(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, June 05, 2004

No Joy in Muddyville (or, What the Heck Did I Know?)

SportsProf should have taken a page out of Rick's book. You remember Rick, the proprietor of Cafe Americain in Casablanca, who was wont to say, "I stick my neck out for no one." SportsProf should have known better, predicting a hometown horse to win the Triple Crown and to give Phila. its first winner of something major since the '82-'83 76ers. Is there a Phila. curse along the lines of the Curse of the Bambino?

The Phillies are the losingest team in the history of Major League Baseball. The Eagles have lost 3 straight NFC championship games, two of which were played at home (the Buffalo Bills were comparatively better, getting to four straight Super Bowls). The 76ers have been jinxed since they traded Moses Malone for Jeff Ruland and his balky knee, only to compound their problems that same year by trading their #1 pick (in '86) for Roy Hinson (the pick turned out to be Brad Daugherty), and in the 90's they traded Charles Barkley to Phoenix for five guys named Moe (actually three guys, but can you remember who the third guy was after Jeff Hornacek and Tim Perry?). The Flyers have not won since 1975, although they have reached the Stanley Cup final twice, losing to Edmonton in the late 80's and then losing to Detroit in the early 90's. And the Flyers spend a lot of money on their payroll, too.

And then there's Smarty Jones, who didn't have a horse to pace him in the Belmont the way he did at the Derby and at the Preakness. He grabbed the lead earlier than he did in the other two premier races, and at one point during the home stretch it looked like he would fend off the charge from a surging Birdstone. Instead, Birdstone summoned an extra gear and charged past Smarty Jones to win the Belmont.

So instead of becoming an immortal, Smarty Jones joins a long list of horses in recent memory who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to find the Belmont a Sisyphian exercise.

At one point today, I heard a commentator from Philadelphia remark that the Smarty Jones story was more like "Rocky" than say "Seabiscuit." I didn't necessary agree at the time, but perhaps I can now.

Rocky, you will recall, lost the title in the 1976 movie that won Best Picture. Unfortunately on the American sporting stage, losing the title doesn't get you the ultimate award. But thank you, Sporty Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, John Servis and Stewart Elliott just the same. For those of us in the Southeastern Pennsylvania area, you gave us five weeks of great excitement.