The Spirit of a City

<%image(20051105-football.jpg|125|125|football)%> Sports are filled with priceless moments. Perhaps it’s the game-winning home run that soars over the fence with 2 outs, the bloodied forward kissing the Stanley Cup he worked so hard for, or the chaotic spray of champagne bottles from giddy athletes who have accomplished what so many young boys dream of. If these moments are of any value to a city, then I assure you, Philadelphia is bankrupt. Philadelphians seem to always be on the OTHER end of those magic moments, helplessly watching Joe Carter run the bases in 1993, Steve Yzerman lift the cup in 1994, and those pesky New England Patriots celebrate yet again in 2004. No other major sports city (with teams in all 4 sports) has gone as long as Philly without a major championship, and no one in Philly expects it to happen any time soon. The latest chronology on the laughable and lamentable fatalism of Philadelpia is If Football’s a Religion, Why Don’t We Have a Prayer? : Philadelphia, Its Faithful, and the Eternal Quest for Sports Salvation by Jere Longman.

I typically do not blog on sports, but I feel that the subject of Philadelphia’s fatalism in professional sports is worth a look because if anything it will give others a laugh at my own expense.

So when exactly were the last championships brought to Philly you may ask???
1983 76ers, Basketball
1980 Phillies, Baseball
1975 Flyers, Hockey
____ Eagles, Footall . . . don’t even ask!

The Cycle of Phatalism
Longman’s book begins with a brief meandering through the history of Philadelphia’s sports scene and then explains the psyche of sports fans in Philly. Check out his introduction here. I have noticed this myself and would like to give my take on it. The cycle is this:

Off Season
We have average to below average teams who never win. No matter how good they look, I will not let myself believe they will win a championship. Even if they have the best record all year, they inevitably will choke in the end.

Pre-Season
Wow, our team looks surprisingly good. Even if they won’t win the championship, I’m sure they will go far in the play offs. I am really looking forward to watching them this year.

Early Season
The team is off to a great start. All of the analyst are picking them to be the top team this year. Maybe they are different from the other Philly teams . . . Nah.

Mid-Season
So even if they aren’t the best team, they surely can compete with the cream of the crop. They may even make it to the championship this year. I just can’t believe that they’ll win the championship . . . but it could happen.

Late Season
I can’t believe this. I’ve fallen. I BELIEVE!!! I can’t stop myself. They are playing at the top of their game, everyone has picked them to win, and I just feel like we’re due. Even if I have this sensation of impending doom in the pit of my stomach, I think this is our year.

Early Play Offs
Things are going so well. I was wrong to have doubted my team. They are clearly the best team. As long as everyone stays healthy we should be able to win the championship.

Late Play Offs/Champsionship Game
We blew it. I can’t believe I expected them to win. I’ll never fall for their dirty tricks again. Our teams NEVER win! My hope has drained from me.

Off Season
Even if I don’t care about them any more, it’s nice to see that they’ve made some trades. They will certainly be a better team, but they’ll never win the championship. Really, I’ll never have hope in them again…

And there you have it. And so I went through this cycle with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, only to see the Patriots wear them down in the Super Bowl. Of course the Eagles were looking good as the entered this season, but them wide receiver Terrell Owens decided to digress to juvenile whining that finally got him suspended indefinitely (link). The season already seems lost, so with or without him, my hope has dissipated prematurely.

So now the focus of my hope has become the Flyers. My cycle of Philly Phatalism is in full swing with the Flyers right now . . . Eagles who? Just this moment Simon Gagne scored a hat trick, helping the Flyers score more goals than any other team in the NHL. The potential is there . . . for a big let down!

A friend of mine once said, you’d think we’ve learned by now. Ah, but much to my wife’s chagrin, my hope is rising. I just can’t stop it. It’s like the coming of the winter. As the snow falls, my hope ascends. And when the blooms appear in spring, my hope for a championship team shrivels.