NEW YORK - A funny little thing happened on the way to the Phillies' Game 1 victory in the World Series last night.
About 6 p.m., hundreds of people squeezed and shoved their way onto a sweaty, stuffy Route D subway train bound for 161st Street - Yankee Stadium.
When the crowd on the train finished shifting into place, three Yankees fans and three Phillies fans ended up literally face-to-face.
Their collective personal space appeared to be measured in centimeters, setting up an inevitable confrontation.
(For days, New York newspapers had belittled the Phillies and their fans, while puffing up the Big Apple as an impossibly tough town that would devour everyone from Philadelphia.)
Back to the subway car. What was going to happen? Fistfight? Knife fight?
"You know, those jackets are so ugly," one of the Yankees fans sneered at the trio of Phillies fans.
"Yeah," one of the Phillies fans countered, "but at least we can afford jackets."
It was on. It was so on. Except, it wasn't.
The Yankees and Phillies fans started laughing. Instead of trading more insults, they started trading tips on good places to eat in New York, then wished each other well when the subway car rocked to a halt at 161st Street.
That surprisingly amiable exchange proved to be the rule, not the exception, for many Phillies fans who told the Daily News yesterday that they'd found the Big Apple to be more of a Big Blah. And that was before the Philadelphians trounced the Bronx Bombers on the playing field, in a convincing 6-1 victory.
"It's actually been a pleasant surprise. There're Phillies fans all over the place," said Ryan Donovan, 25, of Warminster, Pa., who was decked out in Phillies gear while he walked down 33rd Street near 6th Avenue a few hours before the start of the game.
"I've heard a few people say, 'Go back to Philly,' or 'Yankees will win,' but it hasn't been that bad," he said.
At that moment, a man passed Donovan and yelled out: "Phillies in five!"
Later in the evening, the mood was surprisingly calm as thousands of fans started to gather around Yankee Stadium.
Sure, there were occasional chants of "Let's go, Yankees!" But Phillies fans seemed to be comfortable navigating through the crowd, proudly displaying Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Cliff Lee jerseys.
"Everyone's giving us bleep, but honestly, it's not that bad. You see worse in Philly," said Phils fan Rob Leanch, 24, of Allentown.
Leanch and his friend Neil Horowski, 24, had time to ponder the Yanks' new stadium, which towers like a monolith above the street, directly across from their partially dismantled old ballpark.
"It's pompous. Pretentious," mused Horowski, as he gazed at the stadium's massive limestone facade and scores of soaring arches. "It has nothing on Citizens Bank Park."
There were, of course, a few fans doling out New Yawk hospitality.
Bronx resident Jeremy Torres, 29, clutched a sign that read "26 to 2" - a reference to the number of World Series championships won by each team.
"I'm mouthing off to all of the 'Sillies' fans," he said.
"Some of them look at me funny. I tell them, 'It's the Sillies, not the Phillies!' "
But the Daily News managed to find Yankees and Phillies fans who peacefully hung around together.
Scott Williams, 35, a Bucks County native who's lived in New York for 10 years, displayed his retro Phillies shirt. His Yankee-fan friend Matt Evans, 37, of New York, said the lack of tension between the fans was easy to explain.
Yankee fans, Evans said, feed off the visceral, decades-old rivalry with the Boston Red Sox.
"Philadelphia is just a little city to the south," he said, grinning.
Williams countered that Yankee fans will feel differently if the Phillies manage to win their second straight championship. "It will put a stamp of legitimacy on the franchise. Last year was great, but Tampa Bay really wasn't a [tough] team, you know?" he said.
The vibes were good even on the Lower East Side, where die-hard Phillies fan and Reading native Caroline Bubnis planned to watch the game at a bar with 30 friends - a group that she admitted included fans of both teams.
"We decided to bring the two worlds together," she said.
Bubnis, who has lived in New York for 8 years, said she never fears walking the streets with Phillies or Eagles gear. Bubnis said she regularly calls out a cheer of support when she spots another Phillie fan in the city.