It is your choice on Christmas Day: appreciate the gifts you've been given or wallow in misery over those that didn't come.

For years, and with an intensity amped up exponentially with each disappointment, Philadelphia sports fans longed for, pined for, ached for, thirsted for a championship. A parade down Broad Street was all we asked for, and we asked in a voice that grew louder and more desperate all the time.

This year, you awoke on Christmas as a fan of the team that won professional sports' most recent championship. The Phillies parade was the last one held by any city, anywhere in the nation, to celebrate a title.

We got our wish, right? We're satisfied and content and feeling terrific.

So why do I keep getting this image of the kid who gets that shiny red bike for the holidays, rides it around the block a couple of times, and then immediately starts complaining about being bored? Jenny got a nicer bike. Tommy got a motorbike. Oh, and the kids next door got a Wii and an Xbox.

We're talking about human nature here, and the last time I checked, most sports fans were, in fact, human.

Less than two months after Brad Lidge's third strike to Eric Hinske, the rhetoric on Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb is as angry and extreme as it would have been had the Phillies missed the playoffs. The 76ers fired their head coach, the gentlemanly Maurice Cheeks, after a slow start dampened fan enthusiasm for their off-season moves.

The Flyers are doing well, but we won't really decide whether to praise or bury them until April or May.

Three years ago about this time, I wrote a column suggesting gently that all this anger wasn't doing us any good - that it was making it tougher for the players, coaches and management to end the championship drought. That column was, predictably, greeted with waves of anger and scorn.

Until we get our championship, e-mailers declared by the dozens, we're not going to accept anything less from any of these teams.

OK, so now we've got one. The 25-year drought ended. There was a pot of gold at the end of that long, long rainbow. There was a shiny red bike under the tree.

The point here isn't to give the Eagles, Sixers and Flyers a free ride on the Phillies' pinstriped coattails. Not at all. Each of the other teams has to cope with its failure to break through the seemingly endless dry spell. Each now has to operate in a city with a reigning championship team strutting around. Each looks a little dingier in the reflection of that gold trophy with all the pennants on it.

And, yes, each team has to be judged according to its results. It is fair to criticize Reid for his game-planning and McNabb for the brutal slump that consumed him for a month. It is right to look at the 76ers and discuss whether Ed Stefanski invested in the wrong players or whether Cheeks just wasn't getting the most out of the roster he was handed.

That will go on always. That's sports.

The point I tried to make three years ago was that all this is supposed to be fun. It's entertainment. Part of the fun is that fans get emotionally invested in the teams they follow, and that leads to some of the strong reactions when those teams fall short.

But when that passion for the teams turns to rage and bitterness, something is wrong. This is not something I bring up to stir up even more of those feelings. It comes from a genuine concern for the people who make this such a great sports town in the first place - the fans. The power of sports is in the way they can bring us all together, something we got to experience during the Phillies' wondrous October.

All I'm saying now is that we should take time before 2008 expires to appreciate the gift of that championship and savor the indelible memories that team created - and that the fans created for the team. As someone who has covered hundreds of games in Philadelphia, I was as moved by the atmosphere in the stands at Citizens Bank Park as by what I saw on the field.

It felt the way we all imagined it would during those 25 years. The parade was a transcendent and quintessentially Philadelphia event. It truly felt that the city had been delivered from the frustration and torment that created all the anger.

That was the red bike under the tree. Let's ride it for a little while longer.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan
at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.