The Phillies are one victory away from winning the World Series but don't blame Rob McElhenney if he isn't ready to celebrate just yet. The creator and co-star of FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has seen the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers or Sixers reach the doorstep of greatness seven times during the past 25 years only to fall short in the end. With Cole Hamels on the mound for tonight's Game 5, however, Mac is feeling cautiously optimistic. I caught up with McElhenny to find out what it's been like to go 100 seasons without seeing one of his teams win a championship and what he'll do with himself if the Phillies finally break that streak and win the World Series.
Arash Markazi: So how are you feeling today?
Rob McElhenney: I'm (expletive) fantastic.
AM: I would imagine so, with your Phillies being one win away from a World Series title. I was surprised to hear that the city has gone 100 seasons without winning a championship. Everyone always talks about the Cubs going 100 years without a World Series and the whole "Curse of the Bambino" before the Red Sox won. Do you think Philadelphia's futility has been overlooked?
RM: Well, certainly the people of Philadelphia have talked about it ad nauseum. I think in terms of a national audience, Philly's an interesting city. We're sandwiched between New York and D.C. and those are the cities that get all the press and it's not a glamorous city like L.A. or Miami. It's one of those working class towns that in an overall sense doesn't get a lot of national coverage and I think that just bleeds into sports.
AM: Do think there has been any kind of curse on the sports teams of Philadelphia that have gone 100 seasons without a championship?
RM: No, no, I don't think so. I'm not superstitious. I do, however, think that years of negativity and negative attitudes cannot help the collective spirit of a city like that. It certainly can't help.
AM: I know there isn't a lot of history between the Rays and Phillies, but one of the worst losses Philadelphia has had in those 100 seasons was losing to the underdog Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game, the last game ever at Veterans Stadium. Would that mean anything or would you have rather played a team like the Red Sox or Yankees?
RM: Oh no, to me that game is so far in the past. At the time it was devastating because they were such the better team, it was at home and everyone just assumed that we were Super Bowl bound and it didn't work out. But they made it to the Super Bowl the following year, I think, so everything was forgiven although it would have been nice to beat New England. I think it would have been great retribution to beat the Red Sox.
AM: What's your take on this Phillies team?
RM: Well, first of all, they're young which is really great. My buddy Charlie pointed out that a lot of them came up through the farm system, which is a difficult way to field a team but will ultimately yield the best long-term results. I hope that's the case and we're able to hold on to some of these guys. I mean how beautiful is Cole Hamels right now?
AM: Yeah, plus you have him on the mound tonight. The Phillies are one win away from winning the World Series, but if you could pick the team to beat this 100 seasons jinx or whatever you want to call it, which one would it be?
RM: The Eagles and we're still not done yet. The NFC East is strong, but with Dallas crumbling, it's still in their sights. Donovan McNabb is playing like his old self and, remember, the Giants won the Super Bowl last year when they were 10-6 so there's always still that possibility. I still believe in McNabb and Brian Westbrook and I'm glad they're playing well. Clearly that stretch when they went to four straight NFC Championship games was great but I don't think it's over yet.
AM: You talked about the negativity of the Philly fan Would you put yourself in that boat? Were you one of those that said Andy Reid needed to be fired and McNabb needed to be traded a couple years ago, or are you more optimistic?
RM: I definitely try to be [optimistic], although I can jump to that negative side very, very quickly and do get very frustrated when I'm watching the games. I think a lot of it has to do with loving the team so much and also just at a certain point being powerless when you're watching any kind of sporting event. Ultimately that's the strange sadness of being a sports fan: we love it so much and, at the same time we're ultimately just powerless when it comes down to it -- to do anything to affect the outcome of a game. Unless you're at the stadium and you can play a part in the fan factor, but sitting at your home and watching TV it's definitely a powerless feeling.
AM: Do miss Veterans Stadium?
RM: I loved the Vet and I do miss the Vet. I've been to the Linc a number of times and it's really a great place but it doesn't have that same sense of being locked in that you got at the Vet and that's what made the Vet such a great home-field advantage. Everybody hated playing there, the field was terrible and you literally felt that you were locked in like you were at the Roman Coliseum. The fans were on top of everything and it was always so loud. I remember as a kid the stadium would shake, you would be in there and fans would be cheering and you could feel the Earth beneath you rumbling and the Linc just doesn't have that.
AM: The last Philadelphia championship came in 1983 with the Sixers won the NBA title and you were six. Do you have any recollection that moment?
RM: I don't. I do remember being a kid and going to see Ron Hextall and the Flyers play in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Oilers in 1987 and they lost. I remember that and I obviously remember the Phillies went to the World Series in 1993, I was in high school and that was amazing but obviously they lost that as well. I actually went to the Super Bowl in 2004 when the Eagles lost the Patriots so we've gotten close in my lifetime but I've never seen us win.
AM: Being as close as you are to that moment and having waited 25 years to experience it can you even allow yourself to think about what you'll do if they win?
RM: I'm not going to think about that. I can't yet. You can talk to me in the eighth inning if they're up by a lot and Brad Lidge is coming into the game.
AM: What has this season been like for you, not only getting this far but you got to see the Phillies when they were in town to play the Dodgers, right?
RM: Yeah, I was at two games. I went to the one they lost (Game 3) and the clincher and that was amazing. There were so many Phillies fans there and at the end of the game they all came to one section, which happened to be the section that I was in behind the Phillies dugout, and the Phillies were all celebrating and it was such a great experience.
AM: There's been a lot of memorable Philadelphia teams during your time that have come close to winning it all: those 1993 Phillies, the 2001 Sixers, the 1997 Flyers, the 2004 Eagles among others. Do you have a favorite?
RM: I actually love the 1988 Eagles when Randall Cunningham was the quarterback and Buddy Ryan was the coach and they had that amazing defense with Jerome Brown and Reggie White. They won the NFC East -- they weren't greatest team but they were really fun to watch. I was a kid and it was right at the perfect time for me as a fan -- at 11 or 12 years old, it was the height of my love for football.
AM: So you go from being an average fan to being the creator of a hit show which is constantly used as a play on words in almost every Philadelphia sports story I read these days. How has being the creator and star of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia changed things for you when you go back home?
RM: It's dramatically different now when I go back to Philadelphia. It seems like everybody back there either likes or is aware of the show. It's a pretty amazing feeling. I really can't put it into words.
AM: Are you the only one on the show that's from the city and is a fan of Philadelphia's sports teams?
RM: I'm the only person from Philly but my wife [Kaitlin Olson], who is also on the show has also adopted Philly sports teams so she's a huge Eagles fan and a Phillies fan.
AM: Speaking of Sweet Dee, our Stewart Mandel named her as his College Football Mailbag Crush this year, so she's got some newfound fans of her own this season.
RM: Yeah, that's right she's SI.com's Crush of the Year, that's cool. I'm glad you like her. You're our demographic. Young dudes.
AM: Finally, you had some Eagles players on the show this season, if the Phillies take care of business tonight can we expect to see some Phillies on the show next season?
RM: I hope so. Let's see what happens tonight first.