Sure, this Bryan Colangelo/Twitter story is bizarre. But it’s just the latest installment of insanity in this wonderfully frenetic sports-crazed town.
While the city is always starved for its next championship, there’s usually not much time between dramas around here. We’re not talking about the Flyers’ inability to find a goaltender for the last 30 years or what in the world the Eagles were going to do when Carson Wentz got injured. Every team in every city goes through things like that.
We’re talking insanity — sometimes harmless, sometimes dangerous. If you have a weak stomach or are such a fan that there is a poster of Julius Erving still on your wall, you might want to skip this compilation.
Wilt on the attack
“My Life in a Bush League” was a 5,700-word essay Wilt Chamberlain wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1965 in the middle of the epic Eastern Conference finals series that ended when John Havlicek stole the ball in Game 7.
Wilt was trying to pour his heart out and explain how difficult it was to be Goliath. But then he got off topic and lit into the league, his coach, teammates, everything.
“I always seem to get in a jam every time I open my mouth,” Chamberlain said before scoring 30 points and grabbing 26 rebounds in a Game 6 win. “I certainly didn’t mean for the story to create the sort of impression it has created and I am sincerely sorry I did it. Yes, the air has been much cooler since the story came out, and I’m concerned about that. I want to beat Boston in the worst kind of way and I’m going to try my damnedest to do that. I want to be part of a team that does it, and I wish I would never hear about the story again.”
A fan with flare
In 1997, a fan fired a flare at the Vet during a Monday night Eagles game, leading to the city’s putting a municipal court within the bowels of the stadium to process the drunken and disorderly more efficiently. Twenty people were arrested in the first session.
“We had some very interesting cases,” presiding judge Seamus McCaffery said. “Young white males in their mid-20s to mid-30s. Blue collar to accountant … including one from Washington working for a high-profile public official. … It was mostly alcohol-related and disruptive conduct.”
‘I’ll kill you’
No hoagies allowed
When the Eagles finally moved out of the concrete jungle and into shiny new Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, they tried to prohibit outside food from being brought in. Not realizing or caring that fans have been bringing hoagies to games going back to the Bert Bell days, the team reversed its policy after monumental backlash. To paraphrase Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan, it was a tempest in a torpedo roll.
“The Eagles’ biggest mistake was failing to anticipate the reaction,” Sheridan wrote. “Not because it was reasonable, but because [Jeffrey] Lurie and [Joe] Banner have been here since 1994. They have been criticized for everything they say and do, even for the way they look and talk. This is Philadelphia, and they persist in conducting themselves as if it weren’t.”
A hockey fight … not on the ice
Ah, that 1972 game when Flyers fans goaded the St. Louis Blues into coming into the stands for a fight at the Spectrum after a somebody hit Blues coach Al Arbour with a beer. More than 200 cops wielding nightsticks had to break up the fight. Two St. Louis players and two coaches, including Arbour, were arrested, and afterward, the Blues were crying police brutality. “Our television replay shows that Al Arbour was hit by a policeman,” owner Sid Salomon said.
Now that was serious drama.
The NexTurf that was installed at Veterans Stadium was so treacherous that Ravens coach Brian Billick refused to play a preseason game in 2001. Someone called the surface “Field of Seams,” and the game was quickly canceled.
A century-plus ago …
All kidding aside, we are coming up on the 115-year anniversary of perhaps the most solemn accident in Philadelphia sports history.
On Aug. 8, 1903, part of the stands at the Baker Bowl collapsed during a Phillies game, killing 12 and injuring more than 200. Apparently, there was a fight outside the stadium and the wooden bleachers couldn’t hold the weight when curious onlookers tried to get a glimpse. Man, can you imagine?
John Chaney, in 2005, was upset with physical play by St. Joe’s and sent deep sub Nehemiah Ingram into the game like a hockey coach summoning a goon. Ingram committed five fouls in four minutes of play, including one that broke the arm of Hawks center John Bryant, ending the senior’s career. Chaney served a five-game suspension. He stepped down as Owls coach after the following season.
The T.O. saga
The Eagles knew what they were getting when they signed mercurial wide receiver Terrell Owens.
In his first season, 2004, he set the team record for touchdown receptions and was the Eagles best player in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.
The following summer, feeling under appreciated and under paid, he had a meltdown. He fought with coaches, feuded with teammates (especially quarterback Donovan McNabb) and eventually was thrown out of training camp by Andy Reid. The sight of Owens doing sit-ups in the driveway of his Moorestown, N.J. home is one of the lasting images of his whirlwind two seasons here.
He played in just seven games that second season, got in a fight with Hugh Douglas, continued to torment McNabb and virtually forced the Eagles to suspend him. The Birds went from NFC Champions to finishing last in the division. It was like watching a shiny new Mercedes drive off the Ben Franklin Bridge.
A scandal erupted during the 1980 World Series season when numerous Phillies, including stars Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose and Steve Carlton, were investigated for receiving Amphetamines from a doctor based in Reading. Pitcher Randy Lerch was the only player ever to admit to receiving the uppers, and no Phillie was ever charged with a crime.
Yanking the ‘C’
Nothing symbolized the ugliness of Eric Lindros’ divorce from the Flyers more than when the Flyers stripped Lindros of the team captaincy on March 27, 2000. Lindros four days earlier had ripped the Flyers medical staff for not diagnosing a concussion he suffered March 4. He came back for the playoffs and suffered that horrifying hit by Scott Stevens in Game 7 of the conference finals.
St. Joseph’s Final Four appearance in 1961 was vacated after three players – Jack Egan, Vince Kempton and Frank Majewski – admitted to shaving points in three games to benefit illegal bettors. The MVP of that team would have been Egan, but the school changed it to Jimmy Lynam, a sophomore who averaged about half of Egan’s 22 points per game. Lynam was not involved in the scheme.
Of course, the St. Joe’s scandal pales in comparison to local referee Tim Donaghy’s being thrown out of the NBA and sent to prison on gambling and conspiracy charges in 2008.
Red Army visit
If Dave Schultz pounding poor Dale Rolfe is the No. 1 symbol of the Broad Street Bullies, then the 1976 exhibition game against the Soviet Red Army is a close second. The Russians were so angered by the Flyers’ physical play, especially after Ed Van Impe decked star Valeri Kharlamov, that they briefly left the ice. They returned only when Flyers owner Ed Snider assured them they would not be paid. The Flyers, who were the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, won the game, 4-1. They have not, however, won a Stanley Cup since. Call it the Kharlamov Kurse.
There’s plenty of other infamy – snowballs at Santa Claus, Dick Allen’s scribbling messages in the dirt, fans tasered at Citizens Bank Park – that we simply just couldn’t get to or didn’t want to revisit. If you have something to share, feel free to leave it in the comments section. We’d probably love to hear it.
Well, not really.