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October 05, 2023

Eytan Shander: MLB created a monster putting the Phillies in prime time, now the world gets to enjoy it

For two nights, the rest of baseball got to sit and see what truly sets Philadelphia apart from everyone else.

What is Major League Baseball doing?

By adding an extra round to the playoffs, they have inadvertently created a monster. Much like any Frankenstein, MLB has been quick to capitalize – throwing the Phillies in both prime-time slots for this Wild Card round.

They knew it was coming but this is unlike anything baseball has seen – at least since, well, probably 2008. Even this year feels different – different, not better or worse. There is a unique vibe around this team that stands apart from the ’08 squad, which is great because both have their own identity.

By pushing the Phillies into the brightest light, they in turn opened the box for the rest of the country to see how baseball should be enjoyed. The reality is that most people saw the crowd, and heard it as Bryson Stott slammed his bat to the ground as he pushed four runs across the plate. They experienced a true love story with Aaron Nola, the Philadelphia homegrown talent who was driven out and back to town this year, depending on how well he pitched.

Maybe that’s just the microcosm of the larger picture illustrating how unique this fanbase can be. From the pen to the Daycare, we love it when the “other” guys – younger mostly – step into the spotlight. It’s the underdog DNA that we can’t shake off no matter how successful our teams are in Philly.

From the standing ovation for Trea Turner to mimicking the latest gesture from Nick Castellanos, fans have been as interactive as it gets. This isn’t a football game nor is it a Sixers game where fans are naturally in a more intimate setting with players, but here we see crowds of fans fully embrace overalls to the ring finger flash. It’s more than showing up wearing a jersey and cheering along with the scoreboard.

For the past two games, our fans have shown the world that enjoying a baseball team is way more important than enjoying the game. They are out to win the World Series; we want that too. It would be an epic disappointment if this energy came to an end. But you are kidding yourself if you think this season hasn’t been about the journey as much as the destination.

That’s a new concept for us.

No, this isn’t about moral victories either. Save that for Jets fans. This is about recognizing that the way in which these upcoming games may go, this was a ridiculous season that gave us plenty to hold our breath over, and even more to exhale. This was far from perfect, it didn’t have to be all the time, and the big guns didn’t need to fire every night.

It’s almost like the past two nights were a collective exhale from everyone who went through these ridiculous ups and downs over a long baseball season. There’s a reason why MLB is going to this city in primetime for home games. Nobody else consumes a baseball game like Philadelphia. It’s not supposed to be this live of an event, not this raucous – more like something out of the NFL.

But maybe that’s the point.

Other fanbases had two opportunities to show up for their teams at home. None matched what was seen in Philadelphia. It’s not their fault, things are just different here and it bleeds through everything. The same people screaming on their feet for three and a half hours at the Linc did that at the Bank. The same group that rains down praise on the shoulders of A.J. Brown does so with Aaron Nola.

It's a football game. It’s a baseball or basketball game. It’s a Union or Flyers game. Not every game, but the right game. We need the perfect combination, storylines and talent are key. Once that comes together it pops in ways that other fanbases would only dream about – or maybe stir up nightmares.

What an amazing thing to watch on TV. Those on the fandom’s front lines should be commended for their rare exhibition and watching it from the couch put me in the position of millions of others, so many from outside of this market. I can’t imagine what someone in Tampa Bay thought as they saw their home team wilt in front of less than 20,000 people.

Milwaukee has rich history, but nothing showed up on TV like our city. None of the amazing themes that intertwined between fan and player jumped out of the box like anywhere else. It wasn’t even close, right down to the end. The Phillies' domination of the Marlins wasn’t the only beatdown, as Citizen’s Bank Park continues to put the world on notice.

Here’s to four more hours of hell!

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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