I am a cynic by birth. Growing up four miles from Broad and Pattison has done nothing to ameliorate this fatal flaw. Rather, my formative years were spent watching failure after repeated failure. The Phillies managed to reach the postseason twice before I reached the age of majority [21 years]. The Flyers have failed in all my 25 years on God’s green Earth to find an established, franchise net-minder – leading to the team’s yearly demise each May/June. The Eagles have entered their fifth consecutive decade without a world championship. My beloved [10, 9, 8] 76ers have bookended one year of magic [2000-01] with two decades of complete mediocrity. Now, Philadelphia has grown numb to the regional mantra “there’s always next year!”
In the book of Exodus, the Egyptians were afflicted by 10 great plagues – rivers turning to blood, frogs falling from the sky, gnats and lice consuming the land, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, and ultimately death of the first born. Compared to the modern Philadelphian, those Egyptians had it easy. The Phiadelphian is helpless. Tethered to a collection of franchises seemingly incapable of satisfying our lust for victory and need for validation. Yes, the Phillies managed to “break” the curse of William Penn in the fairy-tale Fall of 2008. However, in a city that feeds the Leviathan of four professional teams, one championship since 1983 is wholly unacceptable. I stood on the corner of Broad and Oregon for what seemed like an eternity on October 31, 2008 as the championship floats rolled by hoping that this feeling of euphoria would not be fleeting. For once, it seemed as if Philadelphia was on top. Philadelphia had been anointed, “champion.”
During the young 21st century, New Delphi’s immediate neighbors to the North, Boston and New York City, have reveled in an embarrassment of riches. Boston has managed two World Series victories, three Super Bowls, one Stanley Cup, and one NBA title [seven total championships]. Similarly, New York has received the joy of two Super Bowls and two World Series [one against our own Hometown Nine]. Sure, Philadelphians could wallow in the collective misery that is the City of Cleveland. Or Cincinnati. Or Washington, D.C. But that is neither here nor there. Philadelphians expect, and deserve, better. Philadelphians deserve to win and to win consistently.
Yet the immediate future for the Philadelphia community psyche [seemingly] remains bleak. The Phillies, despite the third highest payroll in baseball, managed to finish a paltry 81-81 and ended the season an astonishing 17 games out of first place. The Eagles, recipients of preseason plaudits from many in the national media, have already began looking toward an inevitable coaching search and 2013 campaign. On the heels of the largest acquisition [depending on how one evaluates the failed Chris Webber trade of 2005] in [more than] recent memory, the Sixers continue to struggle to find an identity and appear to be little more than fodder for the upper echelon of the Association. And the Flyers, well, we may be fortunate to even see the Orange and Black take the ice at all.
The current landscape of Philadelphia sports leaves much to be desired. The Andy Reid era of Eagles football has now reached its swan song. Somehow, the Phillies have won a game more recently than Reid’s Eagles. Fortunately, Philadelphia will be forced to endure the played-out mannerisms and insulting candor of the Rubenesque head coach for only eight more games. Regrettably, this state of flux will is unlikely to yield immediate success. Instead, there will be several inescapable mediocre years while a depleted roster is re-tooled, stale schema are refreshed, and a new coaching staff tries to make its mark. [SIDE NOTE: THROW US A BONE DURING THESE LEAN YEARS JEFFREY LURIE, BRING BACK KELLY GREEN].
Beyond the NovaCare Complex, the Sixers have mortgaged their future on the [glass] knees of Andrew Bynum. While the Bynum experiment is yet to even enter its infancy, the lengthy [and apparently unanticipated] delay in the Big Man’s debut for the 7-6 does not bode well for his longevity. Should the NHL and its player’s association ever decide to end the temper tantrums and sit at the adult’s table, the Orange and Black remain married to the shaky Ilya Bryzgalov – a man who makes Lindsay Lohan look like the poster-child for sanity in comparison. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to be increasingly inundated with aging superstars and bloated contracts. In short, yuck.
Yet, it is not all gloom and doom. The next [final] eight games of the NFL season will offer a glimpse into the [possible] future. Like Donovan McNabb in 1999, Nick Foles may seize this opportunity to assert that he is a capable quarterback ready to lead the [Kelly-Green clad] Philadelphia Eagles into the future. The first few quarters of his fledgling career offered a mix of positive and negative – yet the next eight games will present Young Foles with a priceless gift – experience. Similarly, a new coaching staff and fresh message may invigorate a fatigued locker room. The next few months will be an opportunity to trim the fat [NOT a Reid joke – this time] for Lurie and Howie Roseman – a chance to begin to move forward, rather than the lateral movement that has dominated this franchise for the last half-decade.
Across the street at Citizens Bank Park, there remains [some] reason for optimism. Yes, the Phillies had a [borderline] pathetic campaign in 2012. Hunter Pence, traded to the Giants in July, remained the team’s leader in homer runs and RBIs until the waning weeks of the season. Yes, the four aces were reduced to two [.5 for a winless Cliff Lee until July, .5 for a broken down Doc]. Yes, the rest of the division improved. Yet a capable and talented core remains. If the Phillies can stay healthy [a lot to ask for] in particular Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Vance Worley, it may be enough to bring another Red October to the City of Brotherly Love. Should GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. figure out a means to reconstruct a bad [BAD!] bullpen, restock a barren outfield, and fill the void [black hole] at 3B with a competent big-leader [sorry Kevin Frandsen], one more parade from those in Red Pinstripes is not out of the question [Las Vegas does not disagree].
The Sixers remain the most difficult of the Philly Four to project. While the first eight games of the 2012-13 have left much to be desired, the team remains a work in progress, likely not to fully gel [if at all] until after the All-Star Break. Through eight games, the team has played uninspired basketball. Porous defense has combined with an inability to rebound or effectively shoot the rock. This has eradicated much of the feel-good “basketball is back” narrative the Sixers’ brass effectively harnessed this summer [see: Wednesday’s home loss to the previously winless Detroit Pistons while shooting below 30% from the field].
Still, the [assumed] injection of Andrew Bynum into this lineup gives reason for optimism. Bynum may very well be the most dominant center in the Eastern Conference, if not the league, by the time the 10, 9, 8’s gear up for a playoff run. Doug Collins’ ability to flex Spencer Hawes at power forward and Bynum at center will pose significant problems for the rest of the conference [except Miami…and through six games, the New York Knicks]. This combined with the [hopeful] emergence of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner could very well mark the long pined-for Renaissance of basketball in Philadelphia. It could all blow up on owner Joshua Harris and , – but for sanity’s purposes, we will cross that bridge when necessary.
The Flyers will not be accorded an analysis at this time. Until the NHL resolves its lockout and affords a sincere apology and olive branch to the sports loyal and tortured fans, they are unworthy of OUR time. Regrettably, the rabid Flyers fan base can only get its fill of puck by watching Danny Briere and Claude Giroux skate for the Eisbaeren in Berlin, German or other superstars skate for unknown teams in little known cities [see: Krandosar, Russian Federation]. Despite Orange and Black Nation’s best efforts, screams of DOOP! [doop doop doop doop da doop doop doop] struggle to carry tens of thousands of miles across the Atlantic. Whenever hockey returns, the Flyers will likely be competitive. However, so long as Ilya the Terrible remains between the pipes, “competitive” will likely be the team’s ceiling.
Surely, there must be an end to the unending torture that has seemingly disemboweled the Greater Delaware Valley for the better part of three decades somewhere in sight. Certainly, we will find our moment in the sun. Someday, Philadelphia will take its rightful place at the top of the American sports hierarchy with our Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles colleagues. But that would be too fair. That would be too equitable. That would not be Philadelphia.
No, instead we are to wander, wistfully waiting for that Golden Era many have dreamed of but none have experienced. In a way, this is all fittingly Philadelphia. We must wait, eternally bound to a collection of teams that are yet to satiate our need for glory. 25 years is too long to wait to [Mummer’s] strut down Broad Street in triumph. 25 years is too long to wait to taste the ultimate victory. Simply put, 25 years is too long… We will win that ultimate prize again, one day. Here’s to hoping that day is not so far off…and that those moments of euphoria will no longer be so few and far between.Tags: Adam Aron, Andrew Bynum, Andy Reid, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Claude Giroux, Cliff Lee, Danny Briere, Donovan McNabb, Doug Collins, Eagles, Evan Turner, Flyers, Howie Roseman, Hunter Pence, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jeffrey Lurie, Joshua Harris, Jrue Holiday, Kevin Frandsen, Nick Foles, Philadelphia, Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ruben Amaro, Ryan Howard, Sixers, Spencer Hawes, Vance Worley