Analyzing The Philadelphia Sports Scene, Pt. 2: The Players
On April 30, 2009, I wrote an article breaking down the Philadelphia sports' media (read here).
The title read "Pt. 1", and I assured you, the fine readers, that part two would soon follow.
Oops. My bad.
Well I'm finally writing it, aren't I?
While questioning myself on how I wanted to put this together, I initially decided to create a list of the most polarizing sports figures in the area. But, shortly thereafter, I planted my thoughts into writing an essay-style piece.
Conducting a list of the top ten or however many figures would be far too broad, which made the idea of essay-style that more attractive.
But enough jibber-jabber, it's time for you to move on to the real stuff. Enjoy!
It took the Philadelphia Phillies 97 years to win a World Series (poor Cubs fans, 100 and counting). They were able to break the championship drought in the City of Brotherly Love last season, but I'll have more on that in a few.
The Philadelphia Flyers first won the Stanley Cup in just their seventh season since their inception into the NHL, and they even won it the following year. Yet, the orange and black haven't hoisted the Cup since, which has been 34 seasons.
The Philadelphia 76ers were the last team to win their championship before the curse of Billy Penn began in 1983, yet they do have one other championship.
Last and certainly least, the Philadelphia Eagles have yet to win a Super Bowl. The team has won three NFL Championships, but as far as most of us are concerned, Super Bowls are what count.
So with just six championship seasons in a long and detailed history of Philadelphia Sports, it's a wonder to many how the fans of the city are able to keep their spirits high and hopes the same...
Fine, spirits aren't always high and hopes aren't always either, but the love and appreciation for the athletes who put it all on the line is there, right? Well, most of the time...
There has been an enormous mix of icons who have wandered into the city to compete on one of the four major sports teams. Most of which have been loved, yet many have been disliked.
Among those who have been loved, the most come from three teams--the Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies.
The 76ers, basically the middle brother nobody bothers with, have manufactured some all-time great icons, such as the one and only Allen Iverson. But beyond A.I., I can't think of too many others who stand out.
Wilt Chamberlain? Naw, he isn't thought of as a Sixer when thinking about his legacy.
What about that guy with the gambling problems? The one whose last name has something to do with a tree?
Branch? Leaf? Purple? Bark? That's it, Barkley.
Yes, Charles Barkley.
His demand to be traded out of Philly after playing with the team from 1984-1992 didn't sit well with many Sixers enthusiasts, but they got over it. Since, fans have grown to appreciate Barkley, even as his sanity is put in question more and more each and every day.
Back to Allen Iverson, though.
If I was ranking the most iconic figures in Philadelphia sports history, A.I. would have to have a no doubt top five placement, and could possibly fall into the top three.
But I'm not ranking, so I'll just spit out some information on the relationship with the fans.
From practices to crime investigations, "The Answer" always left onlookers looking for some of their own. But through it all, he is loved by fans, largely due to how he was able to make basketball relevant again in the area.
Ever since his absence, attendance has plummeted and the strong following has largely subsided. For example, playoff games are not even being filled to capacity after his departure.
In his first game back in the city with the Denver Nuggets, Iverson received a standing ovation that lasted a few minutes (but was cut off by the PA announcer).
Other polarizing figures branching from the Sixers include Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, and of course, Dr. J (Julius Erving).
The Philadelphia Flyers' list of players that come to mind when you think of the Flyers is much longer than that of the 76ers', mainly because of the storied history and the passion that runs deep throughout much of the city.
Flyers fans pass down their fan-hood to their offspring, much like what occurs with the Philadelphia Eagles. If your father, or even mother, is a fan of the Flyers, their is a 99% chance you follow suit.
Plus, when you are able to establish such a dominant team early in your history, along with a catchy nickname ("The Broad Street Bullies"), there has to be some names to remember.
The biggest of all is without a doubt Bobby Clarke.
Clarke was known as a dirty player at the time, but a skillful and competitive one at that. He led the Flyers to both of their Stanley Cup titles as captain, still being the only Flyers captain to lead the team to a championship.
Flyers fans still hold Clarke above all other Flyers legends, but names like Bob Kelly, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach, Brian Propp, Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Tim Kerr, Rod Brind’Amour, Mark Howe, Pelle Lindberg, Ron Hextall, Bernie Perant, and most recently, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards.
Mike Richards' legacy is growing, and he is only 24. Most consider him to be the next Bobby Clarke. His playing style is similar, and his leadership is already shining through.
Richards is locked in for many years to come, after he signed a 12-year extension in 2007.
Fans already love Richards, who isn't flashy, but gets the job done. You could call him the Steve Yzerman of the Flyers.
The reason for the deep history and large group of players who are considered as Flyers legends is due to the way the organization continuously reminds its fans about its alumni, and loves to keep their former players around.
But with all-time greats like Clarke, Lindros, Desjardins, and Perant, who would want to keep them away?
The Phillies do not have as large a group of highly touted players as the Flyers, which may come as a surprise to many due to their many, many more years of existence.
There is only two names who immediately come to mind with the Phillies: Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt.
Need I say more?
Carlton is one of the best left-handed pitchers of all-time, and Schmidt is nearly the unanimous selection as the best third baseman ever.
Carlton was always appreciated, and still is today. Yet, for some odd reason, Phillies legends aren't remembered as much as they are for the Flyers and Eagles.
Mike Schmidt, ironically, wasn't particularly "adored" as a player. He was occasionally booed by the hometown crowd, but those who knew him, for the most part, enjoyed his presence.
Nowadays, Schmidt is involved with the Phillies on many occassions and his relationship with the fans has improved.
Larry Bowa always brings a smile and a story or two to fans, mainly due to his outgoing style and aggressiveness as a manager. Plus, he was a better than average player, to say the least.
This small group of legends (there are more names like Pete Rose, Dick Allen, Richie Ashburn, Curt Schilling, and Tug McGraw, among others) will be welcoming a few members within the next decade or so.
Chase Utley is sure to be among the group by the end of his career, which many believe will be Hall of Fame worthy; Ryan Howard may end up as the best first baseman in team history; and Cole Hamels has a shot to be among Grover Cleveland and Robin Roberts as the best pitchers in Phillies history.
As of right now, Brad Lidge remains an icon solely based on his perfect season in 2008, which will never leave the minds of all Phillies fans.
Jimmy Rollins' impression on Phillies fans has been remarkable, but it's tough to evaluate his legacy just yet.
Finally, we finish off with the most beloved team in Philadelphia, the Eagles.
Possibly the most appreciated player in team history departed the team just this offseason. His name? Brian Dawkins.
You can call him B-Dawk, Weapon-X, or just plain old Brian Dawkins. But whatever you call him, the Philadelphia Eagles will always come to mind.
He has yet to play in a Denver Broncos uniform, which is the team he signed on with just a few months ago, yet even when he slips on the Bronco blue and orange, B-Dawk will always bleed midnight green.
He won't have it any other way.
Moving on, we cross over a few other superstars who have played in the same era as Dawkins, the first name being Donovan McNabb.
The ignorant sports fans of the world will say Eagles fans booed him. The knowledgeable one's will acknowledge that it was a group of fans that were sent to boo any pick other than Ricky Williams.
Nonetheless, the relationship between McNabb and Philadelphia has been shaky, at the least.
One minute he's laughing, showing off those pearly white's of his, and the next he's whining over criticizers bashing his play. It wasn't until recently that most of the fan base and media members began to agree that with a Super Bowl, McNabb could very well be a Hall of Famer.
Much of the trauma McNabb has gone through has involved one man.
A man he connected with for 14 touchdown's and won the NFC Championship with. A man he feuded with for much of the 2005-2006 season, wrecking any chances of a return to the Super Bowl. A man whose nickname involves a mere two letters.
That man is Terrell Owens, or T.O., as many call him.
Owens was a man amongst children from the moment he was sent to the Eagles from San Francisco. The fans adored him, and his play only increased the level of appreciation.
And in stepped Drew Rosenhaus.
We all know the story. In the end, Owens was cut, and moved on to the Dallas Cowboys. Eagles fans have trouble just saying his name ever since.
But moving farther into the past, Vince Papale is a favorite player of many due to his inspiring story.
Randall Cunningham is remembered as one of the most explosive players in team history. Chuck Bednarik is simply known as a tremendous player who could demolish anyone he wanted to.
Reggie White continues to bring back memories of his historic seasons in Eagles green. It's unfortunate he had to retire as a Packer, and it's even worse that he had to lose his life so early.
Steve Van Buren, Tommy McDonald, Wilbert Montgomery, and others rank among the best Eagles of all-time. The list goes on and on.
But everyone else aside, there is no other Eagle who is adored by the fans as much as Brian Dawkins is at this moment.
With that, part two is complete.
Is there a part three, you ask? I'm not making any promises, but I think it's likely that there will be.
Until then, so long.
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