To this point, all we truly know about John Middleton as a baseball owner is that he says he wants his team to win.
He conveys both conviction and sincerity whenever he speaks about his vision for the Phillies, but, if we’re being honest, any owner can show up at a few press conferences to offer the masses assurances that they’ll do whatever it takes.
When it comes to Middleton, though, maybe I’m too easily won. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I believe him. I’ve long thought that there is a relatable quality to Middleton—to whatever limited degree the common man can relate to a person who attended Harvard Business School and whose estimated net worth sits at $3 billion. I’ve never been able to fully explain the benefit of the doubt my often cynical and wary nature has afforded him, but perhaps it’s rooted in his local ties, or maybe it’s just that he loves the Eagles. I mean, personally, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt if this is how you react to an Eagles touchdown:
Don’t know how I missed this, but I’m 99% sure that’s Phillies owner John Middleton getting FIRED UP after the Torrey Smith TD on Sunday night. pic.twitter.com/dn5jSrIIoo
— BWanksCB (@BWCrossingBroad) January 24, 2018
That’s not a courtesy clap of the hands or counterfeit celebration done for the sake of being polite to the team’s owner who invited you into his suite; that is a primal eruption of excitement—one that was built over time through the hope, frustration, and pain that for years were the hallmarks of Eagles fans everywhere. Now that is relatability. Bob Brookover recently took a look at Middelton’s long loyalty to the Eagles that dates back to his youth:
We’d pile eight of us into a single station wagon with the fake wood paneling. We’d pack the hoagies, and me and my cousin would bounce around in the cargo hold in the back. My dad would drive and we couldn’t talk because my mom was reading the sports section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was reading about the game. We sat in section EE, right behind the goal post.
Humble beginnings. It almost sounds like a Sunday morning Ray Didinger reflection. Middleton also explained his differing approaches to being a fan and owner:
I’m less restrained with the Eagles than I am with the Phillies. With the Eagles, I’m really just a fan, and I can be more exuberant when something good happens and when something bad happens. You just let your emotions take over. And, my God, what an amazing experience that was. It was a catharsis.
While this story is a good look for Middleton and undoubtedly makes him more affable, his lasting legacy will ultimately be determined not by his football fandom, but by the level of success his baseball team achieves–and he knows it:
“I know we have a plan here and it’s a plan that is going to work.”
Here’s hoping, man.