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A Winter Wonder-land

“If purgatory exists, this is what it would be like.”

I received twelve years of Catholic school education and not a single teacher could explain that concept better then my buddy Paul did Tuesday afternoon.

Welcome to Philadelphia: purgatory on earth.

This time of year, the most popular question is always “trick or treat?”. Well, the people in Philadelphia did not have to wait until Friday for the answer. We were tricked. We were all fooled.

The story is old news by now. No championships in 28 years. Curse of Billy Penn. Booing Santa Claus. We get it. We’re the running joke of the sports world.

But something felt different about this year. Instead of following the playoffs we were living history. Instead of being pessimistic, we were relishing the role of the underdog. Instead of buying season tickets for next year, we were purchasing Champaign for tonight.

Did we worry about jinxes? Sure, maybe we did. This time though we weren’t going to bother with that garbage. This time we were going to enjoy ourselves. Honestly we have spent enough time worrying about ghosts and curses.

Maybe we should have been more worried about mother nature. Now Philadelphia, days after teetering on the edge of the greatest party the east coast has ever witnessed, remains in emotional purgatory. A World Series along with an entire city’s mental health hangs in the balance of a 48-hour rain delay.

Men’s Health Magazine compiled a list of the country’s most depressed cities. Not surprisingly, Philadelphia finally finished first place in something. (Ironically, number three on the list is St. Petersburg. What a bummer of a World Series, huh?)

Well, if you believed that Philadelphia was depressed before, I beg you to take a trip down the turnpike and witness the melancholy strangling the city today. This town looks like a zombie movie and it has nothing to with Halloween. Let me just paint the picture quickly for you about how strange the last 72 hours have been down here.

– First of all, everything you’ve heard about the weather has not been an exaggeration. It is miserable. I couldn’t imagine a worse three-day stretch. We haven’t seen the sun. The only thing more steady than the rain has been the wind. It is freezing. Tuesday morning it even snowed. No lie. In Philadelphia, in late October, we were blanketed with an inch of snow. Many thought the first sign of the apocalypse would be the Phillies winning a championship. Clearly, those prophets may have been right.

– The strangest sub-plot of the week has been the total shutdown of this city. Forget an economic crisis. I don’t even think an economy exists in Philadelphia anymore. In anticipation of a victory celebration, I know of at least seven people who called out of work. Who knows how many other employees forged doctor’s notes as well. All I know is that it is not normal to go to an IHOP on a Tuesday afternoon and have seven or eight other tables full around you.

– Everyone is angry. I haven’t met a happy stranger yet. The crazy part though, is that we have no clue who or what we are mad at. We haven’t even lost the game yet. For all we know, Wednesday night could be the greatest moment of our lives. Still, there is a tangible feeling of frustration lurking throughout the streets. People aren’t even saying “Hello” to each other anymore. We simply walk past each other, raise our heads for just a split moment to find eye contact, shake our heads and mumble “only in Philadelphia.”

– Every adult has a childhood enemy. Maybe it was the teacher who gave you your first detention. Maybe it was the life guard who banned you from the pool for diving. It could have even been the crazy old lady who would scream at you for climbing her fence to get your lost football. These characters stand out in our minds years later.

In Philadelphia, if you are between the ages of 18 and 22, John Bolaris is that foe. If you do not know the story, I will summarize. Bolaris was a local news anchor who years ago predicted the “winter storm of the Century” was bearing down on Philadelphia. We were not talking how many inches of precipitation. We were talking in terms of feet. This storm would make the blizzard of 1996 look as weak Bud Selig’s decision making abilities. Homework was neglected and no child slept a wink that night. The next morning, we were treated to two inches of slush and a day of school. Bolaris was never forgiven and had to leave town.

In 2008, Bolaris returned to Philadelphia to finish the job of destroying my soul. So there he was on Monday night, promising us that there was a slight chance that the World Series Game 5 could restart at 1 am in the morning. I don’t know why I listened. I should have known better. I hate you John Bolaris.

This post is becoming lengthy and for that I apologize (I figured I should give you your money’s worth since you didn’t get it Monday night…). But remember, when you are trudging to class tomorrow at Bloomsburg in the freezing cold, preparing for an impossible test and dreading the night you will soon spend in the library, it could be worse.

You are already in hell. In Philadelphia we are left wondering where we are headed.

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