The Fan

November 2, 2009
It was a cold November night in Philadelphia to be sitting under an overpass. I distracted myself from the frigid weather by entertaining myself with the loud noise coming from the raucous crowd at the baseball stadium less than a mile away. The Yankees were leading the Phillies 3 games to 1 in the World Series, but right now the Phillies were holding onto an 8 to 6 lead in the top of the ninth inning. Of course I had no way of knowing that from where I was sitting, and I probably should not have cared, but I did. It’s amazing what a man will place his hope in when everything else he has ever known has been ripped away from him.

As I sat all alone, trying to regain feeling in my fingers and toes, my mind wandered back to just a year before when I myself was sitting in the baseball stadium and enjoying a hot slice of pizza and a cold beer. And as I tried to ignore the numbness creeping from my hands and feet into my wrists and ankles, I couldn’t help remembering how alive I felt watching my baseball team play. Right now I was not feeling so alive, in fact I barely felt human. I had somehow been reduced to a shivering mass covered in newspapers and trying to slurp the final drops from a stolen bottle of jake that I could no longer feel in my shaking hands.

With no family, no job, no home, and no booze left my mind began to entertain deep, dark ideas. I can’t say for certain if I wanted to commit suicide, but it would not have mattered as the numbness crept all the way up to my knees and elbows and engulfed my entire face. I just didn’t feel like fighting the cold anymore. Part of me wanted to give in; to fall asleep and never have to wake up and face another day. Yet as the crowd roared once again just a stone’s throw away, a small flicker ignited deep within me. That most primal sense of survival burned inside of me, begging that I hang on just a little while longer.

Once again I began to distract myself with thoughts of loud air horns and funnel cakes and all the things that had once been so dear to me. I remembered how I had lived and died with every pitch, every out, and every inning. And suddenly that’s what my life became about again; I was transformed back into a fan. I imagined my team persevering against the odds to overcome the mighty Yankees. I became a part of the game, and it became a part of me. If only my Phillies could hold on for one more night then maybe I could too.

As my breath began to escape me my heartbeat slowed down I managed to force my frozen lips into a crooked smile. The stadium erupted with music and cries of victory and I knew that my Phillies had done it. It felt as if they had won the game just for me, and that was all I really needed feel alive again. And so on that cold November night in Philadelphia I finished my time here on earth the same way I had always lived it- as a fan.

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