When I was driving to Philadelphia the other day, on my way to watch Game Five (part II) of the World Series, I heard a local radio station play the classic rock song, “Winning.” I was surprised to learn that the song, which I’ve heard hundreds of times, is by Santana. It doesn’t sound like the Santana of “Black Magic Woman” or “Evil Ways.” The singer has a high-pitched, nasally voice, and he repeats over and over “I’m Winning, I’m Winning. And I don’t intend on losing again.” It’s a stupid song, and as I listened to it, I began to think winning was stupid. Or boring at least.
I’d had this thought before. The morning the Phillies won Game Four and took a 3-1 series lead, I woke up feeling miserable. Maybe it was a combination of drinking and stress, late night baseball games running into afternoon football running into late night games, whiskey running into pizza running into beer. But I think my rotten feeling was more significant. I was on the verge of my first sports championship as a serious fan — Twenty-five years ago, when the Sixers won, I was ten years old. I knew nothing — and it felt anticlimactic. How could winning ever live up to the anticipation, to the desire, to the striving? How could winning measure up to failure?
Doubts crept in. Were the Phillies even good? How satisfying could it be it to beat the Rays? They’re barely a real team. Will the Phillies even make the playoffs next year? Why are the Eagles so bad without Westbrook? Is the Flyers defense terrible?
Will we ever deserve to win?
I was at my brother’s house with a few friends when Brad Lidge secured victory, and to my surprise, what I felt was not sadness, not self-doubt, not even a realization that life goes on. I felt elated. I felt great. We won. We won. We won.
Sometime afterward, after singing songs to unsung Phillies among the crowds on Broad Street — “Ole Ole Ole, Ruiz. Ruiz” — I thought about the many times we’ve lost. I recalled the luck that has gone against us, the broken plays, the bad bounces, the concussed Lindross, the vomiting McNabb. We didn’t deserve to lose, but we did.
Now we won, and it felt different. It wasn’t about what we deserved. It wasn’t a moral scale or a measurable quality. It was bliss, random, maybe stupid, but wonderful bliss. Everyone should feel it now and again.