We live in the best sports city in the country. Stop laughing, we do. People in this city care more about our teams than any other town from here to Seattle and back. We live and die by what the Phillies, Sixers, Flyers and especially Eagles do. More recently, it seems, we’ve been dying by them.
This year has sucked so far. There’s no other way to describe it. The Eagles were an embarrassment. The Sixers didn’t even exist. The Flyers were the lone bright spot so far, and trust me, they weren’t that bright.
Three teams, three seasons, three slow, painful deaths. I saw enough of Mike McMahon in college to know that if he ever stepped on the field last year, it marked the end of the season for the Birds. Blame T.O. all you want, but the Eagles did this to themselves. And they did it to us. Sure, there were injuries, but the season was over before it started last season. The Eagles signed a deal with the devil of the NFL to get them to the promised land, and a year later, right on schedule, he ate their collective souls.
The Eagles brass has convinced everyone in this town that fiscal responsibility is the pathway to success. In other words, we’ll pay you if we feel like it. If not, fuck off. They got away with that method with the likes of Trotter, Douglas and Welbourne. It didn’t work with Westbrook, as the 5-8 third down back (from VILLANOVA) held them up for millions. It didn’t work with Owens either, and that decision ripped the team into shreds.
I heard all the excuses from Eagles fans after last season ended. It was McNabb’s crotch. It was the post-Super Bowl slump. It was everything but the fact that the Eagles players finally had enough and couldn’t work together. It wasn’t the talent - that team wasn’t winning with McNabb last year whether he was healthy or not - it was the chemistry. Jevon Kearse, Lito Sheppard and a host of others went to AC for a certain ex-teammate’s birthday bash. Hugh Douglas, who wasn’t even on the team anymore, was getting in fights in the training room. By the end of the season, the team looked like a preseason roster. They were one of the worst teams in the league, capped by a performance against the NFC Champs that nearly had the 700 level bums hurling themselves onto 95. Seriously, as an aside, what was the logic in putting the stadium that close to I-95 anyway? It’s not like the parking at the Linc is so big anyway, would an extra 50 feet make a difference? Come to think of it, if you fell out of the top section of a football stadium, it wouldn’t matter if you fell onto the highway, a parking lot or a pile of pillows, you’re dead before you can scream Fly Eagles Fly. Okay, where was I…
The Sixers went from being the darlings of the city in 2000 to barely being able to fill the lower bowl of the Wac this season. Allen Iverson is going to play this game until he breaks every bone in his body. He’s the hardest working athlete I’ve ever seen in my life, and even he gave up on this team at the end of the season. It has become that bad.
Think about this for a second…since Billy King took over as GM of the Sixers, they have drafted Larry Hughes, Speedy Claxton, Sam Dalembert, Jiri Welsh and Andre Iguodala in the first round. Three years during the King era, the Sixers didn’t have a first round pick at all. Only two players drafted during the first round in the last eight years are still with the team, and King passed on the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Tayshaun Prince, Bonzi Wells, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Manu Ginobili and Cuttino Mobley. Granted, the last four players were second round picks, but someone had the scouting expertise to draft these players. Those experts obviously did not work for the Sixers. Not all of this was King’s fault. The Sixers let Larry Brown run this franchise into the ground with the likes of Derrick Coleman and crappy role player after crappy role player. But Brown was long gone before King brought in the parasitic Chris Webber. How’d that trade work out for the Sixers? Nobody in the city cares enough to watch them, Webber can’t get more than three inches off the ground, and that’s only in the select games where he can get three inches off the bench, and Sac Town’s in the playoffs. This summer could be an interesting summer for the Sixers, but don’t expect Mr. King to go anywhere. In fact, don’t expect anyone to go anywhere, because getting better doesn’t seem to matter to the Sixers.
The Fly boys actually made the playoffs, and had more injuries than anyone, playing with a minor league roster for most of the season. Peter Forsberg is the best player in the world, but was hurt most of the year. When he was good, he was great, and he single-handedly got the Buffalo series to six games. But in three of their four losses, they were totally embarrassed. I was there the other night, and with over 12 minutes left in the SECOND PERIOD, the game was over. I don’t mean ‘they didn’t have a chance to win’ over. I mean ‘they didn’t have a thousand people in the arena at the end of the game’ over.
I called my friend when the Flyers signed Forsberg and proclaimed the Cup was coming to Philly. When Derrien Hatcher signed up to secure the defense, it was a foregone conclusion. Then the new rules caught up to the defense, and with one good knee to share between four or five blueliners, there was no way the Flyers were winning the Cup. But please, show up. It’s the playoffs. Have some self-respect and show up for your fans.
Okay, so let’s recap. The Eagles shit the bed. The Sixers shit the bed. The Flyers shit the bed. It’s the first week of May and the only thing we have left is, gulp, the Phightin’ Phils. The Phillies are the bane of my existence. They aren’t bad enough to forget about. They’ll stay in the playoff race just long enough to keep my interest all summer and break my heart in the fall. Like they do every year. Hell, I’d almost rather have a 100-loss season. At least that way, I wouldn’t have this knot in my stomach come September. Every September. I could go on and on about the Phillies. They have an ace-less pitching staff. They have a guy behind the plate who couldn’t start in the Maccabia Games, and not because he’s only half Jewish, but because he’s all bad. I did have a clever line to put in there, but there’s nothing funny about a catcher who can’t control a pitching staff and hits in the low .200s every year. This team has some talent…and young talent at that…but for every Chase Utley, there’s a David Bell. Bell is so hated in this city, they should chuck the Phanatic out at third base the rest of the year. He probably can’t hit better than .250 either, but at least he wouldn’t get booed every time he came to the plate. Ah, who am I kidding? We’d boo him too.
But that’s what makes us great. This city is great because of the people in this city. We’re real. We’re obnoxious and brash and loud and, in many cases, downright repugnant. But we care, and that’s what makes us the best. We care more than you do. We care about winning. We care about losing. We care about our athletes respecting this city. We deserve a winner, and we’ll be waiting, yelling and screaming from the top of Willy Penn’s hat until we get one.
The way it looks right now, though, we’re gonna be waiting for a while.