In 2003, the last time the Philadelphia 76ers made it to the second round of the playoffs, I nervously sat in my seat at the First Union Center, now known as the Wells Fargo Center.
I was watching the Sixers take on the Detroit Pistons in some second-round action. At one point in the game, the Sixers went on a run against the very tough Pistons team. Everyone in the arena was on their feet as it looked like the Sixers might pull away and win. At that point, my father said something that would define my thinking of Philadelphia sports for the rest of my life:
“Joe, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
The Sixers went on to lose the game and the series.
Being a Philadelphia sports fan is not measured by wins or losses or championship rings. It is measured by how many times you can be knocked down and get right back up. In my time as a fan, I’ve realized that if you are able to stick with your teams through thick and thin, they will sometimes surprise you.
In the past few weeks, surprises — both good and bad — have been plentiful.
Let’s start with the 76ers. At some point after fighting over the last donut in the TNT break room, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal both declared that the Sixers didn’t have a chance in their series against the Chicago Bulls. Well, guess what? The Sixers earned themselves a spot in the second round of the playoffs after taking four games from Chi Town behind the inspired play of Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holliday, Evan Turner, and the epic free-throw points from Andre Iguodala in the final seconds of game six.
Granted, reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose did unfortunately get hurt, as did Joakim Noah, but our Sixers have shown some heart nonetheless, and I’m not going to let the details get in the way of an opportunity to stick it to Shaq and Sir Charles.
Although the Bulls’ season ended bit sooner than expected, at least head coach Tom Thibodeau — who, in all seriousness, should have been NBA Coach of the Year — can look forward to his role as The Penguin in Christopher Nolan’s next “Batman” film.
Speaking of Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers team that dismantled Sid the Baby and the rest of his merry band of whiners in the first round seemed to lose their mojo in the second round against the New Jersey Devils. After a Game 1 win that had me predicting a sweep, the Devils, led by a 40-year-old netminder and an underachieving Russian sniper, took the next four games of the series sending the Flyers packing.
Maybe if the Flyers had taken care of the goaltending situation this season, the outcome would have been different. I actually miss Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.
Ilya Bryzgalov, who was less than stellar in both series, told reporters that he’d be an astronaut if he weren’t a professional goaltender. It’s funny because the Flyers could probably start a new United States space program with the money they are paying Bryz. As for next season, I have a bad feeling.
The only people more upset than the fans about the Flyers’ early exit are the executives over at Wrigley’s Gum. I predict sales will plummet without Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette chewing an entire pack of gum each game.
On second thought, there’s always Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who goes through a pack each game too! It seems as though Chuck’s managing skills haven’t been showcased on the offensive end thus far this season — it doesn’t matter how good the pitching is if they can’t score runs. And right now they just can’t score. That is why this team will meander around .500 until Ryan Howard and Chase Utley return from the disabled list — if, that is, they come back before the end of the season. If those two can’t prevent the Phils from getting swept by the New York Mets, off all teams, then they are in some trouble.
I think the nickname “Kid” Cole got to lefty Cole Hamels in Washington a few nights ago. He beaned cocky rookie sensation Bryce Harper in the back, causing quite a stir. Don’t let the hair highlights fool you: Cole Hamels is now a man. He was suspended for five games for his actions, but that’s only because he said he threw at Harper intentionally as a welcome to the big leagues.
And how about the Eagles’ draft? A defensive lineman in the first round, and fans are pretty happy? I’m actually elated for Fletcher Cox, so much so that I rush-ordered his jersey. It now hangs in my closet next to my Brandon Graham, Jerome McDougle, Victor Abiamiri and Bryan Smith jerseys … Let’s be honest: Andy Reid drafts defensive linemen about as well as he manages the clock. I am more than skeptical about Cox.
So, yes, it has been quite a crazy couple of weeks in Philadelphia sports. To recap, Sixers still playing, Flyers not; Phillies can’t score; Eagles hope to score for once with a new D-lineman.
Welcome to the world of Philadelphia sports. Surprise!