My childhood was filled with incredible sports memories. All four teams in Philadelphia taught me so much about their respective sports and gave me unforgettable memories. The ups and downs. The euphoria and the heartbreak. I’ve been through it all and it’s shaped my outlook as a fan and as a hopeful sports writer.
Then as I got older it all went south. It went hard and it went fast.
The Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers have all gone through some serious transformations in recent years. And when I say transformations, I mean like Kenny Rogers getting plastic surgery or Oprah and Jonah Hill fluctuating with their weight with the frequency of fireflies lighting up.
I grew up like any other suburban Philly fan. I wore my Eagle green on Sundays. I tried to dunk like Andre Iguodala when I lowered the hoop in my backyard. I wanted the Flyers to fight and body-slam every team they faced. I imitated Ryan Howard’s batting stance when I played wiffle ball.
And now I’m nearly halfway to a college degree and I’ve become as skeptical and cynical as ever. I’ve started to turn into those guys that call into 94WIP and just complain the whole time.
It’s really hard to have any fraction of faith anymore. Not to say my fanhood is waning or shifting, all I’m saying is without my school’s basketball team my mental health would be a little fragile. But hey that’s just Philly right now.
The Phillies have been the kindest to me as a fan. The 2008 season will forever be etched in my greatest experiences in baseball. The playoff run was pure magic, watching game after game, holding my breath with every pitch. Going to the parade on Halloween, the dress-down days in school, and my eyes nearly welling up with tears after they won made the World Series about more than baseball. And let’s not forget the eloquence and Shakespearian graciousness of Chase Utley by uttering the all-time great quote of “WORLD F*CKING CHAMPIONS.”
Fast forward to 2016 and the only players left from that team are Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. They’re both trying to climb back to relevancy while battling injury after injury. Rueben Amaro or more aptly referred to as Ruin Tomorrow, has set the Phils back years by not unloading the aging talent on the team sooner. Now it’s a baseball (gulp) rebuild in Philadelphia. The future is bright, but its going to be a bumpy ride until the Phillies can climb back into competition in the National League.
Growing up spoiled with October baseball has made the new-look Phillies all the more strange.
The Flyers 2010 season was an absolute thrill ride. The 3-0 comeback against the Bruins was some unforgettable hockey. Lavi’s speech in the 7th game could have been in a war movie it was so profound. And of course it all ended with a Chicago goal in overtime and my head in my hands.
Chris Pronger is gone, as is Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. The Flyers are totally different team now and are striving to evolve from their mediocre state that they have been stuck in. A new coach, an old but familiar face calling the shots, and young talent to boot, the Flyers are trending upwards. Claude Giroux is still an unbelievable talent and his supporting cast is starting to come together in hopes of a playoff run. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Sixers well… long story.
I wasn’t old enough to remember the 2001 team that went to the Finals. And with the exception of the eight-seed team that beat Chicago and ended up going seven games with the Celtics, I really can’t remember the Sixers being threats. They have been frozen in time and glued to the NBA’s list of average teams.
It’s 2016 and they are in the biggest and most brazen rebuild in the history of modern sports. The Sixers have not been bashful with their franchise overhaul. With the hopes of building a championship team, they are compliling up loss, after loss, after loss (repeat for another couple lines). Logistically it makes sense. Get draft picks, save money and build a young, talented team. If only it were that simple.
The Sixers have failed to land a top-two pick. They’re reluctant to throw money at free agents. And the constant losing is starting to mentally grind down players. It’s been a tenuous and straining process.
The Sixers are in a better position than some NBA teams. I’d rather have a vision and assets and suck, than be an old-aged fringe playoff team with no hope of ever becoming truly legitimate. Being a Sixers fan is essentially being water-boarded. You’re just helpless as the losses slowly trickle down and start to hurt you, testing your threshold for pain and anguish. It’s as if the NBA gods have the Sixers by arm, slowly twisting while saying “Say Uncle !”.
But to those who oppose the tanking strategy, would you really rather be idling in neutral for nearly a decade as the Sixers were, or would suffer for three seasons with the slightly increasing chance of greatness ?
I’ll take walking in knee-deep shit, with the chance of watching everyone else wallow and struggle in it every time, as opposed to just comfortably skating by without ever achieving anything.
It’s just comical how the fate of Philadelphia basketball rests in the hands of a numbers-cruncher with a bad haircut, an old man who probably goes to bed at 6:30 every night, a coach that has an accent made of Boston and Australian dialects, and a gigantic African guy with a bad foot.
And now finally the Eagles. Where the hell do I start ? This team is responsible for so much agony in my life.
I remember sitting in a chair with my Eagles rally rag over my face after losing the Super Bowl at ten years old. I remember sitting in a bar hanging my head in near depression as the Jeff Garcia season came to a bitter end. I remember the improbable run into the 2008 NFC Championship game that ended in heartbreak. Most recently, I remember Chip Kelly going on a power trip and wasting all of our time.
The Eagles have never been kind, ever. Good teams have crushed the hopes and dreams of millions. Bad teams have tortured millions and mediocre teams have teased millions. Eagles fans have seen it all
The heroes have turned to villains. Donovan McNabb went from being the prodigal son, to that guy with the permanent goofy smile,who does soup commercials with his mom. Asante Samuel went from being a Pro-Bowler, to a chump who couldn’t tackle anything. Terrell Owens went from the toast of the town, to just toast.
The good and the bad have been synonymous with the birds and have never played by the rules. Eagles fans can never get comfortable with good teams. Remember Chip’s first season and how everyone was convinced he was the guy to lead the city to success ? That was a very short and brutal marriage.
The future of the Eagles is about as murky as the Schuylkill River. The general manager is about as trustworthy as a politician. The new coach is incredibly unproven. And basically everything else dealing with this team is a question mark.
The future of the birds is unclear, but I do know what the future holds. Pain and suffering.
The Eagles are the pulse of Philly, and the city and the fans have had way to many heart attacks.
Philly is in the wrong end of a cycle and there’s nothing anyone can do. The losing cuts deeper with smaller sports towns winning, with a fraction of history that Philly has. If anyone wants to explain to me how Seattle or Charlotte is a better sports town, be my guest.
It’ll get better (I hope), after all this isn’t Cleveland. The losing is never fun, but it won’t last forever. There’s no timetable or expiration date and it won’t happen overnight. The Philadelphia faithful has endured a decade’s worth of suffering in the past two years. The ESPN graphics, the blooper montages, and the social media harassment has all been viciously tormenting.
But if you thought Philly fans were crazy now, just imagine when the teams start to climb into contention.
There will be a day when fans can hold their head high. And the only thing that will be higher is, everyone’s outstretched arms when giving all those anti-Philly jackasses the middle finger.
My sports life may be in shambles, but you’ll be hearing from me when all the pieces are back in place.