Ya believin' yet, Philly?
Thousands of Phanatics in the city's streets and saloons tonight shouted it: yes! yes! yes! In leadoff home runs by Jimmy Rollins, in the sainted name of Tug McGraw and in the Fightin's first National League pennant in 15 years.
By a 5-1 Game 5 victory, yes, they believe.
"It's the happiest day of my life," Rob Haimes, 29, said at the packed Urban Saloon in Fairmount. "I can't believe we are here."
It's World Series time in Philadelphia, where legions of adult sports fans are too young to remember the last pro sports championship, back in 1983. (The Sixers, in case you've forgotten.) Today, they arrived at the doorstep of that glory, desperate to believe.
"I had '93, and that's it," said Greg Giroux, 28, at the Urban Saloon.
Bitter defeat, he knows. So does his city. But the neuroses that accompany memories of a queasy Donovan McNabb and an unpredictable Mitch Williams were shouted down last night by the latest best hope: a Phillies team now 7-2 in the postseason and, at times, stirring faith in a juggernaut.
Joe Crisci and Louis West saw it early tonight. In the packed Connie Mac's Irish Pub in Pennsauken, they predicted the Dodgers' doom almost as quickly as Rollins launched his leadoff blast.
What they saw: Philly believes. L.A. did not.
"The L.A. stands aren't even filled," said Crisci, 48, of West Deptford, from his corner perch at the tavern's deck bar.
"Yeah, they're not even real fans, not like Phils fans," West, 44, of Camden agreed.
Real fans, in this town, have had their sports faith defined by suffering for more than a generation. The shock of another possibility moved lifelong Philadelphian Liz Boesch, 27, to a place beyond joy as she sat in the South Philadelphia Tap Room.
"It makes you want to cry," she said, wearing a blue Ryan Howard T-shirt among a throng of fellow partisans, "because it's so unusual for us to be excited about something good happening here."
As the red-clad visiting team 3,000 miles west accumulated momentum, so did their deliriously happy legions in barrooms across the area. Fists pumped. A man kissed a reporter. Jigs were danced. Cole Hamels' strikes were cheered. Manny Ramirez was booed and cursed.
"Why would you stay at home," Giroux asked from his Fairmount barstool, "when you can watch it with all this energy, all these fans?"
Harrington's Pub, on Frankford Avenue near Cottman Avenue, was packed wall-to-wall with patrons wearing Phillies jerseys and hats. By the seventh inning, the mood was well past celebratory into ecstatic, as beers and shots flowed freely. There, as in countless other Philadelphia-area gatherings, the joy evoked bygone glory days.
"This team reminds me of the '93 team: scrappy," James Horam, 39, said from within the thrilled Harrington's crowd. " . . . I just think this is their year. It has been a magical year."
On the deck bar at Connie Mac's Irish Pub, Will Hartsough and sister Emily sprayed each other with beer as Brad Lidge got Nomar Garciaparra to end the game with a meek pop-out.
Emily, 26, wasn't born the last time the Phillies won the World Series, but their dad held baby Will, who is now 29, in front of the TV and warned him he might never see another series win.
"I just hope he didn't jinx us," Emily said.
As joyous overflow crowds joined the outcast smokers on city sidewalks, city police cruised along Frankford Avenue in the northeast and Snyder Avenue in the south to meet the revelers.
In Mayfair, the crowds shut down traffic, blasted music, shouted and scaled streetlights, and police made scattered arrests while tolerating most of the exuberance. And from Spruce Street to City Hall, Broad Street burst into a parade, with drivers hanging out of their cars to high-five each other. Some women flashed the crowd amid the break-dancing and horn-honking. Indulgent police were even high-fiving the fans.
Citywide, an outbreak of cheer-induced laryngitis is predicted for today.
"I'm ready to make new friends because it's been such a long time," said Charles Favata, 30, who greeted a reporter's questions in O'Neal's Bar off South Street with a kiss as victory drew near. "I haven't seen this in 15 years. It's awesome."