COLUMN: True life of a Philadelphia sports fan

Justin Dibiase

They range from 18 to 22 years of age. They are readily seen on campus, usually with their heads buried in the ground. On the surface, they may appear to be happy or carefree, but deep down, this group of people suffer day in and day out. They are a generation without an identity. These people that I speak of are the faithful Philadelphia sports fans here at Villanova. Long have we suffered through rebuilding seasons, vanquished hopes, and second place finishes.

Many other cities’ fans enjoy ranting and raving about how much they have suffered through their teams’ rough times. The fact is that we Philadelphia sports fans are starting to become proud of our city’s shortcomings. There may be cities who crush our teams in terms of productivity, but we will always be the winner in one category: losing.

The New York fans complain about their beloved Yankees not winning the World Series in over five years. The Boston fans whine about the Red Sox missing the playoffs this year. Jets fans mope over their bleak outlook despite their fast start. Comparing a Yankees fan’s surroundings to a Philly sports fan’s is like complaining about life in the United States while the other person is living in Kuwait.

The fact of the matter is, there is one statistic that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that any undergraduate student at Villanova who loves Philadelphia sports suffers more than anyone else on campus. It has been 23 years since any of the professional Philadelphia sports franchises have won a championship. This is the longest winless streak of any city having at least one team in the four major professional sports.

Considering the oldest undergrads are about 22, it can be concluded that we have zero championships under our belts during our lifetimes. Nil, nada, zilch. Multiply 23 years by four seasons a year and see that 92 seasons have begun and ended since Moses Malone and the ’83 Sixers paraded down Broad Street.

In addition to this dismay, no local college football or basketball teams have won national championships either. Our sacred ’85 basketball team won their title when the current seniors were still in diapers.

Times weren’t always as rough as they are today. The ’93 Phillies won our hearts with their underdog grit. The 2001 Sixers captivated the entire tri-state area. The Flyers have been a mainstay in the playoff picture. Even the most beloved team in Philadelphia, the “Iggles,” had their moment in the sun in Super Bowl XXXIX. Sadly, all of those seasons share one thing: eventual loss.

A few years ago, we were sure that our time would soon come. The Eagles were arguably the best team in football with the addition of the electric (both on and off the field) Terrell Owens. The Phillies were ready to make a playoff run after signing Jim Thome and raising their payroll to the fourth highest in the Major League. The Sixers had the MVP of the league and consecutive playoff appearances and appeared to be on the rise. The Flyers acquired critically acclaimed Head Coach Ken Hitchcock in hopes of curing their yearly playoff exit. A few years later, we die-hards at Villanova read “The Inquirer’s” sports section, watch “Comcast SportsNet” and wonder “What happened?”

The Eagles have gone downhill since T.O.’s shenanigans and cannot seem to win games even when they have them in their back pockets this season. The Phillies have been sitting on the fringe of a playoff berth for several years now and have watched their N.L. East foes Atlanta, Florida and New York waltz into the playoffs without breaking a sweat. The Sixers are currently the laughingstock of the NBA. With a brainless general manager and a team that can’t play defense, the Sixers look destined to stay in the cellar of the Eastern Conference for years to come. The Flyers looked promising entering the season; however, a 1-6 start prompted the firing of Head Coach Ken Hitchcock and the resignation of one of Philadelphia’s favorite heroes, general manager and former Flyers star Bobby Clarke. In the city where our great nation found freedom, victory, at least in the sport arena, has been chained down in Philadelphia for the past 23 years.

We don’t have the “Curse of the Bambino” nor do we have any suggestions to explain why we have not received any gratification for our loyalty to Philadelphia sports. What we do have and will always have is passion. The zeal the student body has for Villanova sports teams, is nearly identical to the zeal that Philadelphia has for its teams.

At times Philadelphia fans have been criticized for being obnoxious, booing at inopportune times, not being knowledgeable and even throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. The truth is Philly fans are knowledgeable (we knew that our snowball target was not the real Santa). Underneath the bitterness and pessimism, Philly fans are very much like any other group of fans. Philly fans are comparable to a young boy who gets an orange for his birthday every year but still loves his parents as much as the boy who got the PS3.

So as we sit around gobbling down our “whiz witouts,” we wonder, is there any light at the end of the tunnel for Philadelphia sports? The white wizard Gandalf puts it best, “There never was much hope, just a fool’s hope.”