So ends another season of Phillies baseball. Another season of ups and downs, wins and losses, homers and strikeouts. I finally enjoyed my first games at Citizens Bank Park. Finally experienced the joy of the “Schmitter”
But with the sadness of not winning another parade, some other thoughts have been mixed in today. Beyond the enjoyment of sports, what makes people get so wrapped up in their teams? We’ll never be as good as them. We’ll never make even a fraction of the money they do. But for some reason we love them, we esteem them, we want to be part of the whole experience. Why?
I think back to last year and I’m convinced more than ever that people want to experience community in real and tangible ways. When the Phils won the World Series, I felt like I was living in a community for the first time in years. Neighbors were out on their porches banging pots and pans and setting off fireworks. We were cheering and smiling at each other. I walked around Lansdowne for a little while and it was awesome. You could hear car horns honking everywhere. People would ride by in cars, honk, hang their heads out the window and wave and cheer. It felt incredible to be walking these same streets where normally nobody would even make eye contact but suddenly we all belonged and we all cared for each other, even for just a little while. During the parade and the ceremony and speeches, we all felt like we were part of the team, we had come together as a city and this was ours.
This was an inclusive community that had formed. All were welcome to join in the celebration, it wasn’t reserved for just the season ticket holders, or those who had authentic jerseys, or those who had memorized all the seasons stats. This was an accessible community, if you liked the Phils, you were in. It was easy to understand the norms or this community- wear red, yell loud, boo louder. The community had easily recognized leadership- Uncle Cholly, J-Roll and the potty-mouthed Chase Utley. All of this combines to make it pretty easy to understand why people got behind this team and came together as a community like they did.
What happened in the months that followed illustrates why just building the community isn’t enough. 100 days till pitchers and catchers report. There was football, basketball and hockey to watch. There was a presidential election. They released Pat Burrell. There were no more parades, there was no more celebrating, now all the community had was the promise of another year of baseball. Sure, it seemed like it would be a good season, but there were a lot of games between there and another World Series. And yes, we still loved our team, but we didn’t come together to watch every game. We didn’t hang on every pitch. We didn’t celebrate every win. As great as baseball is, it’s very easy to get distracted from the “cause” simply because there are so many other things in life competing for our time and attention and in reality, baseball just isn’t that important. And so it takes a back seat, the community dissolves hoping to reform again sometime in late September as we eye another playoff run. So what am I getting at here?
- People are longing for community.
- When community is easily accessible, it will grow.
- Community needs a common purpose to define it.
- If the common purpose of a community is trivial, participation in the community will be also.
- Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves.