Round these parts, we’re pretty pumped up about the Phillies being in the World Series. There’s an electricity in the air, a spring in everyone’s step and a collective disbelief that our team might actually make our dreams come true in this championship-starved city.
In short, there’s a lot to like about your team playing for a championship. One of the things that makes this Fall Classic – or any big sporting event in Philadelphia – a little better is that when we have a Major Sporting Event in town, the Philadelphia Inquirer brings back the retired Bill Lyon, one of the great sports columnists any where, any time.
Now, the Inquirer sports section ain’t bad most days. In fact, it’s probably better than most sports sections around the country. They cover the local teams well. They have decent writers who know their stuff. They were smart enough to fire Stephen A. Smith.
But, they don’t have Lyon every day, who was a columnist at the Inky for 33 years before retiring in 2005. But when they bring him back, I feel like everything is better. Maybe it’s because I grew up reading him and I’m nostalgic, but I’d like to think it’s because Lyon is what Colin Powell would call a transformative figure; he understands Philadelphia and its fans, he understands their passion, but he also can bring a dose of perspective to the sometimes knee-jerk emotion that rules today’s sports media.
Lyon is not an X-and-O guy, he doesn’t give you the “inside scoop,” and he isn’t hell-bent on shoving his overwhelming intellect in your face, unlike at least one other local sports columnist. He’ll never use five words when four will do.
He’s a great writer.
He understands and celebrates why we like sports so much, or least why we first liked them – not because we have money on the game or because the fate of our fantasy team rests on a player’s performance – but because sports is about the triumph of the human spirit. (I know that sounds hideously trite, but you should know that Lyon could’ve written that sentence in a way that would’ve sounded majestic. Really. I’m not sure how he does it.) He makes players and coaches refreshingly human, and he does it in a way that makes them seem far more heroic than a clutch homer or a touchdown run ever could.
Over the years, Lyon has made me smile. He’s made me laugh out loud. And, sometimes, it gets a little dusty in the room. And more often than not, I’ve finished a Bill Lyon column thinking “he nailed it.”
He makes me hope the Series goes seven games… just so I get to read a couple extra Bill Lyon columns.