Revisiting Philadelphia's last generation playoff gap

Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: Check out this interactive graphic looking back at the three times since 1971 that all four of Philly’s pro sports teams have been left out of the playoffs.

SO, FOR THOSE keeping score at home, it goes like this: 1971-72, 1991-92, 2012-13. Those are the three seasons that all four pro sports teams in Philadelphia missed the playoffs. As it turns out, we were a year late this time.

Twenty years. Twenty-one years. It is a blessing, in some ways, that it happens only once a generation. The nights get awfully long when the Phillies are having a bouncing-around kind of spring and summer, and the Flyers and Sixers are dark, and Eagles training camp is still months away. Whether Philadelphia sports is a passion or just some comforting background noise, the silence at these times is oddly disconcerting.

Thinking back, it is hard to remember what the spring of 1992 felt like, so I went back and read the Daily News sports section from April 30, 1992, for a quick refresher. To say that it was a fallow time around here does not quite tell the story. On a day when Michael Jordan was dropping 56 points on the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs and Mario Lemieux was scoring twice to beat the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs, things in Philadelphia were pretty much flatlined.

In Los Angeles that day, the Phillies beat the Dodgers in a game memorable only because it was played on the night that Los Angeles rioted in reaction to the Rodney King verdict. The Daily News hockey writer, a fellow named Les Bowen, was covering a Rangers-Devils playoff series. And as for the Eagles, well, the best we could muster as a draft grade for the home team that year was a C-plus - for Siran Stacy, Tony Brooks, Casey Weldon and the fellas.

It is simple in hindsight to recognize what the issues were, and to understand why the franchises ended up following the trajectories that they did. As it was happening, though, it wasn't as easy. It feels like that now. The sense today is that the Eagles are building and the Sixers are buried. The feeling here is that the Flyers could tip either way and that the Phillies, while also precarious, will have hope as long as they have Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

Poll

For the first time in 21 years, none of the Philly’s top four major sports teams made the playoffs. Considering that the Sixers are probably the least likely to do so in the near future, which team will make the playoffs first?

But no one really knows - which, I guess, is why we keep watching. Going back again to 1992, though, there were opinions.

That period of time felt like a last gasp for the Eagles, and it was. Buddy Ryan was gone. Jerome Brown would be dead in a car accident within weeks. Reggie White would leave as a free agent at the end of the next season. It was over, right then, with so much unfulfilled promise.

It was hard to know exactly what to make of the Phillies because none of us could know how far behind the franchise would be left when it seemed as if most everyone else but them built a new stadium. The economics of the game changed everything. It guaranteed that the magical blip that was 1993 for the Phillies would be just that - a blip.

The Sixers? They were like the Eagles. Upon missing those 1992 playoffs, Charles Barkley demanded a trade. Too impatient to wait for the Dream Team/1992 Olympics in Barcelona to play out, the best the Sixers could come up with in return was a package consisting of Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang from Phoenix. When Barkley left, the thing was punctured. Everyone knew.

And the Flyers, well, they were weeks away from what everyone believed was their answer: Eric Lindros. When he was awarded to them by an arbitrator after the Quebec Nordiques somehow managed to leave both the Flyers and Rangers with the impression that he had been traded to them, Lindros was going to be the cornerstone upon which the next Cup would eventually rest. It would take some time, yes, but that was the near-universal feeling.

So, how much of it came through? About half?

Thinking back, it is hard to believe: Barkley was traded on June 17, Brown died on June 25, and Lindros was acquired on June 30.

They were 2 weeks in 1992 that changed everything.

The lesson for today being, I guess, that you never know.

 


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