In this blog entry, Mike Tanier, author of The Philly Fan’s Code explains why our local teams–who often give us plenty of grief–also provide us with days (if not reasons) to celebrate.
These are great days to be a Philly sports fan. Take Monday, August 29th. The Phillies were in first place by six games. Cole Hamels came back from disabled list and pitching well. The Eagles, having just signed half of the free agents in the NFL, gave Michael Vick a $100 million contract extension. The Flyers are coming off a solid season and have a radically revamped roster that has fans buzzing. The Sixers … well, the Phillies are in first place, and Cole Hamels is back and pitching well.
October 31st, 2008 was certainly great: it was the day of the Phillies World Series parade, it was Halloween, the weather was gorgeous, and it happened recently enough that our memories of it do not include Dukes of Hazard lunchboxes or calling our friends on rotary phones. The other Philly teams weren’t offering much cause for celebration on that date, however. The Flyers were in a four-game winning streak, but it came at after a season-opening six game losing streak. The Eagles, though 4-3, were in the late-Donovan McNabb-era malaise, and the dreaded Bengals tie (a 13-13 game in which McNabb admitted that he didn’t understand the overtime rules) was just days away. A very unpromising Sixers season just started. Still, Phillies + World Series = perhaps the second-best day in Philadelphia sports history.
The Sixers finished their sweep of the Lakers to win the NBA championship on May 31, 1983, but that win came a month after the Flyers were swept easily in the first round of the NHL playoffs by the Rangers. The Phillies went on to win the pennant that year, but no one could guess that would happen in May: the Wheeze Kids (Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, and any other leftover from the 1975 Reds that the team could acquire) were in third place, just off one six-game losing streak, and about to start another one. The Eagles were in the midst of the Marion Campbell era. Let’s move on.
May 19, 1974 and May 27, 1975 were watershed dates in Philly sports history, and the Flyers parades which followed transformed our regional sports identity. But let’s face it: I was riding a tricycle when the Flyers won their Stanley Cups. That was a long time ago, and the Broad Street Bullies exist to fans under 40 as faded newspaper clippings. Older fans may also remember that the Flyers were the only things going on in this city at that point. The Sixers were a fourth-place team both years. The Phillies were on the rise, but they had to be after three-straight last place finishes. The Eagles could be summed up in two words: Mike McCormack.
The best day in Philadelphia sports history was probably January 11, 1981. The Phillies had won the World Series just a few months earlier. The Julius Erving-led Sixers had a 38-7 record and were at the tail-end of a six-game winning streak. The Flyers, though in a mild slump, were 25-11-7 and still skated onto the ice behind Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber (with Brian Propp and Tim Kerr taking shifts for the next generation). And of course, the Eagles beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game on that cold January day. A four-parade year seemed possible, even plausible, for a few hours on that Sunday afternoon and for a few days afterward.
This does not feel nearly that good. But we are Philly fans, and we take any good feelings we can get.