The Solution

ø

Anyone who has played any sport beyond elementary school knows that to maximize performance, supportive and positive fans can help substantially.  Overly negative and pressuring fans tend to have the opposite effect.

And so my proposal is simple: fans need to accept that this city has, in fact, been cursed.  By facing that reality, we can then channel our energy collectively into being more positive and encouraging for all of our players and coaches in an effort to break the curse.

It worked in Boston.  It can work here as well.  So stop feeling sorry for yourselves.  Stop whining about all that’s gone wrong.  Stop living in the past.  Stop bracing for the worst when things look promising.

Breaking this horrible cycle of losing will not be easy.  But it has to start somewhere.

Start believing.

The Fans

2

If you’ve read the previous posts which detail the futility of each sports franchise in this cursed city, you must be wondering, “How can the fans stand it? What effect must all this losing have on them?”

Well, to put it mildly, it has not been pretty.  The fans are very passionate.  Above all we admire effort, Rocky-Balboa style.  We LOVE players like Allen Iverson who give 100% in every game and play through injuries.  Incidentally, Iverson has now publicly demanded a trade and likely has played his final game as a Sixer.  Typical.

We HATE players like Terrell Owens who put themselves above the team.  We HATE players like Ricky Waters, who once intentionally let a few passes fall incomplete at the end of a game to avoid being hit.  When asked why he didn’t catch the passes, Ricky famously said, “For who? For what?”

How about for US, ass hole, the fans who paid $80 per ticket to come and watch you?
And so after all these years of frustration and losing and horrible trades and Derrick Coleman and Heath Sherman and blowing a 3-1 lead to the Devils and 10,000 fucking losses and that dufus Shawn Bradley and trading away Charles Barkley for nothing and actually allowing Rich Kotite to coach your team and hiring Charlie Manuel instead of Jim Leyland and Smarty Jones losing the Triple Crown to a 36-1 longshot from New York, of all places, what kind of fans are we?

The worst in professional sports.  We have a long history of being horrible.  In a famous incident in 1968, fans vociferously booed and threw snowballs…. at Santa Claus.  In the 1989 “Bounty Bowl II” game in which snowballs were launched relentlessly at the opposing team and coaches, none other than FUTURE GOVERNOR of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, paid another fan $20 to pelt Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson in the head with a snowball.

In 1997 during a Monday Night Football game against the 49ers, fans engaged in a number of highly visible, large-scale brawls which were broadcast on national television.  One fan fired a flare gun into seats across the stadium.  This led to the creation of a magistrate’s office and holding cell IN THE STADIUM.

In 1998, radio station WIP organized for a group of fans to travel to the NFL Draft SPECIFICALLY TO BOO the Eagles pick, Donovan McNabb (who went on to become one of the greatest players in franchise history).  Their fury was based on their belief that the team should draft Ricky Williams, whose career has been a gigantic disappointment highlighted by several violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

In 1999, star receiver Michael Irvin of the hated Dallas Cowboys suffered a career-ending broken neck which knocked him unconscious.  As he lay prostrate and immobile on the turf, with his life in danger, Eagles fans CHEERED.  They even chanted “Emmitt’s next,” referring to Cowboys star running back Emmitt Smith.

It has gotten to the point where the fans’ collective negativity is actually hurting the teams’ ability to win.  Free agents do not wish to play in a city where every move will be so harshly scrutinized.  Talented managers and coaches know that the fans’ unforgiving nature will expose them to pressure rarely seen elsewhere.  And players on our teams know that a streak of poor performances can trigger a chorus of the sound for which Philly fans are so famous:

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ø

Philadelphia Sports

Another video montage of Philadelphia sports horror.

E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!

ø

Of all the sports teams in Philadelphia, none comes close to the Eagles in terms of fan enthusiasm and devotion.  Games are invariably sold out, the team has its own “fight song,” and the connection between the team’s fortunes and the mental health of Philadelphia residents is clear.  My brother recently returned from a trip there and commented, “Wow, that Eagles win on Sunday really has everyone in a good mood.  It’s amazing.”  “That win,” by the way, improved the Eagles record on the year to 6-6.  Trust me, they’re going nowhere this year.

I still remember the Sports Illustrated NFL Preview with Randall Cunningham on the cover: “The Ultimate Weapon,” it declared him to be.  Despite having a roster loaded with all-pro players, the Cunningham-era teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s never even advanced to a Super Bowl. 

In fact, those teams are probably best known for the antics of their coach, Buddy Ryan, who notably once offered his players a bounty if they could injure the Dallas Cowboys kicker.  His coaching style was colloquially referred to as “Buddy Ball.”  What that means is still unclear.  To me it meant, “make the playoffs every year and get destroyed in the first round.”

Ryan’s eventual replacement, Rich Kotite, forced me to endure such suffering that I will not comment further on his tenure.

Kotite’s replacement, Ray Rhodes, was a great motivator but a horrible coach.  The highlight of his career was a lopsided playoff victory over the Detroit Lions in 1995.  He famously motivated the team that day by telling them that the Lions were “breaking into your houses at night, pillaging your homes, fornicating with your wives and threatening your children.”  Somehow that worked, and the Eagles demolished the Lions that day.  Of course, they were equally demolished the next week by the San Francisco 49ers.  I guess that’s a speech you can’t really give twice.

The team’s recent history has been tortuous.  Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb are among the best in the league, and an abundance of talent at other positions has allowed the team to have a sustained run of success…. and awful heartbreaks.  Amazingly, they advanced to the NFC championship game 3 years in a row and LOST ALL THREE TIMES, including twice at home, including once in the final game ever at Veterans Stadium. 

The next year, 2004, the team addressed its one weakness by bringing in Pro-Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens.  The McNabb-Owens combination was lethal and led the Eagles to the best record in the NFL.  And then- miracle of miracles- they actually won the NFC Championship Game (4th time’s a charm) and advanced to the Super Bowl.  The city was in a frenzy.

Then we lost to the Patriot in the Super Bowl.

Then Terrell Owens demanded a new contract.

Then Terrell Owens ruined our next season by being a jackass.

Then we got rid of Terrell Owens and started this season playing incredibly well.  This year’s highlight was a win over Owens’ new team, the Dallas Cowboys, one week after Owens supposedly attempted suicide.  One Eagles fan held a sign that read, “Terrell- if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Fans brought empty prescription bottles to the stadium and held them up.  They chanted “O.D.”  It was disgraceful.

Then McNabb tore his ACL, the team started sucking and now somehow everyone is thrilled that the team is 6-6.

I’m not.

10,000 Losses

ø

The website www.phillysucks.com includes a countdown to the Phillies 10,000th loss, which will come next year. Think about it: that’s an average of 100 losses (which represents an absolutely horrible season) for 100 years. 

It’s unbelievable.

The Phillies: Disgraceful

1

The horror that comes with being a Phillies fan is known not just to members of my generation, but to my father’s, grandfather’s, great-granfathers, and great-great grandfather’s.  The franchise had a World Series drought that lasted 97 years- from 1887 to 1980.  They have lost more games than any professional team in any sport, and will makr a milestone by losing their 10,000th game this coming season.  Think about that: in a sport with a 162-game season, to lose 100 games in a year is to stink miserably.  Imagine AVERAGING that level of futility for a HUNDRED DIFFERENT SEASONS!!! This team is truly disgraceful.

During that sad stretch the most notable heartbreak took place in 1964.  Known as “The Phold,” the Phillies blew a 6.5 game lead with just 12 games remaining.  Their 10-game losing streak is one of the most memorable collapses in sports history.

After winning the World Series in 1980 (oddly enough, the year I was born), the team has produced nothing for me but pain, heartache, and embarrassment.  An amazing run to the World Series in 1993 ended horribly with Joe Carter’s game-winning, 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 6. 

In each of the last five seasons, the team has been alive for a playoff berth until the final week of the season but has not played a single playoff game since 1993, despite a new stadium and aggressive spending on free agents.

If I weren’t so jaded, I’d write a paragraph about our young superstar Ryan Howard, who won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award this season.  I’d speculate about a bright future with him as our leader.

But I know better than to do that.  The more I get my hopes up, the more it hurts.

ø

Allen Iverson talks about PRACTICE

This may explain why the Sixers never won a championship during the Iverson era.

Shawn Bradley: Buffoon

ø

In my Sixers entry I failed to mention the epitome of the Sixers ineptitude during my lifetime: Shawn Bradley.  Despite having not played basketball for two years while on a Mormom missionary trip, the Sixers selected Bradley with the #2 pick in the draft in 1993.  He was 7 feet 6 inches tall and wore jersey number 76 for the 76ers.

I still remember his much-anticipated debut.  On the team’s first possession, Bradley posted up, received the ball, and began to make a move.  The announcer said something like, “Get ready to see this for the next ten years” in excitement.  Bradley took a dribble, pivoted, and launched a beautiful-looking hook shot.

It was an airball.  I hate Shawn Bradley.

My Beloved, Hopeless Sixers

12

After winning the NBA championship in 1983 in dominating fashion, the 76ers have tormented my sports soul relentlessly.  Their failures have been particularly dificult for me because, unfortunately, they are my favorite Philadelphia team.

During my childhood, the franchise was defined by one player: Charles Barkley.  The power forward out of Auburn will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he never led the Sixers beyond the second round of the playoffs, where they lost in consecutive years to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.  And yes, this is why I always hated Michae Jordan.

After Barkley feuded with management and was traded for three inferior players, the team’s win total declined each season from 1991 to 1996.  The team bottomed out by finishing the 1996 season with the league’s second-worst record.  Fortunately that resulted in them earning the #1 pick in that year’s draft, which was used to select Allen Iverson from Georgetown University.

Iverson quickly became a fan favorite and developed into one of the top players in the NBA.  Similar to Lindros with the Flyers, Iverson was billed as the team’s (and city’s) savior, the answer to all its problems.  His nickname, “The Answer,” fit his billing perfectly.

The team’s inspired run to the 2001 NBA Finals was the high point of Iverson’s career, but again the city’s heart was broken as the team was defeated, 4 games to 1, by the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Philadelphia native Kobe Bryant.  The years preceding and following that run have seen numerous disappointments, including consecutive 2nd-round losses to the Indiana Pacers and two playoff series losses to the Detroit Pistons.  Additionally, Iverson feuded with management, coaches and players, and is rumored to be on the trading block this year as the team looks to rebuild.

I remember sitting in the stands during the Sixers thrilling Game 7 win against the Toronto Raptors in 2001.  I remember thinking that the team would win it all.  Hadn’t I learned my lesson?  Will I ever?

ø

The Life Of A Philadelphia Sports Fan

One Disaster After Another

Log in