1. The Phillies. They had the "wrong brothers" over generations. In the 30's, 40's and 50's, when the Yankees had Joe DiMaggio and the Red Sox Dominic DiMaggio (an underrated and under-publicized player when compared to his immortal brother Joe), the Phillies had Vince, whom many thought would have been more successful had he been an opera singer. Then, in the 80's and 90's, they had Mike Maddux instead of his more successful brother, Greg, who will join Baseball's Hall of Fame soon. Mike is more successful now as a pitching coach than he was as a pitcher. Finally, while his older brother was putting up huge numbers in Oakland and then New York, the Phillies ended up with wise-guy Jeremy Giambi. Older brother Jason was the star, even if that stardom occurred during baseball's Steroids Era (which, I would argue, has been replaced with the "Double Secret Probation Performance-Enhance Drugs Era").
Atop that, the front office has decided to take a page out of the PGA Tour's book and start a Seniors' Tour all of their own. On opening day, if they go with Cliff Lee, they will have 6 players 34 or older in their starting lineup. Yes, they will have three position players under thirty (two under 25), but typically teams win when they balance the age groups and not when they decided to keep an aging core that keeps on getting hurt and whose performance has slipped. Their lineup scares no one; their starting pitching is uneven, and their bullpen last year was nothing short of a disaster. But somehow the front office thinks that they can reprise 2008, or at least summon images of that great season to keep putting people into the seats and paying almost $20 for a combination of beer and crab fries. Memo to the front office: how did that work for you last year?
2. The Eagles. They fire Andy Reid, and then he goes off to Kansas City and leads his team to a 9-1 record. Truth be told, both parties needed a change of scenery, but it will be the Eagles' luck if Big Red leads the Chiefs to the Super Bowl while callers to sports talk radio write sonnets about the potential of QB Nick Foles (who, like Joe Montana, was a third-round draft pick).
3. The Flyers. First, they are so in love with their Revolutionary War Period (when they changed hockey by making it MMA on Ice), that they insist upon reviving it at every opportunity. The thing of it is that the final "Rocky" movie, "Rocky Balboa," while poignant, lacked credibility for most non-Rocky fans because it's hard to fathom a sixty-year old battling it out with a 25 year-old light heavyweight in his prime. The Flyers' brass still reminisce about that era, even if it was forty years ago. Atop that, a couple of years ago they traded alleged party boys Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to different teams (and I will confess I don't remember who went to L.A. initially and who went to Columbus, because a) I am not a huge hockey fan and b) I used to think that they were interchangeable). Sports talk hosts speculated that there were too many reports of the two talented front-liners having too much fun at Jersey Shore spots. At any rate, both ended up in L.A., along with two other former Flyers, and two years ago they helped lead the Kings to winning the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, the Flyers haven't won one of those things since the Glory Days.
4 The 76ers. I just read Dr. J's book (an honest, pretty good read for a sports biography, but he reveals, to my way of thinking,"TMI" about certain escapes, approaching but staying respectfully away from the Chamberlain Line), and he remarked how the 76ers had a good thing even after they won the title in 1983 but that Andrew Toney's problems with his feet persisted and the team blew itself up trading for Jeff Ruland (this trade, along with the Phillies' collapse in 1964, Donovan McNabb's vomiting on the sidelines near the end of the 2004 Super Bowl, the 76ers' blowing 3-1 leads in a few series against the Celtics from 1968 to 1982, Greg Luzinki's poor handling of fly balls against the Dodgers in a critical 1977 NLCS playoff game (and manager Danny Ozark's decision to leave him in there), the trade of Wilt Chamberlain for three Lakers and the trade of Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus, all will remain as indelible stains on the memory of the average Philadelphia sports fan older than 55). In any event, they are primed to get two good picks this year, so what do they do? They hire the best coach they can find, a Gregg Popovich protege, and they actually are winning games despite having a roster populated with the equivalent of what you might have in miscellaneous storage bins in the deepest recesses of your basement. A couple of teams intentionally stripped their rosters to have a solid crack at Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker; the 76ers got there on merit, and, now, they could end up playing well enough to play their way out of a chance at one of the top five (supposedly transformational) picks. I'm kidding, of course -- Brett Brown looks to be an excellent coach, but this snakebitten franchise needs a little more than just Brown's coaching. It needs players. And to get them, the Darwinism in the NBA suggests that you need to lose and rebuild.
It's the coldest day of the fall so far down here today. The 76ers played heroically if short-handed in Indiana last night, the Eagles have a bye, and the Phillies continue to age. Chip Kelly, hired in January, is the longest-tenured of the coaches of the four major sports franchises in the city. Frustrations abound. The Eagles are showing some promise, the Flyers not so much, the 76ers' future is tied to losing and the Phillies' tied to memories.