother's zealous allegiance to the Phillies spark in a higher intensity. My mother, shy and soft-spoken, becomes an incandescent flame when umpires make the wrong call against her Phillies. They're always her Phillies, not the Phillies.
It may seem odd to those from small towns why we "city folk" have such undying allegiance to our sports teams and to our cities. My boyfriend,who grew up in one of these small towns, was the first person to make me question why I have such passion over a team. Until this week, I had my doubts. But now, I see in my mother why a sport can become such an important role in one's life. While I do have Philadelphian pride for my Phillies, I realize that the experiences I've shared with my mother and at these games for the last 21 years are the reasons why I cheer so loudly for my home team. The next time someone asks me how my 5'1" mother can cheer so loudly, I will have to tell them she isn't just cheering for herself, she's cheering for my grandmother and my grandfather as well.
Why My Mother Loves the Phils
By Nicole Del Casale