THE ATTACK on Philadelphia came yesterday, predictable as the sunrise. (It was almost as predictable as the coming collapse of the wet-behind-the-ears, error-prone x-Rays.)

The attack came winging north from fetid Tampa Bay, launched by a Tampa Tribune columnist by the name of Ruth.

That's the last name. The first name isn't Babe, it's Daniel. I knew him as Dan when we were both TV critics more than 20 years ago. I lived in Philly then and now, while Fate exiled Ruth to a city with dedicated parking for Rascal Scooters. We've got the Art Museum and the Liberty Bell. They've got strip malls and Sun Bank kiosks.

Philly has Independence Hall; Tampa Bay has the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It connects Bradenton and St. Petersburg, which makes it truly a bridge to (and from) nowhere. It is a popular place to commit suicide. (Wait'll the Phillies take the Series. Bodies will block the channel.)

When we win, we will have a parade up Broad Street. Where would Tampa's parade be - in Arby's parking lot?

After he left the TV beat, Ruth landed a job with a start-up satellite news channel. On business, he came to Philly to tell me about it. They had money, they had smarts and they'd be around forever, he said in eloquent PR-speak. "What if something goes wrong?" I asked, in my best columnist-speak.

He answered in five words: "Nothing can possibly go wrong."

I told him I'd never forget those five words.

The company he was touting quickly failed.

Jumping forward a few years, in yesterday's paper Ruth said Philly fans "want to eat your puppies and drink your blood. They are also Satan worshippers." He called us terrorists and added something hurtful. Of our sacred cheesesteaks, he wrote, "Road kill is more appetizing."

I believe he did the taste test himself because on one of my visits to Tampa, I met up with Ruth at one of Tampa's finest restaurants. Like everything else, it was on a highway. I forget if it was IHOP or Denny's.

In the paper, Ruth talked tall for a city where the people are called Tampons. It was pretty brave from a city where fans ring cowbells in the ballpark. Cowbells? Is the Trop a manure-filled pasture?

"What would Stu suggest the Rays fans do to demonstrate their excitement?" Ruth asked in print.

Easy. Do what Phillies Phanatics do - shoot off Glocks.

In population, to Philly's 1.4 million, there are almost 400,000 Tampons, but Tampa's growing and Philly's . . . not.

"Tampa" means "sticks of fire" in a local Indian tongue. The name stuck because Tampa is the lightning-strike capital of North America.

The TB the x-Rays wear on their caps - isn't that a disease?

Rays? For Florida West Coasters, wouldn't the Early Bird be an animal easier to identify with?

Clearwater goes for the Phillies, where the Fightin's train. St. Petersburg is for the x-Rays, because the ballpark is there. Tampons . . . um, do they know they have a baseball team? Tampa barely has a center. After 5 p.m. the loudest thing heard downtown are catfish jumping in the Hillsborough River.

In addition to the ballpark, St. Pete has another biggie - the Dali Museum. Most St. Pete residents were Salvador's contemporaries. They call John McCain "that kid."

What does St. Pete need with a domed stadium, anyway? It's semitropical, not Minneapolis. How thin is their blood?

Citizen's Bank exposes us to the chilly October-night air, but Phanatics will be there. You will hear us roar.

I will acknowledge one intangible: The worst-to-first x-Rays are the "Cinderella team."

Cinderella? It's midnight, and your carriage has turned back into a pumpkin.

Two games in your stinking, domed hall are enough for us. We want to close out here, not there.

Phillies in five.

As Ruth once told me, nothing can possibly go wrong. *

E-mail or call 215-854-5977. For recent columns: