One of the first things people notice about me when they first meet me is how I always appear to be so positive. Being a “glass half full” type of person has always been part of my charm. It’s one of those things that separates me from much of society.
Pick an aspect of life: career or personal life. There’s this sick ability within me to always see a silver lining. My persona continues to live on the side of the grass that’s greener because I believe it always is.
There’s no better example of how that is tested than with the sports teams I love in the town that I love. I may bitch and complain about them from time to time on social media. (All right, that’s fair. I bitch about them consistently.) Despite that, I still have confidence that there will always be positives with the Philadelphia Eagles, Sixers, Flyers, and Phillies.
Naturally, when a column like this appears on my Twitter timeline from Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Smallwood, I feel a certain way. It’s easy for writers like Smallwood or fans with his mindset to feel this way:
“Hope is a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane.”
– Morgan Freeman as Ellis “Red” Redding in “The Shawshank Redemption
Smallwood is right. 1999 was the turn of the century. The Eagles had Donovan McNabb who was an imminent superstar. The Sixers were carried on the back of a little guard standing less than 6’ tall named Allen Iverson. The Phillies featured a core of Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, and Scott Rolen. Then, of course, there were the Flyers led by a 26-year old Eric Lindros.
Smallwood is also right when he mentioned how “hollow” things ended even with that talent. The Eagles were superior to every team in the NFC East during the regular season, but not so much in the playoffs. The team only made it to one Super Bowl appearance in the McNabb/Andy Reid era and lost.
That was a fun ride, though, wasn’t it?
The Sixers rode that little guard from Georgetown University all the way to the 2001 NBA Finals where they met up with a Los Angeles Lakers squad that featured the most dominant big man (Shaquille O’Neal) of that generation. Was it the ending we all hoped for? No, but keeping the Lakers from going 16-0 sure felt good to me as well as the famous “Stepover”.
Lindros got his dome cracked in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. It was the sixth of his career. A torrid relationship with Lindros’s family and ownership led to that divorce soon after.
The Phillies with their core of Burrell, Rollins, and Rolen were never able to break the playoff threshold. In fact, they barely broke .500. Phillies fans were able to celebrate 2008, though.
Here we are again. The scripts are eerily similar.
The Eagles have new hope with the #2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft Carson Wentz, a new, tall weapon in Alshon Jeffery, a fast threat in Torrey Smith, and a little scatty guy named Donnell Pumphrey — who might remind you of another smaller guy this town has grown to adore (Darren Sproles).
The defense is young and hungry with cornerstone Fletcher Cox. Sure, the secondary still needs work, but you know what they say. If the front seven is dominant, it’ll be hard for opposing quarterbacks to test the secondary if said quarterback is on his behind.
The Phillies are definitely the worst of the four major sports right now, but the team drafted Adam Haseley this year and Mickey Moniak last year. After what happened with prior management with Ruben Amaro, Jr. trying to prolong the 2008 run, what’s happening to the Phillies now should have been expected. There’s always a butterfly effect. Sometimes, it’s positive. Sometimes, it’s negative.
Across the street in South Philadelphia, things stand to get really interesting at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers added the #2 overall pick in the draft, Nolan Patrick, to a group of players that include Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakob Voracek. Include the wealth of blue line talent in Shane Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, and Travis Manheim and this new breed of Flyers is going to be VERY good for some time. (I’m not even mentioning Carter Hart — the 18-year old goalie who could be other-worldly when he makes it up to the pro level.)
The Sixers are the team in town that seems to be getting the biggest buzz — with good reason. In just 31 games, we know what center Joel Embiid is — freakishly talented. Last year’s #1 pick Ben Simmons will take the floor in 2017. The team then added another #1 pick last week in Markelle Fultz from the University of Washington. Throw in a “Homie” and a “Lord” (Covington), and this team has the makings of something extremely special. Yes, I know. All of this hinges on team health, but I’m confident.
I’m hopeful. I’m excited. You all should be, too. It would appear at least 14,000 of you are.
What John Smallwood tries to convey is a little old school. It’s a little predictable for this town. We have so much hope that never comes to fruition. I get it. I really do. I’m 36 years old, and I’ve only been able to experience one championship parade (Villanova’s 2016 National Championship). I was too young for the Sixers and Phillies of the 80s, and I was living in San Diego, California going to school in 2008.
There’s no need to be that. As much abuse as Cleveland Browns fans have taken over the last decade, they have no reason to have any hope, but they do. There’s nothing wrong with having a little hope, Philadelphia.
“Hope is a good thing — maybe the best of things — and no good thing ever dies.”
– Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption