Thursday, February 11, 2016

Philly: City of Winners Again?

It is funny how these things tend to come in bunches and then disappear for such long, fallow stretches. There shouldn't be any relation between the fortunes of different teams in different sports, playing at different levels.

Philly: City of Winners Again?

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It is funny how these things tend to come in bunches and then disappear for such long, fallow stretches. There shouldn't be any relation between the fortunes of different teams in different sports, playing at different levels.

But in Philadelphia, that has been the case before and perhaps we are seeing the start of a winning revival in Philadelphia that can rival the decade-long period of excellence that began in the mid-70s.

During that run, which began with the two Stanley Cup championships for the Flyers, the Phillies rose to prominence and won a World Series and the Sixers were champions of the world.

In no small way, the final great note of that long symphony of winning, which also included the flowering of the great Dick Vermeil teams with the Eagles and a 1979 Final Four appearance by Penn, was the 1985 national championship won by Villanova.

It was quite a run, and quite a stagger that followed. There were brief exceptions... the Phillies and Flyers reached their respective championship rounds and the Eagles got another shot at the Super Bowl, only to fall retchingly short... but nothing momentous.

Then the Phillies won the World Series last year, breaking the skid, and now Villanova is two games away from its own championship. The Wildcats have already beaten, among others, UCLA and Duke, during the NCAA tournament, so there isn't a pedigree out there that should scare them. They can win it, and have won already just by advancing this far in what might be the most competitive tournament in American sports.

Since Villanova served as the coda to the previous stretch of excellence, is it possible that the Wildcats, along with the Phillies, could be heralding another decade of thrills? The Flyers are an elite team capable, with the right luck, of winning the Cup. The Eagles made it to the NFL's Final Four last season and are always teasingly close to winning the franchise's first championship since 1960. The Phillies have enough talent and depth to repeat under the right circumstances. The Sixers... well, that might take a while.

Villanova coach Jay Wright, doesn't worry about the larger question of a Philadelphia revival, but he does think there's something going on with the Wildcats this time.

"It's kind of eerie how this is playing out," Wright said. "I hope history repeats itself. My wife and I were down there (Lexington, Ky.) as fans. That was kind of the greatest year in Big East history and we've talked about whether that year was better than this year.

"St. John's, Syracuse and Georgetown were the teams that year and Villanova kind of sneaks in. And then it's all happening the same. I'm not a superstitious person or anything. I don't care, I'm just worried about the next game. But if history repeats itself, I'll take it."

And if sports history chooses to bequeath Philadelphia with another period that rivals the 1974-1985 standard, that will be fine with everyone else, too.


Inquirer Columnist
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About this blog
Bob Ford has been writing about Philadelphia sports since 1981, and is still trying to figure it all out. A former beat writer covering the Phillies and the 76ers, Ford became a general sports columnist for the Inquirer in 2003, following in and occasionally falling in the deep footsteps of Bill Lyon, Frank Dolson and many distinguished others. He comes to the blogosphere after award-winning success as designer/editor of the fabulous Pen & Pencil Club softball blog. Likes: Palestra, inside-the-park home runs, sunny days. Dislikes: phony people, cloudy days, rewrites. Reach Bob at

Bob Ford Inquirer Columnist
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