Philadelphia sports fans will wake up Sunday morning on the rarest of days. Sunday isn’t just Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a day when a Philly sports team can win a world championship.
Soak in the atmosphere. Enjoy the anticipation of a great accomplishment. Have goose bumps? Savor them. We don’t get to revel in many of these days.
Since the Eagles defeated the Packers for the NFL championship at Franklin Field on Dec. 26, 1960, 22,692 days have passed. Tomorrow is the 15th day over that long span that a Philly team can win a championship.
Fifteen days over 62 years, by practicality, means a lot of misery. It means a lot of “wait until next year.” In Philly sports history “next year” often wasn’t any better.
On the bright side, of those previous 14 days, the local teams won eight times.
They lost five times. Two of those losses were rectified days later with a Philadelphia victory and championship. A Flyers loss in Game 5 of the 1974 Stanley Cup final in Boston was followed by the Cup-clincher three days later at the Spectrum.
The 1967 76ers lost Game 5 to the Warriors at the Convention Center, then won the title the next night in San Francisco.
And one of the 14 was the Phillies’ rain-out day before the completion of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The Phils won the World Series over Tampa Bay two days after the game started.
LOVE SPORTS, DON’T LOVE SPORTS
Philly fans have suffered as much as any fan base. It’s part of our DNA. There has been heartbreak on top of heartache.
Being a Philly sports fan is probably the greatest love-hate relationship in history. You love your teams but you hate what happens to them … and thus, what happens to you.
Love-hate is the dominant trait of being a Philly sports fan. When your teams lose, you take it personally. You dwell on it. It gnaws at you. You can’t let go.
When your teams win, it’s sheer joy — tempered, of course, with skepticism passed down from our ancestors. Victory brings self-worth and community pride. Nearly everybody is happy.
It’s silly, right, that our self-esteem should be tied into the fortunes and failures of mercenary professional athletes. But it’s who we are. It’s what we sign up for every season, every year of our lives. We wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter the mental cost.
Our sympathy goes out to those who aren’t such rabid fans. Those poor souls who couldn’t possibly understand the feeling of beating the Cowboys.
‘SKIMPY TROPHY CASES’
My former colleague at the Daily News, the great Stan Hochman, covered sports in Philadelphia for more than 50 years. Covered it like no one else.
He had a phrase that he used in some of his columns: “Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and skimpy trophy cases.”
Stan was right, as usual.
Winning a Super Bowl took the Eagles 52 years while their division rivals won them regularly. The Cowboys have won five; the Giants four; Washington three.
It was painful enough for the Eagles to never win, but when their rivals won Super Bowls again and again — it became unbearable.
During that drought, the Eagles had some excellent teams. They lost twice in the Super Bowl before winning one. They lost in the NFC title game four times between 2001-08.
LONG TITLE DROUGHT
Those losses were searing reminders of how Philly teams so often didn’t win the big game. Philly went from 1983 to 2008 without a championship. Even in glorious 1980, when all four teams made their respective championship round, only the Phillies won.
We know the Islanders’ Bob Nystrom was offsides on the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1980.
We were stunned when Ron Jaworski threw three interceptions against the Oakland Raiders in the 1980 Super Bowl, a 27-10 beatdown.
How could the Lakers’ Magic Johnson, a fresh-faced rookie guard, replace an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center and win Game 6 and the NBA title at the Spectrum in 1980?
Sadly, there’s more. I sat in the SkyDome press box down the third-base line in 1993 when Joe Carter’s home run carried over the left-field fence. We watched as not only Toronto went wild, but most of Canada did, too.
We saw all of downtown Detroit turn red and turn out in 1997 when the Red Wings swept Eric Lindros and the Flyers for their first Cup in 42 years.
We wondered when it would be our turn.
How did the Buccaneers’ Ronde Barber return a Donovan McNabb pass 92 yards for a clinching touchdown in the 2002 NFC title game?
What a fitting way to close out Veterans Stadium, I suppose.
We couldn’t believe how much time the Eagles’ offense squandered down the stretch of the 2004 Super Bowl in Jacksonville. They trailed the Patriots and needed to step on the gas. The Eagles played with the urgency of a team in the lead, not behind.
Seven Philly coaches have won major championships since 1960.
- Buck Shaw, Eagles (1960)
- Alex Hannum, 76ers (1967)
- Fred Shero, Flyers (1974, 1975)
- Dallas Green, Phillies (1980)
- Billy Cunningham, 76ers (1983)
- Charlie Manuel, Phillies (2008)
- Doug Pederson, Eagles (2017)
This is a highly elite fraternity Nick Sirianni can join.
Sunday could be one of those amazing days when everyone will remember forever where they were if the Eagles beat the Chiefs.
To help the Eagles’ cause, during local church services before the NFC title game, a chorus of “Fly, Eagles, Fly” broke out. Not many in Philly thought that was weird.
Why would they, right?