Beyond Nova Nation: Decades of waiting for Philadelphia titles

Jamie Augustinsky

Disappointment. It’s a word that Philadelphia fans know all too well. We felt it in 2001, 2002 and 2003 as we watched our beloved Birds lose three-straight Conference Championship games. In 2004, when the team finally got over that hurdle and made it to the Super Bowl, we felt the pain of disappointment even more as the Eagles fell three points short of the NFL’s most prestigious title. We felt it when the Sixers were unable to capture the NBA Championship in 2001. Even though the Flyers have qualified for the playoffs almost every season since the mid-’90s, they have yet to repeat the magical seasons of ’74 and ’75 when they took the Stanley Cup. The last time the Phillies were in the World Series, most of us were too young to really even grasp the concepts of America’s pastime.

Philadelphia sports fans are sometimes thought of as being the most passionate in the nation. Visiting teams fear us; opponents hate us; sometimes even our own players find fault in our antics. Who could forget when Jimmy Rollins called Philadelphia fans “front-runners” earlier this year? Home fans met the reigning NL MVP with boos for weeks after this comment. This city is full of passionate fans who love their sports teams and who desperately want a championship. Sure, there are times when the home team is booed by the fans for not performing to our expectations, but you can always witness the home venues erupting into cheers and screams when one of our athletes makes a play.

In Philadelphia more than any other place in the country, home field advantage is truly a huge advantage. Go to any game on any given day and witness it for yourself. You’ll soon find yourself singing the “Fly, Eagles, Fly” song after Donovan McNabb throws a touchdown pass or chanting “M-V-P” when Ryan Howard’s name is announced. The enthusiasm of the Philadelphia sports fan is contagious.

Some people count Philadelphia’s last championship as coming when our own Villanova Wildcats basketball team captured the NCAA title in 1985. The 76ers have the distinction of bringing the last professional sports championship to the city of Philadelphia in 1983. Since then, the craving for the next national championship has been building. Some people attribute this championship drought to the “Curse of Billy Penn.” Rumor has it that no building in the city was supposed to exceed the height of the statue of Philadelphia’s founder William Penn, which sits atop City Hall. But in March 1987, One Liberty Place was built to stand at 945 feet, 397 feet taller than City Hall, beginning a span in which no professional Philadelphia sports team captured a national title.

It’s not that Philadelphia’s professional sports teams have completely fallen off the national radar. There have been big names in sports, winning seasons and playoff appearances from all four major sports teams – yet no championship. Allen Iverson became one of the best-known players in basketball as a Sixer and led the team to the NBA finals in 2001. However, the team could not earn the title. The combination of Andy Reid and McNabb has made the Eagles one of the winningest and respected teams in football in the last decade, but they have been unable to bring home the trophy. The Flyers have made their mark on the NHL, having the second highest all-time win percentage, yet, they too have failed to gain a recent championship.

Then there are the Phillies. The team is one of the oldest franchises in sports and has more losses than any other professional sports team. Despite being around since 1883, a championship did not come until 1980. The most recent year before this one that the Phillies have been in the World Series was in 1993. Since then, they had failed to make the playoffs until last year. Despite being far behind the New York Mets toward the end of the ’07 season, the Phils rallied to win the division and gain their first playoff appearance in 14 years. However, that postseason was short-lived as the Rockies swept Phillies in the first round.

But this year, after 15 years of waiting, the Phillies finally returned to the biggest series in baseball. Between 1993 and now, the Phillies were working to build a championship team. Most of the stars on the team are homegrown, having been with the Phillies organization since they were drafted.

After rain suspended Game 5 on Monday, many around the area complained about having to wait for the chance to win a World Series title. But hey, we’re Phillies fans; waiting is what we’re good at.