Camden Courier Post - November 2, 1980
Phillies’ fans want to sup immortality
By Msgr. S. J. Adamo For the Courier-Post
What's in a name? A game by any other name is still a game. The World Series is only a game. The Super Bowl is another game. The Stanley Cup playoff is a game. So too is Wimbledon.
A game is a game is a game.
Yet games in the United States have assumed an importance seldom achieved anywhere since the Romans held their gladiatorial contests in the Coliseum and other amphitheaters of their Empire.
Those ancient games of life and death provided amusement for a cruder culture. Still, it must be said that football and hockey at times approach the mayhem of that earlier age.
In baseball the club is swung at a pitched ball rather than an opponent's head. Likewise the ball is pitched at a strike zone. Only by accident is it hurled at the batter, like David unleashing his sling shot at Goliath. At least the rules forbid the use of bat or ball as weapons. Thereby baseball became an athletic contest of magnificent skills rather than a violent encounter among gladiators.
We are more civilized – at least, in our sporting contests, where the emphasis is on skill not violence.
ATHLETIC CONTESTS now provide a saner outlet for man's aggressive spirit. Maybe someday differences between nations will be settled on the athletic fields instead of the battlefields. If Carter had more imaginations he would have challenged Russia in the Olympics to settle the issue of their presence or withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then the U.S. athletes would have been heralds of peace striving to restore the rights of others through their athletic prowess. Granted it's not as rational as diplomacy but it's far more rational than a bloody war.
Anyway, sports has become a saner outlet for human pugnaciousness. Such sublimation spills over into the fans, that nameless multitude that identifies itself so enthusiastically with its athletic heroes. All through the playoffs and World Series I would bet that violent crimes tumbled down. Everyone's energies were involved in the Phillies' spectacular triumph.
That is the mystery of empathy, whereby all Philadelphia and environs identified with its champion baseball team. The newspaper's headline said it best: "We Win." Not they but we became the world champions on the glorious Tuesday night of October 22, 1980. For the first time in nearly a century we were the best, Number One in the whole wide world.
Success is sweet. But the road toward it was bitter.
The heart-stopping games – the extra innings, the strikeouts, the homers, the double-plays, the roaring crowds that seemed loud enough to drown out a volcano, the close calls with defeat all such episodes tested the nerve as well as the skill of the Phillies, our Phillies. Each of us fans lived those moments with them. As one interviewer said on TV during the celebration, "Thank God, it's over. I'll have to rest for a few days to recover my strength. I'm worn out."
At the end of the long road was the glory of triumph. All the pain, all the misunderstanding, all the bickering, all the racial and ethnic tensions, all the booing, all the anger, all the frustrations – all was forgotten as the wine cup of victory was drained to the dregs. Everyone loved every-one; everyone was Number One.
Number One team, Number One fans, Number One city, Number One region.
ISNT THAT what life is all about? The endless struggle to succeed in time will be crowned hopefully with a triumphant eternity. That is the dream and hope of the world's greatest religions. That is the human goal which we cherish as soon as we begin meditating on life.
Last week in the city of brotherly love we had a foretaste of that grand and glorious dream. And we all understood that life is beautiful.
Grass no greener than in Philly for top athletes
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – It was force of habit more than anything else. The committee needed a main attraction for its annual banquet and almost automatically began discussing the sports stars in other towns.
On and on went the discussion, until it suddenly dawned on the men sitting around the table that they were overlooking the obvious. In the entire history of this area, there probably has never been a more "golden time" for sports fans.
It's not just the fact that the Phillies are now world champions, the Flyers and Sixers came within the final inches of winning their respective crowns and the Eagles are steadily moving op the playoff ladder toward a date in the Super Bowl.
The success of the local teams is delightful, if only for the fact that it seems to be driving a number of residents of that rather smug, wormy Big Apple to the north into a fit of sarcastic jealousy.
But, what's even more noteworthy is the quality of the people who are busy setting examples as well as records in this town.
When you think about it, what better hero could an impressionable young man shooting jumpshots on a schoolyard basketball court have than Julius Erving, for example?
The good Dr. J. is not only the most wondrous player in the NBA, but he is also the league leader when it comes to class. If you wanted to build a bionic hero for kids in the ghetto to emulate, you couldn't produce someone like Erving.
The nicest part of all is that he's not the exception,.
Professional hockey is filled with outstanding people. But, you'd have to look long and hard to find an athlete who has had a more positive impact on the overall community than Flyer Bobby Clarke.
Like Pete Rose, Clarke is living proof that the race isn't always to the swiftest, that you don't have to be blessed with the greatest of physical skills to be a winner and that, in the end, the road to the Hall of Fame is paved with practice, sweat and desire.
The Phillies, for all their fussin', have done much to disprove the notion that athletes are just a bunch of jerks who simply play a game well.
Mike Schmidt presents a private and public image that is not only commendable, but should be classified as a community service.
By keeping winning and losing in the proper perspective, Schmidt is teaching both young and old alike that defeat isn't the same thing as disgrace and that victory is something to be shared instead of flaunted.
Schmitty may be a low-key guy, but when youngsters read his words or watch him talk on television, they see that although he is rich and famous, he remains a man who believes in a good family life, who thanks The Lord for his blessings and who knows that everyone fails on occasion and that the most important thing is to simply do your best.
There are dozens of other local athletes giving off the same positive vibrations.
Maybe it is time we all took a break and put aside all the petty acts of selfishness that always seem so important when they involve local athletes and think for a moment about how fortunate we are to have leaders like Dick Vermeil and Dallas Green on the scene.
It is a magical time, indeed.
You go to a baseball game and you get to see one of the greatest lefthanders of all time, Steve Carlton, pitch. Among All-Stars like Bob Boone, Manny Trillo and Larry Bowa, you also see a legend named Rose and a third baseman who is on his way to becoming one of the best athletes this town ever saw.
History-makers like Carmichael, Bergey, Erving, Clarke and Bernie Parent abound. Yet, you have to wonder whether their finest contributions to the enrichment of our lives haven't come when they've been out of uniform.
The memory of Barry Ashbee... the affection that has passed between the people here and a special lady named Kate Smith... the children helped by the Flyers for Lukemia and the Child Guidance Clinic... the wives raising funds for retarded children... and a thousand other times when a Philly jock took the time to do a good deed.
It would seem the grass isn't always greener in other pastures. No, not at all.