We waited nearly three decades to celebrate a winner in Philadelphia. A quarter century of tormenting coulda’s, maddening woulda’s, and hopeless shoulda’s.
Every team had their chance.
Allen Iverson led a no-holds-barred attack at the mighty Los Angeles Lakers, only to be shackled in five quick games.
After blitzing their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1997, the Flyers were shown the door by the Detroit Red Wings in a four game shellacking.
The Eagles knocked on the doorstep to the Superbowl three consecutive years before finally making it to Jacksonville to face the Tom Brady-led Patriots in a loss that has defined Donovan McNabb’s legacy as an Eagle thus far.
The 1993 Phillies made sure they would be a part of the discussion, ending up on the wrong end of a series winning, walk-off home run.
As those gut-wrenching losses began to pile up, a cloud of doubt and speculation hovered over the stadium complex on Broad St. Was this city cursed? Did they know how to win?
Then came the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies, vanquishers of all that was wrong in Philadelphia. On the left arm of Cole Hamels and the slider of Brad Lidge, the Phillies reminded the city what it was like to be on top.
It was a feeling many fans had never experienced. Those fans that were born immediately following the 76ers championship in 1983 hadn’t a clue how to react when that final pitch dodged Eric Hinske’s bat.
The party that proceeded on Halloween day will go into Philadelphia lore as one of the most memorable and remarkable days in the history of the city.
The Phillies were the toast of the town. It no longer mattered how goofy Uncle Cholly sounded in a press conference, or how many times Ryan Howard struck out, or how the moves the GM didn’t make at the trading deadline cost us a Championship.
Our day had finally come. Our time was finally here.
The following April, the 2009 Phillies took the field to do something Philadelphia hadn’t seen in twenty-five years: defend a title. Defend it valiantly they did, but to no avail.
The Phillies ultimately yielded their crown to the New York Yankees in Game Six of the World Series.
Along the way, somewhere amongst the mass hysteria that accompanies a championship win and the misery that that follows another NFC Championship Game loss, the Phillies did something perhaps even more impressive than being the best team in baseball: they stole the top spot in Philadelphian’s hearts.
In a town that bleeds midnight green, and perhaps even orange and black before red, the losingest team in the history of North American sports had somehow stolen the show.
Winning, of course, will certainly aid in that journey. But, this theory was reified this year when, following the sixth game of the World Series, there was no outrage. There were no calls for the manager’s head, and there were no complaints about crooked referees/umpires.
Rather, there was appreciation and thanks for such a gifted and likeable team.
Sure, this could have been the product of leftover goodwill from last year’s victory, but this is Philadelphia.
Ask Cole Hamels how long goodwill lasts. One lousy season, a shrew of questionable remarks, and his days of LCS and World Series MVP were long forgotten.
But not for this team. Somehow, this team has touched Philadelphia in a unique way. They mean more to us than a reason to get completely barbecued eight sunday’s out of every year.
We sympathize with the players, see eye-to-eye with the management, and embrace all that is the Phillies.
How much of that can be said about the Eagles? Again, winning is the remedy for all ailments, but this franchise has been a model of consistency amongst a parity-ridden league.
Since the Donovan McNabb/Andy Reid era begun over a decade ago, this team has competed for Superbowl nearly every year.
They’ve visited the NFC Championship game five different times. They, until last week, have dominated their foremost rival in Dallas, and even the Giants.
Yet, following every inexplicable loss, the cynics came out. They call for Andy Reid’s head, they beg Jeff Lurie to pull the plug on Donovan.
Sure, it’s passion in a way that only Philadelphia knows how to display. But where was the outrage over Charlie Manuel’s decision to leave a lifeless Pedro Martinez on the hill to face a hitter in Hideki Matsui that had absolutely dominated him?
Why was Ryan Howard treated to a free pass after breaking the record for most strike-outs in a single World Series? How many more times would Jimmy Rollins have to lazily pop-out for someone to speak up?
One possible explanation could be the distrust in the Eagles organization when, after 42 Superbowl’s, they have yet to claim a single one.
It could be that Andy Reid hasn’t yet let anyone even close to him understand his reasoning. Perhaps Lurie’s perceived frugality has cost this organization their reputation.
Whatever the reason may be, Philadelphia now belongs to the Phillies. They are an easy organization to love.
Following the departure of Ed Wade, everything the team has done had a clearly articulated and reasoned explanation. Pieces began to fall into place. The fans were a part of the clearly growing powerhouse.
Now, on the heels of a third straight NL East crown and second consecutive NL title, the Phillies are poised to remain a power for years to come.
With a core of players all firmly in their primes, potential stars littered across their farm system, and a young, aggressive GM who understands his team, this Phillies franchise is one of the best to ever call Philadelphia home.
A Superbowl ring can certainly change all of this, but until that day, the Phillies reign supreme.
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