The Pain of the Philly Sports Fan

I was born in Delaware, but spent most of my growing up years in SE Pennsylvania. The region – being where it was with Delaware having NO pro sports teams at the time – went mostly with Philly teams, although there were some Baltimore fans thrown into the mix as well. That meant that I followed the Phillies, Flyers and Sixers pretty regularly (well, much less so with the latter, although Dr. J was the man). Strangely, I was a Cowboys fan due to a set of odd circumstances¹, but otherwise I was Philly through and through.

My youth was spent following the classics – Schmidt, Carlton and Luzinski; Clarke, Barber and Lindbergh, Erving, Cunningham and Cheeks. Those were the heydays of Philadelphia sports – the teams were perenially contending, although with only limited Championship success. Between 1974 and 1983, the Philly teams were at or near the top almost all the time:

Year Phillies Flyers Sixers Eagles
1973 Won Cup
1974 Won Cup
1975 Won Conference playoffs
1976 Won Division Lost Conference Finals Won Conference
1977 Won Division Lost Conference Finals Lost Conference Finals
1978 Won Division Won 1st round Won 1st Round Playoffs
1979 Won Conference Won Conference Playoffs
1980 Won World Series Won 1st Round Lost Conference Finals Lost Super Bowl
1981 Won Division Playoffs Won Conference Playoffs
1982 Playoffs Won Championship
1983 Won NL Playoffs  

So, since that 1983 World Series appearance by the Phillies – almost 23 years ago, the composite 4 major pro sports teams in this town have gone to the finals only 6 times (Flyers 3, Sixers 1, Phillies 1, Eagles 1) all resulting in losses, meaning that the 76ers 1982-83 World Championship represents the last parade down ol’ Broad St. 23 years, 91 seasons and exactly ZERO championships. Heck, 7 expansion teams (well, 2 expansion and 5 ‘moved’ teams) have won 8 championships in that time.

It’s not just the dirth of championships – it’s the combination of constant teasing, unfallably coming up short and droughts of even winning seasons. The Philly sports fan has learned to exude unbridled enthusiasm mixed with cautious pessimism, invariably leaning toward the former against all reason and history only to be crushed when the final tick of the clock comes down. From the 3 years of almosts of the Eagles NFC Championships to the endless great Flyers teams who choked without a championship (14 years in the playoffs without one), the spirit of the fan is battered and bruised.

We are a passionate fan base, quick to cheer and apt to boo in equal volumes, harsh to players even that we love, evil those those we dislike but hopelessly loyal to even those mediocre players who show us what we want the most – heart. Rod Brind’Amour, Hugh Douglas and now Chase Utley don’t necessarily produce league star numbers but stand loved by Philly fans because ever game was (or is) at 100%, every game important to their very soul, every emotion raw and open to us. We embrace them as one of us even as we push the prima donnas aside as inconsequential at best, or crucify them from the stands at worse.  We are sometimes fickle but always full of heart.  But we’re also VERY tired.

How long must we suffer through this lack of winning, this utter desperation for a hint of victory.  The playoffs seemed assured in all sports only a few years ago – and even then the teams we love (and love to hate) seemed to fail us in the end.  When they did make it, they were teasing us, giving us false hope only to leave with with the bitter taste of disappointment again.

Where it will end?  No one knows – despite our best efforts to divine a path, a solution, a bit of hope for a roster that doesn’t include 43-year-old castoffs, it hasn’t happened.  So, we anesthetize with cheap beer, cheesesteaks and Wing Bowl, and continue the Philly mantra: “Well, next year we’ll be right in the hunt.  Maybe.”


Trackbacks & Pings

  • Emily :


    Few cases of eyestrain have been developed by looking on the bright side of things…

    17 years ago

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