Saturday, October 31, 2009

Philly in a New York State of Mind

Everywhere you go, everywhere you look this weekend, the Philadelphia area is in a "New York State of Mind." The Yankees arrived in town yesterday to resume what could prove to be an epic World Series battle with games the next three nights. And, as if that weren't enough to consume the minds of Philly sports fans, the Giants visit the Linc tomorrow afternoon to square off against the Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.

Tomorrow could prove to be one of the greatest days in the history of Philadelphia sports with the day/night, football/baseball twin bill to be played in side-by-side venues. Some lucky fans will find themselves starting their day wearing midnight green attire, then making a short trek across the parking lot to finish their day in Phillies red at the Bank. Although it makes for a special day regardless of the respective outcome of the games, it goes without saying that a couple of wins by the Eagles and Phillies would forever etch November 1, 2009 as a special day in the annals of Philadelphia historians.

While x's and o's and balls and strikes are in the fore front of everyone's mind as the two Gotham City sports teams come to town, there is another overarching story line that hovers in the background. Simply put, as Philadelphia sports fans, these are the best of times. These are times to cherish, a truly remarkable sports era for any city, but particularly this city. In many ways, it could be almost unimaginable to fans who have suffered through the many disappointments and lean years that have almost conditioned them to expect the worst.

The current Phillies team has been instrumental in creating a powerful mind shift throughout the fan base with its body of work over the past few years. Good things really can happen for our beloved teams- and it not too treacherous to actually believe that they will. Expecting failure is no longer a necessary tactic to ease the pain of disappointment, the agony of defeat.

First, it was fighting through long odds with great play down the stretch to snatch the National League Eastern Division away from the arch rival Mets two consecutive years. It was a reversal of fortune- the anti-1964. Then, it was last year's magical run to a World Championship after a 25 year drought. And now, an even better Phillies team is poised to make another strong stand to repeat that feat against the most storied team in baseball history.

Of course, Philly sports fans still await a similar breakthrough for their neighbors in black, silver and green residing a few hundred yards away. The team has enjoyed a decade of winning and getting close, but has not been able to pull off the city's first Super Bowl Championship that fans so desperately covet.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie and Coach Andy Reid have brought a philosophy, know how and mentality to the team that has created a contending team, year in and year out. To the chagrin of fans and the team itself, though, they have not been able to cross that final threshold. Five times in ten years they have reached the NFC Championship Game, but have only moved on to the Super Bowl once and have never been able to grasp the Lombardi Trophy.

It would surely be great to see the Eagles take that huge step to garner Philadelphia's first Super Bowl title. And, here they are again with a collection of talent that gives them a legitimate shot this season, but the task remains daunting. Even if this year the Eagles end the season like 30 other teams with a loss or watching rivals participate in the post season, isn't it great to be in a position to anticipate and even contemplate the possibility of a championship?

Some might say "no" thinking the disappointment is worse, but I would have to think Lions or Browns fans might passionately try to convince them otherwise. As an English poet said a couple centuries ago, its "better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Surely, poetry and football don't often mix, but maybe just this once it works as an analogy?

Back in the new millennium, a couple of big wins by Philly teams tomorrow sure would be nice. And, wouldn't it be poetic justice if they came against two teams from the biggest revenue market just to the north that holds itself in higher regard than the fine city in its shadow?

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