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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Anointment Interrupted

I was wrestling with the headline for this post, as there were several potential juicy ones. Such as: "Gagne? How About Gag Me?" Or how about "Forsberg Forstalled?" Or "Primeau Suspects?" Read this and then guess what I'm talking about.

Many publications have the Philadelphia Flyers playing the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup finals. Many publications rate the New York Rangers the worst team in the National Hockey League. So what happened last night, in the Flyers' own building? The visitors prevailed, 5-3. Not an auspicious beginning for the Stanley Cup contenders, you say?

The game got enough attention from the 20,000 or so diehard hockey fans in Philadelphia, while the remainder of the sports fans are wondering how long Eagles' kicker David Akers will be out and whether the Birds will have to make a go of it next weekend with only 3 defensive tackles and 3 defensive ends. There's some talk of the baseball playoffs, the Phillies are virtually forgotten, and the Sixers are so perched in the middle of the pack that it's hard to generate much enthusiasm for their bloated payroll and ticket prices.

The Flyers tried to capitalize on the hockey drought, and they did an excellent job in the off-season of fortifying their roster. Bob Clarke, their GM, is heralded as ingenious for finding a way to ink Peter Forsberg while peddling Jeremy Roenick out west. They have two solid goalies, three big defensemen plus another who can play offense, two twenty year-old forwards about whom only raves have been written, and some big names to boot.

So what did they do? They laid an egg, big-time, in the game that was supposed to rekindle hockey interest in the greater Philadelphia area. I tuned into the game late, on the new OLN network, thought Sam Rosen was very good, but thought the quality of the picture paled in comparison to what you can get on HDTV for the baseball playoffs. Note to the file: once you watch any sporting event on HDTV, it's hard to watch anything else without it. Comcast's Sports Network has an HDTV counterpart; OLN needs one too.

The Flyers, of course, will be fine, and they could finish 81-1 and storm to their first Stanley Cup title in 30 years, when the team had such colorful players as Bob "Hound" Kelly, Don "Big Bird" Saleski, Andre "Moose" Dupont and, of course, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, a fighter who actually scored 20 goals in one season. Can this group bring back the magic? The Flyers ownership can only hope so.

And, even if they catch som lightning in a bottle, I wonder whether they'll generate even close to the excitement that the 76ers did about four years ago when they challenged the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

And even if they do generate a great deal of excitement in the spring, the average Philadelphia sports fan will still be wondering about which free agents the Eagles will sign in the off-season and how Donovan McNabb will recover from post-season surgery on his sports hernia.

After all, in many sports venues in the Philadelphia area, when there are dull moments, you can hear an Eagles cheer generate spontaneously. The Phillies battled gallantly for their playoff lives, and yet about one and a half times as many people were watching the Eagles play the Chiefs as were watching the Phillies play the Nationals (during the time the games overlapped).

Still, that popularity shouldn't diminish any accomplishments of any other sports teams in the Philadelphia area.

Even if their own Stanley Cup favorites got off to about as bad a start as they possibly could have.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may change after last night's poor third period (the Flyers completely dominated the first two periods), but the excitement about the Flyers is deeper than you think. Try to get two seats together for any game.

When the Sixers had their title run, the city yawned until the finals. Philly is a big college hoops city, but it is as bored as everyone else with the pro game. If Webber is his old self and the team stays healthy, the Sixers should be pretty good.

But I'll bet it's a lot easier to get a Sixers ticket than a Flyers ticket.


12:22 PM  

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