City of Losers?

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Flyers fans gather before playoff game (Source: iMryanmac on Photobucket)

As a diehard Philly sports fan, it pains me to point this out, but after nearly two days of hearing way too many Philly fans taking the Flyers loss in stride, it put me over the edge. I've heard too many fans say some version of "it was a great season", "nobody expected them to get that far", "they played hard", "I'm proud of them", "we'll be back next year", etc. Some of that may be true. Back in early April when they barely made the playoffs, nobody saw a historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to Boston or a Conference championship in their future. There is no doubt there were some great memorable moments.

But ultimately they didn't get it done. They had plenty of chances to win this series and didn't. They were inches away from possibly winning three of the four games they lost. For too many years, whenever one of our four pro sports teams loses late in the postseason, the fans seem way too grateful and accepting of the outcome, for all teams except the Eagles of recent years, that is.

I've seen plenty of scrappy Philadelphia sports teams have unexpected deep playoff runs, capture the sports fans' hearts, but ultimately fail to win the championship – the 1993 Phils, 2001 and 2008 Eagles, 1985, 2000, 2004, and 2010 Flyers, etc.. I've seen this movie too many times already. Literally…that was Rocky. And that's why that movie so perfectly captured Philadelphia since he lost the first fight to Apollo Creed. Hoosiers happens in places like Indiana. Philadelphia has Rocky.

Here are some other numbers to consider. Since the Flyers won their 2nd Cup in 1975, the 4 Philly sports teams have combined to have a 3-15 record in championship playoff rounds. That is by far the worst winning percentage in championship rounds of any city who has had teams play in at least five final series. The Phillies have faired the best with a 2-3 record in the World Series. The other teams have been much worse. The Flyers are 0-6 in Stanley Cup Finals since then, the Eagles are 0-2 in Super Bowls, and the Sixers are 1-4 in NBA Finals.

During HBO's Broad St. Bullies documentary, Anthony Gargano of WIP noted that right before those beloved Flyers teams won, Philadelphia was considered "the city of losers."  The Eagles had won in 1960, but had stunk ever since. The Sixers had won it all in 1967, but then Wilt left and they were 9-73 shortly after that. And the Phillies had been pretty bad since the early 1950's except for 1964, when they were merely good enough to be in 1st place until a few games were left in the season and then put their fans through the worst collapse in sports history prior to the 2007 Mets. It was against that backdrop that those Bullies teams won the city's hearts just by, well, winning.

But we've only had one championship in the last 27 years and only three in the last 35 years since the Flyers last Cup. In the 27 years preceding the Flyers' first Cup, the city had experienced 6 championships (3 by the Eagles in 1948, 1949, and 1960, 2 by the Warriors in 1947 and 1956, and 1 by the Sixers in 1967). If we were the "city of losers" then, what are we now? Our teams have just been better lately and get tantalizingly closer to winning it all. But the results are mostly the same: they rarely ever win the championship. When everyone was hung up on the championship drought that started in 1983 and finally ended in 2008, I thought, "If this is a drought, when was there ever a lot of rainfall before?"

Overall, going back to the A's repeat World Series title in 1930, the town has only experienced 11 championships in the last 80 years. Eleven! So that's 77 Eagles football seasons, 24 A's baseball seasons, 80 Phillies baseball seasons, 43 Flyers hockey seasons, 16 Warriors basketball seasons, and 47 Sixers basketball seasons. That's 287 sports seasons with 11 championships.To put that in perspective, right now the Lakers are going for their 10th championship in their last 31 seasons. 

I understand people feeling good about what the Flyers did this season. But when I take the long view, it's just yet one more time when a Philadelphia team came up short. It's getting old. But what else are we going to do, watch soccer?

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13 Responses

  1. george, the point is: yeah, being a Philadelphia fan is a tough job. Its not pretty, its not easy, and it hurts. But we do it with PRIDE

  2. I’d add in the 87 flyers in that mix as well. they took the gratest sports team in the history of profession sports to seven games

  3. If they didn’t have hippies faggots in the locker room, the cup would be ours this time. Fuck Phish

  4. So instead of being grateful that we make it as far as we do in the first place (many times against big adversity, which has become our calling card), you whine that we aren’t loaded with championships? Are you aware that North America is chock full of cities that’d be happy to have a sports history to even speak of? We’d only be a “City of Losers” if we whined and complained instead of congratulating our teams that work as hard as they do. Keep crying buddy while I wipe my ass with this article.

  5. I think John makes valid points, the title is a little more harsh than it needs to be, but you essentially have a 50/50 shot to win a finals series, we’re 3-15 in the last 30 years. That’s tough to swallow.

  6. It was fun and the team showed tons of heart and were clutch so often. But ultimately when it was over we were the Washington Generals to another city’s Globetrotters again. This isn’t college intramural sports where we celebrate moral victories and runner-up trophies and just “being happy to be there.” If it was, the prices of the tickets to the games and my cable bill would be a lot of lower.
    Sure Boise, Idaho would love to have teams that lost championship rounds. But there is a reason they don’t have one….they are Boise, Idaho. Philly is a major league city and other than Cleveland, no city of that caliber who has had 3 or more sports teams for that same duration of time has won less championships than Philadelphia. I’m not whining at all. I accept what is seemingly our fate and just seem to get a little more agitated at the missed opportunties more than other fans apparently.

  7. I understand where this article is coming from. It’s very frustrating that we don’t take advantage of our situations more. Why is it that it seems like we are either an underdog that gets outplayed as expected or a talented team that comes up short?
    I think that our teams have two issues. One is chronic mismanagement. The Sixers as of late fit into this. The Phillies up until the 70’s were the classic case. The other issue may just be the sports psychology of the city. While it is a great movie and very poetic, maybe we shouldn’t keep associating with Rocky, but instead with Rocky II, Rocky III, and Rocky IV.
    There are real implications to losing though. It affects a sense of civic pride and overall sentiment of the city. Everyone is happy when we win. I think winning is definitely important.
    For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t translate this into an “overall greatness of city” argument. Chicago can identify with us a lot and in many ways their sports success is worse than Philadelphia’s is. I know it might sound funny, but just take a look at it. Also, I would gladly take Philadelphia the city any day of of the week over Detroit’s sports championships.
    Rather than lose and sulk though, I think it is important that we take losing in stride. I’m tired of Philadelphia being viewed as this looney bin of barbarism.

  8. How many championships have Cleveland or Buffalo won in the same timespan? How bout a new article called: Go Drink a Gallon of Anti-Freeze

  9. Buffalo of course only only has 2 pro teams and Cleveland only has 3, so less opportunity. Seattle has had a longer drought too, but again only 3 pro teams for most of that time (only 2 now). Philly had the longest drought of any city with 4 teams in history. I get the point. But taking solace in that we are slightly more fortunate than Seattle, Buffalo, and Cleveland doesn’t really say much.
    I do think in many of those 15 title round losses, it was due to our teams overachieving to get that far and then not being able to beat a team who was much more talented. And with the exception of the Eagles loss to the Raiders in 1980 and the Phils loss to the O’s in 1983 just about every other title round loss was to a mini-dynasty – Edmonton, Detroit, NY Islanders, Montreal, NE Patriots, Blue Jays, and the Lakers in the 80s and 00’s for the Sixers. And we’ll see about the ’09 Yanks and ’10 Blackhawks if they turn into dynasties. It still doesn’t make it any less frustrating thought.

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