All four of the major sports franchises have frustrated the faithful over the past 25 years, as follows:
1. Phillies. We had to suffer the silliness of the first chapter of the post-Ruly Carpenter ownership era in the form of managing general partner Bill Giles, who once referred to the Phillies as a "small-market" team despite Philadelphia's being, at the time, the fifth largest media market in the country. Small-minded was more like it, and there was a sense that the five wealthy families who owned the team didn't really want to stretch and field a champion. Once the ownership pushed Giles aside in favor of savvy baseball executive Dave Montgomery, things began to change, and the building of Citizens Bank Park must have compelled the ownership group to look in the mirror. Signing Jim Thome sent a signal that they were serious about improving the product, and, well, the product is looking awfully good right now. The Phillies sold out 50 of 81 home games, drew well over 3 million people, and the joint just jumps. They are grabbing the headlines, but. . .
2. Eagles. A good amount, if not the lion's share, of sports talk radio in Cheesesteak City focuses on laments about the 2-3 Eagles. The fun part is that they have been pretty good over the past decade, even if Andy Reid's team has made the playoffs only once since their Super Bowl appearance. The prevalent sense among the faithful is that Reid won't take the team any further, he's stubborn, blind to his flaws as a roster builder, and that owner Jeffrey Lurie should swap horses, rebuild the team, and get a new coach. Why? Because it seems each off-season the team fails to improve on key flaws (despite great defense annually by radio talk show host Howard Eskin that the front office knows what it's doing). Going into this season, they needed a fullback, a tight end who can block, an upgrade at wide receiver, and some help on the offensive line, where two 30+ tackles are relative geriatics in the NFL. They looked better on paper on defense, but the D-line seems undersized, and the linebackers, despite the hype, went into the season untested. Put differently, the Birds are a few french fries short of a Happy Meal, and they also find themselves in the toughest division in football. The embarrassing part -- not that they're behind the Cowboys and the Giants, but that Washington, under first-year head coach Jim Zorn, has surged past them. No, the Eagles will not make the post-season this year.
3. 76ers. Up until last season, they were stuck in the quicksand that was the Allen Iverson era. Great talent, bad team player, didn't set an example, lead or make his teammates better. Shedding Iverson was addition by subtraction, and now the team has added a great talent in Elton Brand. They were 40-42 last season, and 48-34 isn't a crazy prediction. They will be a pretty good team this year, and they could win a series in the playoffs in the East. Still, over the years, they clanked along in mediocrity.
4. Flyers. No one can accuse the Flyers' ownership of failing to spend money. Kill the Phillies on it (especially them), question the 76ers (which for a while have been run by a hockey guy, who is incompetent and directing a hoops franchise), and even ding the Eagles (although they have made big splashes in the free agent market), but be fair to the Flyers. It's not that they didn't spend big bucks -- they did. It's just that for a while they stuck to an anachronistic view of "old time" physical hockey when the rules changed and speed mattered more. They need to get back to the Stanley Cup finals -- and they certainly aren't bashful about spending.
So, I've digressed. Eagles or Phillies? Phillies or Eagles? Which is the favorite franchise in town? Sorry, baseball fans, but the Eagles, despite their frustrating play, still get the nod, because they tend to draw more attention all year round. Yes, the Phillies are having a wonderful season and, yes, many fans prefer them over all the other teams, but somehow, some way, Philadelphia first and foremost is a pro football town.
But if the Phillies win the World Series. . . who knows?