It's Our Turn

With the Eagles preparing for a potential Super Bowl and the Sixers, well, being the Sixers, thoughts turn to which of the major sports teams in the city will make it to the promised land. The Phillies have to wait to see what the Eagles can do, but if we come up short there, the Phillies might be next in line. Either way, it's our turn.

Major League sports in Philadelphia began with a promise; the 1871 Philadelphia Athletics barely eked out the National Association Championship – the very first major league championship.  But even that championship was heavily disputed.  After that, the picture got gloomy rather quickly.  And somehow the picture never improved much.  Of the four major team sports teams that are currently playing in Philadelphia:

 ·         Baseball: Phillies – 1 championship in 122 years

·         Football: Eagles – 3 championships in 71 years

·         Basketball: 76ers – 2 championships in 41 years

·         Hockey: Flyers – 2 championships in 37 years

This combines for 8 championships over 271 team-seasons.  By today's standards, where there are 30 teams per league, this might simply be understood as "our share."  But much of this record was accumulated when baseball had 16 teams; football and hockey had 12; and basketball had 9.  Eight championships in 271 team-seasons is not our share.  We are overdue, and it is our turn.

The last of the current teams to win is the 1982-83 76ers.  Since 1982-83, every other four-sport city has won at least once.  Since 1982-83, three of the teams have advanced to the final round a total of four times.  Since 1982-83, we've had a few moments of glory: the Stars' 1984 USFL championship – a team that relocated, and then repeated as the 1985 champions – for Baltimore; Villanova's upset in the 1985 Men's College Basketball tournament; Smarty Jones' near miss for the 2004 Triple Crown; the Saint Joseph's Hawks had a remarkable basketball season last year.  But it's been 21 years since we brought home the Gold: It's our turn.

Since the 1982-83 ‘76ers, Philadelphia has seen each of their four major professional sports teams fail to win 21 consecutive seasons – a run of 84 consecutive team-seasons.  This is the second longest on-going streak in the nation.  Only Cleveland with 112 team-seasons since the 1964 Browns is longer.  Even among major sports cities with fewer than four teams, only Cleveland, Seattle (1978-79 Supersonics) and San Diego (1962 Chargers) have endured longer – unless you care to make a case that Indianapolis (since 1972-73), Buffalo (since 1965) or Salt Lake City (since 1970-71) are major sports cities.     

The two major league teams that used to play in Philadelphia have out-performed the teams still here: the Athletics (5 championships in 54 years) and the Warriors (2 championships in 16 years).  Since leaving Philadelphia, the Athletics and Warriors – both playing in Oakland today, the very city that deprived us of our only Super Bowl - have combined for five more championships.  While here, they won, on average, exactly once every ten years.  Were the current teams as proficient, they would have accumulated 27 championships.  Instead we have the 8 listed above.  We are 19 championships past due, and it's time we started collecting on this debt: It's our turn.

To Donovan McNabb, and all the other Eagles who have endured our passion: When you take the field in January – It's our turn.

Philadelphia owns baseball's longest games-losing streak, and we own the record for the lowest post-1900 winning percentage by a non-football team.  Our Phillies played from 1883 through 1979 – 97 years - without a single championship.  Again, another record for all professional sports teams – a record not scheduled for destruction until and if the 2006 Cubs fail.  And should the Cubs win one of the next two World Series, our record is secure for another decade – at a minimum.

Is 21 years of four-sport futility a record? I do not know.  I don't even know if Cleveland's record 112 team-seasons of futility is a record.  But I do know that my Syracuse University-graduate daughter wasn't even walking yet the last time we celebrated a terminal championship together.  Let us celebrate again.  After all, it is our turn.  

Philadelphia fans do not deserve this futility.  We are a city of devoted fans who have been forever short-changed in the standings.  We have managed to recognize quality play no matter how infrequently it appears in a Philadelphia sports uniform.  We are accused of booing Santa Claus, and I suppose some critics have the tapes to "prove" it.  But let me be clear: When we pay for a quality sports event, and our ownership delivers with department store mannequins, we WILL send a message to management.  And make no mistake: we will send it again should we ever perceive that the message was not understood the first time.  Our message is not all that complicated: It's our turn.

Perhaps it's better to be thankful that I have not had to endure Chicago's fare, with the longstanding droughts of the Cubs, the White Sox and the Black hawks.  But they had the 1984 Bears.  And their Bulls won twice as many championships in one decade as any one of our teams have won in their entire history.  Perhaps it's better to be thankful that I have not had to endure New Orleans, who has had continuous professional sports representation since 1967 without a championship at all.  But they have only accumulated half the team-seasons of futility as Philadelphia.  Besides, in 2003-04, they managed to steal a college football championship from USC.   Perhaps one day, I'll pound these drums for New Orleans, or for Cleveland, or for Seattle.  For the present day, we in Philadelphia have stood in line long enough.  It's our turn.

It may never be a factor in determining the point spread.  But when they set the line for the 2005 Super Bowl, it's simply our turn.  And when the Fall Classic comes in 2005, it's simply...our turn.

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