O'Connell's Corner: The Phall of Philly
Why the Demise of Philadelphia Sports is Good for the Rest of Us
Stuff like this just isn’t supposed to happen. Philadelphia, the city whose inhabitants were preemptively choosing which “World Champions” tattoo they were going to get a few weeks ago, is now two steps away from collapsing into the Schuylkill River. The Phillies will watch the rest of the playoffs from their living rooms after getting bounced in the NLDS and the Eagles look like they’ve had their entire roster replaced by a high school JV team.
The Eagles weren’t supposed to lose a game all season and the Phillies were supposed to effortlessly pitch their way to their second World Series title in four seasons. Were all the experts wrong? Did a crazed Mets or Giants fan taint the drinking water? No one can know for sure, but the demise of Philadelphia’s “dream teams” reminds us all what’s so great about sports: once the teams start playing, anything is possible.
Now, I know that if you’re from Philadelphia, you’ve probably already stopped reading because the pain is just too much. The Philadelphia Daily News ran a headline Monday morning that simply read: “Worst Weekend Ever,” with pictures of Michael Vick and Ryan Howard on their backs. As a Red Sox diehard having just suffered through the worst collapse in baseball history, I feel your pain. But while I have yet to pick out one single positive from the Sox play this September, the past few weeks have shown me everything that I love about sports at the expense of the average Philly fan.
Take first the case of the Eagles. Ever since the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha in the offseason, too many fans and reporters alike have thrown around the “dream team” tag, not only claiming that the Eagles were a lock for the NFC East crown, but that they would most likely breeze their way into the Super bowl. Now, five games into the season, the Eagles stand at a measly 1-4 with sole possession of last place in the NFC East.
Watching yesterday’s game, however, I couldn’t help but smile seeing those two teams battle it out in Buffalo. The Eagles, overhyped and underperforming, fall to the Buffalo Bills, the perennial laughing stock that has somehow risen to the top of one of the toughest divisions in football on the shoulders of a former Ivy League quarterback. Its stories like this that keep me coming back for more.
Next, look across the street to Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies saw their playoff run end in the opening act on Friday, losing to the Cardinals in five. Coming into the season and throughout a good majority of it, you couldn’t find an expert that didn’t have the Phillies winning the NL Pennant. With a pitching rotation that featured four potential 20-game-winners, the Phillies would coast their way to a division title, and then on the backs of their talented hurlers, outduel any team in the league, especially in a short series.
Then, on Friday, we were treated to one of the best playoff pitching performances in recent memory. Only this time, it wasn’t one of the Phillies, as Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hit, complete game gem to sink Philadelphia. Excluding Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the division series a year ago, I can’t recall a pitcher overpowering an opposing team in a more dominating fashion than Carpenter on Friday night.
Now you may be asking yourself, why are these losses such a good thing for sports? Because for once in this modern era dominated by the 24 hour news cycle, the never-ending emphasis on fantasy sports and an overabundance of “expert” opinions, the artistry, beauty and, most importantly, unpredictability, of the game can shine through. While talking heads search their stat books for explanations as to how two of the most star-laden teams in the history of sports could fall in the same weekend, I’ll be sitting back and watching with a grin as the results unfold. Because to me, the story of the 4-1 Buffalo Bills is a lot more interesting than the story of the 1-4 Eagles.