I have been in self-imposed hibernation for the past few weeks following the inevitable disappointment. It is a perennial occurrence, a period of cleansing that recurs several times every year, as constant as the change of seasons. I need this brief respite for my own sanity, to consolidate my strength in order to soldier on. My affliction cannot be cured; it is deep-rooted and insidious. I am — to my own detriment — a Philadelphia sports fan.

You probably don’t feel any pity for me, unless you happen to share in my misery. After all, Philadelphia is a place where Santa Claus gets pelted with snowballs at halftime; it’s not known for being a friendly city. (To be fair, Santa was visibly intoxicated.) It is a place where fans cheer when an opposing player suffers a career-ending injury. (Again, to be fair, that player was Michael Irvin.) Still, Philadelphia fans are notorious for being crass, ruthlessly unforgiving and abusive — and that is only toward their own players. Such descriptions persist because, well, they are mostly accurate.

You cannot judge a “Philly” fan, however, without first walking a mile — or perhaps a marathon — in his shoes.

In the past 25 years, the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers have played a combined 100 seasons. Only one of those teams (the 2008 Phillies) managed to win a championship. That is a stunning 1 percent success rate in a depressingly large sample. Such an outcome is not surprising, however. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. The last time the Sixers captured an NBA championship, Moses Malone was a strapping young center, and Dr. J was revolutionizing the slam dunk. Despite the Phillies’ recent victory, they own only one other World Series title and were the first franchise in baseball to lose 10,000 games. The Flyers’ last Stanley Cup came in the mid-1970s when the Broad Street Bullies were still cracking skulls and disco was a legitimate musical genre.

The plight of Philly fans should not be overlooked when assessing their behavior. Our nasty temperament is not only a symptom of repeated failure but also a result of all-consuming pangs of jealousy.

During the last three decades, Eagles fans have watched their teams routinely stumble and, more unsettling, witnessed their division rivals — the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys — win three or more Super Bowls apiece. Flyers fans recently looked on as Sid the Kid, a barely-out-of-diapers phenom, won the cross-state rival Penguins a Stanley Cup. Philadelphians listen to the cries of “cursed” Chicago Cubs fans and scoff. Sure, it’s been 103 years and one Steve Bartman since the Cubs won a World Series. But, remember, some guy named Jordan won Chicago six NBA championships. Six. By the way, that is the cumulative number of championships all Philadelphia teams have won in recent history.

Of course, I am cynical. During my teenage years and budding adulthood, Philadelphia has seen an astounding amount of success. In 2001, Allen Iverson — the grittiest player on the toughest team — guided the Sixers into the NBA finals. Donavan McNabb revived the Eagles franchise in the early 2000s, reaching five NFC title games in eight years. The Phillies have won five consecutive NL East titles. The Flyers had one of the best records in the NHL in 2010 and played for the Stanley Cup that year.

Yet, while Philadelphia teams have aroused their fans’ passions, they have ultimately left them unsatisfied. Iverson and his supporting cast lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and a young, flashy player named Kobe Bryant, who fittingly grew up in Philadelphia. McNabb underperformed in each NFC title game and was accused of tiring in his Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots. In 2010, despite having one of the best records in hockey, the Flyers lost to the upstart Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This year, the Phillies boasted — on paper — one of the best pitching staffs in MLB history. At season’s end, they had accumulated a sub-3.00 ERA and helped the team win a franchise-record 102 games. Then, the Phillies proceeded to lose in the first round to the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that had to claw its way into the playoffs with help from … the Phillies. The irony is delicious.

Luckily, fans engrossed in the Phillies — and traumatized by their demise — could turn to the Eagles for comfort. With the signing of blockbuster free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, and the explosive play of Michael Vick and Desean Jackson, the Eagles quickly dubbed themselves “the Dream Team.” After the first six games of the season, however, those dreams have been entirely stamped out. At an abysmal 2-4, the Eagles so far, despite all their promise and talent, are sitting at the bottom of the NFC East.

Such is the life of a Philadelphia sports fan. How about those Flyers? We can only hope.

 

David Freenock is a senior in the College. CHRONICALLY ME appears every other Tuesday.

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