Josh (desh) wrote,

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From Broad Street to Broad Street: The Most Exciting Week of My Life

Monday October 27th ended in disbelief. This entire city, focused on one goal, suddenly had to stop and wait for what was to become 46 hours. The pitcher's spot was due up in the bottom of the 6th, what was to become the most analyzed at-bat in baseball history.

Tuesday never happened. Philadelphia was frozen in time as the nation watched House.

Wednesday, as 8:30 and game 5b approached, I decided to stay home. The debacle of trying to find somewhere to watch two nights earlier had taken its toll. And besides, I'm fundamentally a loner anyway. The person I'd most want to watch history with is myself.

Well, myself and my roommate's fish. For the next 83 minutes I was mostly pacing back and forth in front of the fish tank, confusing the heck out of the poor girl who probably just wanted some food. I knew the Phils had the advantage with the extra half-inning to bat and the superior bullpen, and they proved me right. Jenkins doubled and scored. Madson used his last ounce of energy in 2008 to get 2 outs in the 7th, giving up a run in the process. Romero, the lefty who I always thought can actually get righties out too, proved me right, getting 4 outs. Yes, 3 of them were on a single and on a double play, but I'll take what I can get. In between, Pat Burrell, the player who adopted this city like no other Philadelphia athlete in years, got his last hit as a Phillie, and it was a big one. Feliz singled him in, and my pacing sped up. The Perfect Closer came in, and I muted the TV and turned on the radio.

All playoffs, I have to admit, I didn't feel quite right. I was waiting my entire life for a championship, for this city to reach its promised land and for my dreams to be realized. But this didn't feel like quite the year or the team. It seemed like the Eagles had the right makeup in 2004. The Phillies' playoff berth in 2007, the first in 14 years, felt like a weight had been lifted more than anything in 2008 had felt. And I didn't relate to this team the way I did in 1993, in my quite formative 13th year of life, when a crazy drunk team won the hearts of the whole city. But as Brad Lidge dropped to his knees Wednesday night, after I jumped in the air doing my best Tug McGraw impersonation, I fell to me knees too. And my eyes started to water. Intellectually it would take me a couple more days to realize how meaningful this win was to me, but my emotions knew right away.


Every Philadelphian knows where their closest Intersection is. You see, when something great happens to a team, celebrating breaks out at specified Intersections spontaneously. There's no official list anywhere, but if you live here long enough, you know where the local ones are. Which is quite funny when you think about it, given how long it's been since the last championship. So at 10:00, I threw on my gloves and Phillies windbreaker, and started the 8-block jog to Broad and Walnut, high-fiving everyone in sight.

I got to Broad Street, and it turned out that a parade wasn't what I was waiting for since I was old enough to pick up a ball. It was this party, right here. My Intersection was actually a quarter-mile stretch of Broad, from City Hall to Locust Street, packed solid with people and still filling up. Everyone screaming, everyone high-fiving, everyone wearing red, and everyone with a huge smile on their face. I hugged more strangers in 2 hours than I have in the past year.

Cell phones were practically useless, since the crowds were jamming the towers. But eventually I ran into Tony and Zoe and Erica and Tom. Left them behind only to finally find and party with Joe, Joe, Jo, Jonah, and Andrea. After awhile, my voice and hands were sore and the celebration was starting to turn a bit more raucous than I prefer. It was around 11:30 or midnight and I decided it was time to go. But Joe grabbed me and showed me a text from Tom, a mutual friend and coworker and one of the half-dozen or so people I knew who were lucky enough to have been at the game. "About to walk up Broad Street."

Andrea and I left, high-fived a few drivers at stop lights, and I made it home. Still wired, I didn't even try to head to bed until well after 1:30, with the sweet music of celebratory car horn honking playing through my window until the wee hours.


I honestly don't remember much of Thursday. There was more high-fiving and hugging. There were lines a half hour long at the sporting goods store. The ratio of celebratory honking to otherwise-meaningful honking dropped to about 2:1 by noon. And the city was still buzzing all day. I bought 4 newspapers. Bill Lyon, the retired sportswriter and Philadelphia gem, wrote yet another article, or maybe even two; he'd been pretending to be unretired for almost all of October. Jayson Stark wrote yet another wonderful Phillies article, abandoning all pretense of being a national journalist and returning to his Philly roots. (Hey, if it's good enough for Bill Simmons...)

Friday was the parade! And the city was partying in a way I'd never seen before, a way vastly different than two nights earlier. This one was for the whole greater Philadelphia area, not just the Center City late-night partiers. Or, at least, the ones who could make it to the city. The Phillies essentially broke SEPTA, as the transit company decided midday to collect as many trains as possible in the city so that parade-goers would be able to leave before Saturday morning. Streets were impassible. Buildings were unexitable. People were stranded all over the place. (Amazingly, two Shabbat guests I know of were able to take a train in from Trenton well over an hour after all inbound service was suspended.)

Lucky for me, I walk to work, which happens to be right on a non-crazy block of Broad Street. (And on the same side of Broad as where I live.) So I had the pleasure of watching the parade go by from a familiar spot, right outside where I was going to be anyway, and with nearby available restrooms besides. As Burrell came by, waving to and being cheered by his adopted hometown, the voice got hoarse and the hands got sore again. And as the trophy and the mayor and the Series MVP also came by, and then finally Moyer, the elder statesman for whom Philly truly is and always has been home, the tears started again.

"World fucking champions!"


Saturday provided the perfect transition between the Phillies excitement and what was to come. At the parade, I was starting to feel self-conscious that, 4 days before a presidential election, everyone I agreed with in the rest of the country was wearing blue, and here I was wearing red. Well, Saturday was Penn homecoming, so it was a red and blue day, before Saturday night came and finally all the red came off. (By this point, the city was down to about 5% of the honks being celebratory.)

Sunday and Monday was a lot of preparatory work for my campaign volunteer job, being an Official Poll Watcher for the Obama campaign in a polling place in the Strawberry Mansion area of Philadelphia. (One of the signup emails asked potential volunteers if they minded being located in a primarily African-American precinct. I said that I'd go wherever they thought I could be most helpful, but that "if it matters, I'm White." It didn't matter.) So there was a training and a conference call and a Powerpoint and a certification and a bunch of files to print and a bunch of phone numbers to program in. Most of the people with this particular job were lawyers, but I had poll-watching experience, and I was thrilled to be able to play the role of a lawyer for Obama for a day.


I arrived in Strawberry Mansion around 6:20am. I met the election board and the other volunteers there. By 7:00, there was already a line out the door, and it didn't go away for over three hours. This was a small precinct. Small and friendly. Everyone seemed to know each other and know most of the voters who came in. Many of the voters didn't quite know how to vote, however; so in between writing down notes and calling in figures and watching the various goings-on, I had the incredible privilege of helping dozens of people cast ballots for the first time in their lives.

I voted and returned, and 14 hours after I first got to Strawberry Mansion, I called in the precinct results and was free to go. The first thing I heard on my car radio was that Pennsylvania was called for Obama already. (Adam's text to me: "How can they call PA so early?" My response: "No legit way. Patience..." How wrong I was.) So I confess to breaking the speed limit as I hurried home to watch history unfold on TV. I couldn't find a legal overnight parking spot, so I decided to hop in a temporary one for the time being.

Ohio was called for Obama, and I might have screamed. Keith Olbermann and I did some math together, and we realized that 11:00pm would be a historic moment. Refreshing Daily Kos and CNN and FiveThirtyEight and Facebook, and watching the minutes tick by, 4, 3, 2, 1...

History! 11:01 and they start saying "President-Elect"...except on MSNBC, where they wait 6 minutes so they have time to show people cheering and partying in the streets all over the country. The Phillies' celebration was for me, but this one's more for them, because after all I'm only 27, and I'm White, and some of these people are 106 and Black and have been waiting over a century to see what we all witnessed at that moment. But it's also for all of us, isn't it? Hope knows no boundaries.

And after President-elect Obama once again said "Yes we can" (and once again in the present tense), and after I typed a few dozen more curse words and a few hundred more exclamation points, I was getting tired and still had to move my car. So I went outside and fired up the engine. But instead of driving straight for the places where I park, I decided to take a little detour. I drove down to Broad Street. The crowds weren't the same as they were 6 days earlier, but they were definitely there, jumping and cheering and playing the impromptu drum. And I drove by, air-high-fiving and smiling, and honking my horn the whole way.

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