Not everybody knows the story of how "Sweet Caroline" came to be associated with the Boston Red Sox -- I didn't know it myself until a couple of years ago, and I've been a fan for quite a while -- but regardless of how things developed, there is nothing in the world that describes my relationship with the Sox quite like that song does: "Where it began, I can't begin to know when ... And when I hurt / Hurting runs off my shoulder / How can I hurt when holding you? ... Good times never seemed so good."

That song, however inadvertly, is all about being a fan, about being so in love with a team that you can't even think straight, because you well up with tears when you hear a song written by a man who also wrote the (in-?) famous lines "I am, I said ... and no one heard at all / not even the chair." I don't really care that Neil Diamond is more the Sergeant of Square than the Sultan of Swing. Doesn't matter. When I took G to Fenway Park for the first time, for his birthday, and I heard him singing along with the Fenway crowd, and I saw the look of utter bliss on his face, that right there was my own personal nirvana.

And I was wondering: do the Phillies have a song that invokes the same feelings in its fans? I can't really think of one, and I've been a Phillies "phan" longer than I've been a member of Red Sox Nation. Well, maybe "Loser," but that's more intended to be more ironical than anything. Their storied history notwithstanding, the Phillies aren't really losers, and certainly not this year. Except for Pat Burrell, and even he only sucks for half the season. The half when it matters, but still.

I just did an informal scientific survey of 6 specific random Philadelphia sports fans -- me, my dad, my grandparents, and two of my cousins -- and between the lot of us, we couldn't come up with an analogue for "Sweet Caroline" to represent the Phillies. There were lots of suggestions, including but definitely not limited to:
  • "I'm a Loser" by The Beatles (hey! a song older than Jamie Moyer!)
  • "I Hate Myself for Loving You" by Joan Jett (already used for football, so right out)
  • "You Stink But I Love You" by Mucky Pup (bonus points for this one, IMO, because it came from a 15-year-old that I didn't know had ever even heard of Mucky Pup)
  • "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John (... I don't know)
  • "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins (no! no love songs!)
  • "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton, then wrecked forever by Whitney Houston (barfbarfbarfbarfbarfitybarfBARFBARF!)

None of these were my idea, by the way. After careful consideration and a thorough review of the 7,000+ songs on my iPod, I came up with two really good options, both of them with the exact same title, as it turns out -- "Bad Reputation," by Joan Jett or Freedy Johnston. Two totally different songs with two totally different attitudes, but convincing case can be made for either one, really.

Joan Jett's song is more defiant and, to the uninitiated, more "Philly style." I know that we Philadelphians have gotten bad press for being mean, nasty, and fatalistic. And we really don't care, frankly. What do you expect when our teams suck so hard? As long as we keep coming close-by-no-cigar to a championship of any kind*, we're going to be this way. Deal with it: "Don't give a damn about my reputation / Never said I wanted to improve my station ... Everyone can say what they want to say / It never gets better anyway / So why should I care about a bad reputation?"

The other contender, Freedy Johnston's song, is much different, and a song I like to think is more about the players speaking to the fans rather than the fans speaking to everyone else. It's sweet and melodic, wonderful in places, but also very plaintive, a plea for forgiveness or at least absolution: "I know I got a bad reputation / And it isn't just talk, talk, talk / If I only could give you everything / You know I haven't got ... Don't you think I've heard the talk? / Nobody's going to tell me who to love / Been breaking down / Do you want me now?"

Personally, I haven't decided what the theme song for the Phillies ought to be, for this year or for any other. I don't know how much time or energy I have to devote to the search, either; I'm too busy giving myself agita, hitting F5 on the MLB.com standing page, waiting for the "GB" figure to change and the other shoe to drop. Two games behind the Mets in the East, two games behind the Padres in the Wild Card, and a whole long month to go before it's over. Maybe I should worry instead about the music I want played at my funeral, when I die of exhaustion from worry.

* Another vicious lie. God, I'm lousy with them this week. In any event, Citizens Bank Park did just win "Best Ballpark Eats," according to the Food Channel. Hey, listen, I'll take what I can get!

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