Philadelphia Inquirer - December 28, 1980

1980 – It Was The Year Things Changed


What kind of year was it? It was a year a lot of things went right (Far right, some Democrats would say.) And some things went wrong. But little remained unchanged – unless, sadly, it would be the status of the hostages in Iran.


One event, though, definitely set the year apart. For the first time in the history of Western man, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. Not only that, but as December arrived the Eagles were offering me prospect that tney would equal the accomplishment of their Veterans Stadium co-tenants. And earlier in the year, across the street at the Spectrum, the Flyers and Sixers had reached the championship series of their respective recreational activities.


In the cases of the city's hockey and basketball franchises, though, finishing second wasn't good enough for the urban peasantry that makes up a substantial portion of Philadelphia sports fandom. They churlishly demanded Unconditional Triumph, and were abetted by some evidence that the Sixers and Flyers had snatched defeat from - the jaws of victory in the course of their championship tests.


This brand of boorishness in the stands continued, per usual, into the baseball season, resulting in a renewed falling out between the fans and some Phillies, notably shortstop Larry Bowa, who implied unpleasantly that the fans of Philadelphia deserved a return to some of the less thrilling seasons of yesteryear (1971 Phillies, 59-97; 1972 Eagles, 2-11-1; 1973 Sixers, 9-73; 1970 Flyers, 17-35-24). The serfs in the bleachers, as you can well imagine, didn't take kindly to that sort of guff from someone being paid a six-figure Salary to participate in a children's game. They booed Bowa right through the Series (during which he hit .375).


So what did it all mean? They were, after all, just games. Some elitist aristocrats are probably even now sniffing at our choice of sports to lead off our review of 1980. But we're right, and the elitists are wrong. The third strike Tug McGraw zoomed past Willie Wilson to end the Series united the region in euphoria as nothing since Washington's troops bayoneted the Hessians at Trenton.


Some social scientists have suggested that professional teams are substitutes for armies in the psyche of modern city-dwellers, and when our little armies beat other metropolises' little armies, we pile up rich stockpiles of psychic rewards in lieu of tangible booty.


The season had other military parallels. The Phillies and their fans, like generals who are always getting ready to fight the previous war, kept looking to the west for the enemy, to the confluence of the Monongahela and the Allegheny where the barbarian brigands of Pittsburgh have their base. But this time the threat was lurking to the north, on the AstroTurf-carpeted tundra of Montreal's Olympic Stadium.


The Phillies mushed past the Montreal Expos, then represented the embattled northeast in Houston, the silicone-studded buckle of the Sun Belt, and there we whipped their Astros. The Phillies then blew the Royals back to Kansas City.



At last, with the war over, came the love feast Larry Bowa took it all back. So did the fans. Using another metaphor, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post described it as "the kind of loving reconciliation that comes after years of marital friction."