The chances for Philadelphia sports immortality are rare and brief. If you almost win a championship, you figure there will be other chances.
If you’re among the lucky few, you actually win the ring. When that happens, your fate is sealed in Philadelphia — you are legend, your team will be beloved for generations and forever.
That’s the way we play hardball in Philly.
Good morning, Jalen Hurts. You woke up this morning still probably sore after the 38-7 beatdown of the Giants on Saturday night in the NFC divisional playoff. Your coach, in a moment, referred to you as Michael Jordan after the game.
You’re one victory away from a Super Bowl. You know that is way more difficult that it sounds — hey, just one more win.
That final win might be the hardest there is.
Good morning, Jalen Hurts. You’re 24 years old. This is your world and your moment.
IVERSON’S BIG NIGHT
When I heard Nick Sirianni refer to Hurts as Jordan-like, it got me thinking about a superstar who won championships galore and Philly stars who didn’t. Could Hurts be Jordan-like in winning a title?
It was June 2001 and the Sixers were shocking the world and the mighty Lakers, the Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Sixers superstar Allen Iverson scored 48 points in a Game 1 overtime victory. The game was punctuated by Iverson making a corner basket over Tyronn Lue after a crossover dribble. Iverson stared at the Lakers bench and stepped right over Lue.
The Sixers lost the series in five games. The silver lining was simple: This was the beginning of a Sixers run to the championship with AI. Reality: It was the end. The Sixers never went back to the conference final with Iverson.
It was June 6 when the Sixers took a 1-0 series lead. Allen Iverson was 25 years old.
THE BIG E
Flyers coach Terry Murray stood at a podium in the lower corridor, ice-level, at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. It was Friday, June 6, 1997. His Flyers trailed the Red Wings, 3-0, in the Stanley Cup final.
Game Three had been a disaster for the Flyers. The Wings won, 6-1. Many, many Wings fans spent Saturday walking around downtown Detroit carrying brooms, ready to celebrate their first Cup since 1955. The series was over and just waiting for the final bookkeeping.
Murray said his team was “in a choking situation.” I was there with about a hundred other reporters. We heard what Murray said and looked around at each other, shocked at a coach calling his team chokers.
The series ended the next night. Flyers players were devastated, obviously, but there was quiet talk of brighter days. Eric Lindros was the superstar of not just the Flyers but of the league.
In hockey, generational superstars win Stanley Cups — Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and now, Sidney Crosby.
Not only was Lindros a star, he still was young. On his Legion of Doom line were 23-year-old Mikael Renberg and 27-year-old John LeClair. There was plenty of time for another Cup run— until there wasn’t.
This Flyers team never again made the Cup final. The franchise went 13 years before another Cup final appearance.
On that fateful June 6 in Detroit, Eric Lindros was 24 years old.
MVP COLE HAMELS
Phillies ace Cole Hamels took the baseball in the first game of the 2008 division series against the Brewers. He took the baseball in the first game of the NLCS against Dodgers.
Hamels started in the first game and the deciding game of the World Series against the Rays.
Hamels was 4-0 with a 1.80 postseason ERA. He was the most valuable player in the NLCS and World Series.
This surely would be the start of an amazing run — and it was. The Phillies won the 2008 World Series. They lost to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series. The 2010 and 2011 teams had better talent and never made it to the World Series.
When Cole Hamels earned his ring in 2008, after two nights of rain, he was 24 years old.
Which brings us back to Hurts and the Eagles. Philadelphia has a long history of superstar athletes on the cusp of a championship. Success should never be taken for granted. We thought Donovan McNabb would win a title in the 2000s. He got to five NFC title games, won one, and lost in the Super Bowl.
Winning in the NFL is a tough business. One injury can affect an entire team. One injury can determine the outcome of what 52 other players are trying to accomplish.
Hurts knows this and his teammates do, too. The Eagles should know this opportunity might happen once in their career. They might scoff at that notion, but history is riding a long undefeated streak.
I don’t know Hurts’ health status. I think I understand his heart and mind-set. I wasn’t surprised he went all-out against the Giants. If he could, he would. In the first series, he competed a 40-yard pass. He ran twice on called runs.
Hurts was determined to do what he could to help the Eagles win. Only he knows how he feels, at what percentage of health he is playing.
Jalen Hurts is 24 years old. He is a smart and wise veteran. He knows this is his world and his moment.