'Nova the One Team That Can Divide Philly

Jon MossContributor IApril 2, 2009

Make no mistake, Philadelphia is passionate about its sports teams.

We've all seen the city will the Phillies to an improbable 2008 World Series title, and how two million strong lined Broad Street 30 years ago when the still-expansion Flyers won back-to-back Cups. And, despite the abundance of Division I colleges within the city and its immediate surrounding area (six, to be exact), human nature tends to unite folks with ties to all schools when one of the other ones is doing well.

If you doubt that, just ask Jameer Nelson and that magical St. Joe's team how many people started chanting, "The Hawk Will Never Die!" in their sleep. Or Mark Macon, who heard "Go T-U!" 87 times a minute while they beat every team legally allowed to compete en route to the 1993 Elite Eight.

The City of Philadelphia, as personified by Rocky Balboa, will unite to root for one of its own—especially when it's the underdog—all the time. All the time, that is, except when that one is Villanova.

For all the great things that former coach Rollie Massimino did with the Villanova program, culminating in the 1985 NCAA Championship Game, his insistence that 'Nova, with its regal buildings and expansive campus, was just a better place to go than the other "inner city" schools.

In other words, he totally isolated Villanova from the rest of the Big Five (Penn, St. Joe's, Temple, La Salle).

While Philly-boy Jay Wright has done his part to re-introduce 'Nova to the city series, the hatred still runs deep.

There is still no way that most St. Joe's fans will dare root for their arch rivals. They would, however, root for Temple, who beat the Hawks three times this year. Go figure.

So now, with Villanova in the Final Four, expect everyone to be talking about the 'Cats' chances against North Carolina. But don't expect everyone from Olney to Spruce, from Broad St. to City Avenue, to will Scottie Reynolds' next floater into the basket.

For whatever reason, Villanova is the one time—at any level—that can flat-out divide the city's sports rooting interests.

To be fair, the majority of Philadelphians will be rooting for Villanova, due to a combination of personal affiliations, the general liking for any team representing Philadelphia (I'm in this group), or the fact that everyone and their brother hates North Carolina.

Here's to hoping that these Wildcats, already a great story, can continue to pave the road to getting Philadelphia to re-accept Villanova as one of its own.

But getting this city behind the 'Cats has been, up to now, pun intended, a little bit rocky.