From a lot of vantage points, 10 years is not a long period of time. Consider the Greenland shark. According to a recent study, it can live 200 to 500 years. To a Greenland shark, a decade would feel like little more than a couple of years. (This is assuming that the species possesses the ability to consciously process that passage of time, but that’s another topic for another study.)
Or, how about the elephant? The lifespan of an elephant is only about 60-70 years, but its gestation period is about two years, with an interbirth interval of about four to five years. So 10 years is barely enough time to spit out a couple of kids. That can’t help but affect one’s perception of time. Again, assuming perception.
Here in Philadelphia, however, we are human beings, regardless of what the national media may want you to believe. To the average adult member of our species, 10 years is an eternity. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the Dow go from 16,000 down to 9,000 and then up to 26,000. We’ve seen flip phones turn to Blackberries, and Blackberries turn to touch screens. We’ve seen our first black president, and our first orange one.
What we haven’t seen is another parade. To be precise, it has been 111 months since the Phillies planted their staff in Broad Street and turned it red like the river Nile. At the time, there was reason to think this city was entering its second golden era. In a span of three years, we would see six conference finals, a Stanley Cup Finals, and two World Series, a run of success that harked back to those magical early ’80s. After two and a half decades of cold and dark, Philadelphia was entering its spring. It was a time to hug. It was a time to dream. It was a time to get drunk and take your shirt off and climb on top of a stoplight.
And then it wasn’t. Think back to that day in 2008, a bright and clear and crisp Halloween. The intervening years have seen 35 championship trophies awarded in the four major sports, with nearly a third of them going to teams that hail from one of the nation’s five largest media markets. New York has two. Los Angeles and Chicago each has four. Dallas-Fort Worth has one. Next to Philadelphia, a zero, like the chip that rests in perpetuity atop this city’s shoulder, or a scarlet number across its chest.
The times, though, they are a changin’, and that’s a remarkable thing when you consider that Dylan wrote those lyrics four years after the Eagles were last NFL champs. There’s an energy in the city right now that is unlike any that folks in the under-35 demographic have experienced. Maybe it hasn’t bubbled to the surface, yet, but it is there, and tonight, in Super Bowl LII, we may witness it’s great unveiling.
The intoxicating thought is that this is just a prelude, an appetizer to what could end up being this city’s longest and must sustainable era of hope. The baseball season saw Rhys Hoskins make his introduction with 18 home runs in 50 games. He is 24 years old, and he carries himself with the kind of approach that tends to defy regression. The same thing goes for his counterparts across the street, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, each among his sport’s most physically gifted athletes at his respective position. They have less than a season of professional experience apiece, but already they are doing things that require the invocation of all-time greats to summon adequate comparisons.
There is a synergy to the superstardom that is brewing, aided by the technological interconnectivity that has exploded since a trophy last came to town. You hear it in their voices, an excitement at the understanding of what success in Philadelphia can mean, a palpable desire to replicate what the football team has done, to feel the electricity that has coursed through Lincoln Financial Field throughout this season, in particular those two home playoff wins.
Simmons’ might be the most instructive gaze through which to view the phenomenon. As a native Australian who has spent his entire life surrounded by a suffocating level of hype, you could understand if he felt a numbness to this civic moment. But even his flat-line demeanor yields detectable ripples at the implication of the Eagles’ run.
“I hope they bring it back to Philly,” he said last week after notching his fifth career triple-double. “I’m excited. I wish I could go.”
A prediction? In a seven-game series, the Eagles would lose. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have already played a full one, and their record is 5-2. But this isn’t a series, and that’s a notable thing.
In football, there is only Game 1. There is only one night. For the Eagles, that night is Sunday. For the city, there is plenty of reason to think that it will be the first of many.