If you’re a Philadelphia sports fan, you will have no difficulty identifying with Joe Queenan’s column in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. The print version bears the title above:
But … the online version has a different title: The Struggle to Be a Sports Fan in Philadelphia. Either title well captures the spirit of what it has been like to be a long-suffering follower of professional sports teams in Philadelphia.
By the way, Joe is 67 years old, so he’s been suffering longer than I have. A native Phialdelphian, he resides in Tarrytown, New York, about 45 minutes from me over the Tappan Zee Bridge. As a courtesy to my long-suffering brethren from the City of Brotherly Love, here is the article in its entirety.
EVERY YEAR at this time, I look back on my absolutely futile life as a sports fan and try to salvabe something – anything – out of another forlorn and water years. Since 1983, my Philadelphia teams have won exactly one championship – the Phillies in 2008. So from a personal, purely actuarial point of view following the Phillies, the 76ers, the Eagles, and the Flyers has been an almost complete waste of time.
Being a Philadelphia sports fan is like being an ancient Carthaginian. No matter what it does, your team is not going to beat the Romans. The best you can hope for is a tie. No, not even that. At the crucial moment, when Hannibal gets ready to climb onto his elephant and cross the Alps, he’ll tear his ACL and get replaced by his brother Hasdrubal, a scrub.
Yet each year I make a desperate effort to find something to celebrate in the teams that I follow and for some inexplicable reason revere. Here is this year’s wan, tragic roundup:
- Back in June, the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship in part because of the selfless contributions of Andre Iguodala, who played tough, gritty defense and did all the dirty work under the boards. Mr. Iguodala played the first eight years of his career in Philadelphia.
- Charlie Morton, the Houston Astros pitcher who shut down the Dodgers in Game 7 of this year’s World Series, had played the previous year with the Phillies. True, he only pithed a few games before he tore his hamstring, missed the rest of the season and thus contributed nothing worthwhile to the Phils. But it’s the thought that counts.
- The most talked-about players in the NFL this year was the Eagles’ Carson Wentz. Until late in the season the quarterback was the favorite to win the MVP Award and seemed to be on track to lead his team to the Super Bowl. But then he wrecked his knee on an ill-advised dive into the end zone, thereby ruining Christmas, and indeed life itself, for everyone in the Delaware Valley. Not that we weren’t used to it.
- The most exciting young player in the NBA, a favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award, is the Australian point guard Ben Simmons. He can’t shoot and doesn’t even seem interested in playing defense, and with or without him the Sixers still stink. But, like I said, he is exciting.
- When the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in February, they got major contributions from Dion Lewis, Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe — ex-Eagles all.
That’s about it for me and sports in 2017. My college basketball team, St. Joe’s, was typically horrible last year. However, I would point out to all those gloating fans of teams elsewhere that there wouldn’t even be any American sports to celebrate were it not for the enormous contributions of Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin, both of whom lived in Philadelphia.
In fact, but for the generosity of denizens of the City of Brotherly Love in agreeing to host the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall, the United State of America might have never gotten off the ground. Going back even further, without the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, the British would have never left those shores, so today we’d all still be watching cricket and tennis. And the Philadelphia cricket team would have been the first one to lose 10,000 matches.