Has Philly Become Phils Obsessed?
By Lance Epstein
It seems like eons ago that the Phillies were the forgotten team in Philadelphia, while the fans were addicted to Eagles football. After three short seasons, has the tided turn? Is Philadelphia a baseball town?
From 1993 all the way until 2007, the Phillies never made a single playoff appearance. Furthermore, they became the first professional organization in any sport to lose 10,000 games.
Think about that for a second, a franchise that has been around for 127 years has only two world
championships to their credit, but has suddenly capture and captivated the hearts of a city.
Before their playoff berth in 2007, the Phillies had losing records in eight of 14 seasons. Moreover, they had seven consecutive losing seasons. To make matters worse, they were nowhere near competing for a World Series title when they did manage to finish over .500.
However, the 2008 Phillies seemingly transformed a city that was football crazy and maybe even more hockey crazy than baseball, into a town with a dogfight atop its sports world.
The Eagles over the last decade had their chances to cement themselves as "the" premiere organization in Philadelphia. They could
have been remember and gone down in Philly lore as the heroes that brought home a title in a 25-year drought. Yet, they were stubborn and proclaimed themselves as the “Gold Standard.”
Instead, the franchise made questionable moves, had numerous failures and ignored the heartbeat of the fans. Fans screamed and pleaded for talent at the skills possessions on offense, but the Eagles did not listen.
Finally, Andy Reid gave into the fans and media and got those weapons. Although the problem was Donovan McNabb was not young, mobile or the quarterback he was in his heyday. The one season early in McNabb's career where he had a dynamic wide receiving weapon he ran into the team of the decade. In addition, the NFC East teams have caught up and even passed the Eagles by when they got the weapons to succeed. On top of all this, key veteran
s aged and the replacements were too young or unproven to fill the void. The one season early in McNabb's career where he had a dynamic wide receiving weapon the Eagles ran into the team of the decade.
Besides ignoring or what some would say stubborn, the Eagles faltered five times on the doorstep of a Super Bowl title. One of which might be the biggest heartbreaking and disappointing moment in Philadelphia sports history. You know it as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantling the Eagles in the last game ever played at Veterans Stadium.
If that was not bad enough, in 2009 the team look to finally be clicking on all cylinders and could have matched the title that the Phillies had just put on the scoreboard. They headed to the desert as the favorite to win the N
FC Championship game and possibly go onto win their first Lombardi Trophy. Not surprising to some fans, the club came up small and regressed the following season.
Losing was not the only thing that has put a chink in the armor of the Eagles. Allowing icons like the "Ultimate Eagle," Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, Sheldon Brown and Donovan McNabb leave town has not sat well with most of the fan base. The backlash from letting Dawkins exit has turned off many fans and even called the organization cheap.
While the Eagles got rid of the friendly-faces that fans could relate to, the Phillies have gone out and added to an already talented roster. In recent years, they have acquired the best pitcher in baseball with Roy Halladay, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco and even Cliff Lee. Phillies owner Dave Montgomery and GMs Ruben Amaro and Pat Gillick have tried to improve the team and even added payroll to bask in the glory (currently $140 million).
Additionally, the Phillies have another thing, which the Eagles do not. That being a young nucleus that they know as winners and led by a coach that has gotten them over the top. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz and manager Charlie Manuel are still hungry even after winning and the fans flock because they create a buzz by producing on the stages biggest games. The fans know they can win, which is not something the fans necessarily believe with the Eagles organization can do. In fact, most fans think the team might be cursed.
Of course the Eagles have traded for Jason Peters, Terrell Owens and signed Asante Samuel, Jevon Kearse and others, but they have not done it consistently according to their fans. Fans consistently point to the frugal nature of Joe Banner and the front office. They also read situations where players are unhappy with their contracts and the Eagles unwilling to renegotiate with players: players that have outperformed their contracts. This has earned the Eagles the title of being cheap.
Even analysts have probed the Eagles’ so-called “plan.” They notice the millions of salary cap dollars that went unspent and ask why after two consecutive NFC Championship game losses, why the team did not make the necessary moves to get the team over the top. Reid, Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie will always have to answer questions from the city of Philadelphia about whether they only care about making money by just being competitive year after year like a business or if they indeed would do anything in their power to win a title.
Nevertheless, the thing that has ultimately made a power struggle atop of the Philadelphia sports world is that the Phillies have done what the Eagles failed to do in the last 50 years. Shockingly over those 50 years, every major sports franchise has won a title, but he Eagles. The Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 70s. Maybe the least followed team in Philadelphia in the 76ers won the 1983 NBA title. As for the team that has stolen their thunder, the Phillies have won two titles in 1980 and the town's most recent title in 2008.
Looking at the Eagles from afar, one could say they have been the least productive Philly sports entity over the last half century due to their lack of hardware on their trophy mantle.
The Eagles enter next season 50 years removed from Chuck Bednarik and Norm Van Brocklin bringing home a title in football. It does not appear that the Eagles will be gaining the top dog spot back anytime soon either. The Phillies might be making their third consecutive trip to the World Series and maybe second title in three seasons.
For the Eagles they are rebuilding a defense, starting a new with Kevin Kolb (interesting timing of the McNabb trade-- night before opening day where the Phillies would grab the headlines) and are extremely young. Perhaps the only way for the Eagles to become the sole toast of the town is by bringing home that elusive championship.
Right now, they might not want to believe it, but times are changing and Philadelphia is starting to catch baseball fever.