Another year has come and gone in the grand scheme of Philadelphia sports, and a pretty typical one at that. The Eagles made another playoff run, with the overachieving team making it to the divisional round of the playoffs. The Phillies made an “out-of-nowhere” run at the playoffs, only to come up short in the last week of the season. Both seasons were magical in their own right, because both teams weren’t supposed to achieve the success they did, with Donovan McNabb and Jevon Kearse going down with season ending injuries, and the Phillies unloading such stars as Bobby Abreu and Corey Lidle.
So, what’s the difference now?
Let’s face it, Philadelphia is a Football and Baseball town, with its citizens living and dying by the performance of the Eagles and Phillies.
All is right in the world when the Eagles make the playoffs, and the Phillies are, at the very least, competitive. In terms of the Phillies, you can’t really ask for much more. For at least 162 games a year, fans have something to root for, and better yet, something to watch on television.
The sounds of Harry Kalas calling a late-inning home run are etched into our collective psyche, and things are looking as if the Phillies are ready to return to shades of their 1993 World Series run.
But, something is missing, isn’t it?
Between late January and April, there were two constants in this town: A Sixers basketball team squeaking into the playoffs, and a Flyers team that effortlessly made it into the playoffs. Regardless if you’re a fan or not, Philly fans are, above all, sports fans. Images of Allen Iverson crossing over defenses, throwing up a circus shot that goes in like a break-away lay-up, hitting the floor like a ton of bricks and hitting the free throw for the 3-point play were all too common.
Simon Gagne playing like a star, Peter Forsberg playing like the hall-of-famer that he will be, and Ken Hitchcock providing un-paralleled leadership dominated our televisions on cold winter nights. For the Flyers, the question was never if they would make the playoffs, but if this was the year they finally bring home the cup. Who needs an 82-game season, we know we’re going to the playoffs!
The 2006-2007 season began for most teams, and our routine as Philadelphia sports fans was altered.
The Sixers started out 3-0, and then quickly slipped to one of the worst teams in the league. Starting off well with Allen Iverson leading the league in scoring, Kyle Korver coming off the bench and dropping 20 a game, and Andre Iguodala playing up to the hype that surrounds him, the Sixers actually seemed as if they would surprise a lot of people, and perhaps had the talent to steal a division title.
Then, the face of Philadelphia sports changed, not in an instant, but in a painfully long 3 week episode in which we saw a staple of Philadelphia sports say (rightfully so), “enough already!” Iverson was fed up, and demanded a trade. Following Iverson, was the player who was supposed to provide the Sixers with another option, Chris Webber. Webber suffered what seemed like his now-daily knee injury, and was regulated to wearing a suit, rather than a jersey.
Webber’s numbers with the Sixers ended looking something like this: 15.4 points per game, 13.8 knee injuries per season, 0 personality.
As for the Flyers, words cannot describe what happened this season. The goal-tending tandem of Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki have been awful,at best, and the Flyers seem to have to forgotten to play a fairly essential part of hockey: defense. Peter Forsberg has spent more time on the bench, nursing injuries, than coach John Stevens, and overall the Flyers have yet to adapt to the new “speed-style” of today’s NHL. The resignations/firings of Ken Hitchcock and Bobby Clarke haven’t helped either.
As a Philadelphia sports fan, one has feelings of disappointment. In the past, sitting down to watch a Flyers or Sixers game had meaning. It was exciting to watch Allen Iverson and Peter Forsberg leave it all on the floor/ice. At this point in both of the teams collective seasons, we expect the Sixers to have a comfortable position on the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed for the playoffs, and the Flyers to be in a dog-fight with the Devils for the division crown. Now, we are reduced to watching a rebuilding Sixers team, and players like Igoudala, Korver and Willie Green show glimpses of why we drafted them in the first place. As for the Flyers? Well, one can assume it can’t get much worse, although this is Philadelphia.
It is bred within all of to look at the positives though, because with these two teams, there is indeed a silver lining.