Philadelphia is a demanding sports town and it’s easy to be disappointed about a Sixers team that unexpectedly won 52 games, finished as the third seed in the East, but lost a second-round series to a short-handed Boston Celtics team that’s not only sniffing the NBA Finals, but beat our team in three really close games.
At the same time, there’s another portion of the fan base that would tell that particular cat to, “Chill out, the future is bright, the Eagles just won the Super Bowl and ‘Trust The Process.'”
You could take either side as neither is wrong. But, what nobody can deny is how Philadelphia sports is drastically more enjoyable than a year ago, and even before that.
Whether you’re a “Process Truster” or couldn’t stand Sam Hinkie, love analytics or roll your eye at an obscure stat, grew up on the Broad Street Bullies or Allen Iverson, this era of Philadelphia sports, which include many days ahead, is pointed in the direction of impressive heights.
The “Hungry Dog” World Champion Philadelphia Eagles
There was much skepticism about head coach Doug Pederson in May 2017. The Eagles just finished a 7-9 season, which included risky decisions by Pederson that backfired. Carson Wentz showed promise as a rookie, but the consensus was there was still much to prove for the quarterback.
The Birds came off a season which they lacked offensive weapons and reliable corners. You could argue Fletcher Cox had a down year in 2016.
There was optimism for improvement in the 2017 season, such as maybe 10 wins and a playoff birth. No one expected the city’s first Super Bowl.
And rewind everything even a step further.
In May 2016, the Eagles’ starting quarterback was Sam Bradford, the backup was Chase Daniel and the third-stringer was Wentz. Add that to a rookie head coach in Pederson and a resurrected de facto general manager in Howie Roseman. Not to mention, it was a short time before that Bradford was upset when Roseman traded up for the second pick in the draft. And let’s not forget only a handful of months earlier, Chip Kelly ruling 2 Novacare Way.
That awful loss to the division-clinching Redskins on a Saturday night in late December 2015 with DeSean Jackson mocking the crowd seems a distant memory, even though it was less than three years ago.
A Super Bowl victory parade will help put that image well in the rear view.
Whether you liked Sam Hinkie’s plan or not, in May 2017 the 76ers just finished a 28-54 season, which they loss 11 of their last 13.
Joel Embiid gave fans a taste of his brilliance, but in only 31 games as he underwent surgery again. Ben Simmons hadn’t suited up in an NBA game.
The three season prior were 10, 18 and 19 win campaigns. In other words, gradually worse.
Some loved “The Process” because of the valuable draft picks it would bring. Others loathed the excessive losing with no end in sight. And still, “Hinkie-ites” are loyal Sixers fans. Even though they accepted the wait, it’s not liked they enjoyed watching their team look inferior on a nightly basis.
At times of “The Process,” it appeared like there was n0 light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still a path to be completed, but the ultimate goal never appeared closer.
And who knows, maybe a “King” can help complete the journey.
“Bold” Future For The Phils
Remember when Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure waved a white towel from the visitors dugout at Camden Yards because the team’s bullpen coach had the phone off the hook? The Phils were creamed by the Orioles that night 19-3 with Jeff Francouer coming in to pitch late, dropping their record to 22-44.
That was June 16, 2015 and the Phils were the worst team in the sport that year.
After losing to the Texas Rangers 9-3 on May 17, 2017, the Phils were 14-23, playing in a month which they only finished with six wins.
Tommy Joseph was playing first base, Daniel Nava the designated hitter and Michael Saunders the right fielder.
In the meantime, the entire fan base was screaming for prospects like Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams to get experience, as well as Scott Kingery sooner rather than later.
Kingery’s current struggles aside, today’s Phillies are 24-16 heading into their series at the Cardinals. There is a young core getting a lot of playing time with a solid rotation arguably featuring two aces, and a solid bullpen that often delivers.
And even though his tenure got off to a bumpy start, it’s obvious that Gabe Kapler’s energy, enthusiasm and demeanor was something the Phillies absolutely needed when Pete Mackanin was the manager of the club.
Kepler’s strategy and comments may make you roll your eyes sometimes, but he’s perfect to lead the Phils into a bright future, one that may experience postseason baseball sooner than you were expecting.
The reason Philadelphia’s hockey team doesn’t get a fancy sub-title is because of the four teams, they are the most puzzling and the least promising.
The reason is they are without an identity and are the essence of inconsistency.
On paper, you see a nice mix of veterans in Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds paired with young talent Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere.
But, goaltending is still an issue … shocking. And their head coach isn’t very exciting, by his own doing of showing no emotion publicly, even if we hear that isn’t the case behind close doors.
We’re constantly hearing about promising Flyers prospects such as goaltender Carter Hart, but when is he arriving?
General manager Ron Hextall always avoids trading away “the kids” for quick fixes, but former first round picks Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim have barely contributed, if at all, even though Sanheim was picked in 2014 and Morin 2013.
The beauty about the NHL is everything can turn around in one season and if you sneak into the playoffs, you can make a run if you get hot.
That’s the one thing Flyers fans can truly hang their hopes on.
At least it’s something.
The Heyday of Philadelphia Sports
Just in case you’re curious what this city’s teams should strive for, the greatest era of professional sports in this town happened from the mid-70s to early-80s.
The Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups, their only in franchise history. From 1976 to 1987, they advanced to four Cup Finals.
The Phillies experienced their first “golden era,” making the playoffs from 1976 to 1978, when it was harder to advance to the postseason. The ’76 and ’77 seasons featured the most wins in franchise history before 2011. The Phils won their first World Series in 1980, made it back to the playoffs in 1981 and advanced to The Fall Classic in 1983.
The Eagles played in their first Super Bowl in the 1980-81 season, after ending a 17-year postseason drought in 1978, the same campaign they featured a winning record for the first time since 1966. Trips to the playoffs also happened in 1979 and 1981.
From 1977 to 1983, the 76ers made four NBA Finals, three in four years from 1980 to ’83, finally ‘owing the fans’ in the latter.
The city experienced four parades in 10 years.
You could argue the Eagles Super Bowl victory started a streak that could very well top that by 2028. It’s not an impossibility.