As I watched the Michigan State-Temple basketball game on Sunday, which ended up being a 69-62 loss bringing Temple’s season to an end, I thought to myself about the countless number of times Philadelphia sports fans have been let down over the years.
Don’t get me wrong. What the basketball team did this season was a great achievement – being recognized as one of the eight best collegiate teams in the country this season, and exceeding the expectations of most fans. The good news is that all but one of the players will be returning next season.
However, this quest, which fell short of a championship, reminded me of how long it had been since a Philadelphia team had actually won the ultimate prize – in any sport!
The last time one of the four major sports [what about the WINGS!!!!] teams celebrated a title was in 1983 when the 76ers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship. Villanova won the college basketball championship in 1985. But other than the Wings (Philadelphia’s lacrosse team) and the Phantoms (a minor league hockey team), no other Philly team has won a title since.
Of the four major professional franchises, the 76ers appear to have the best chance of winning a championship, but they were probably closer before they made a deal to acquire Dikembe Mutombo from the Atlanta Hawks. They had the best record in the league at the time, yet they decided to make a trade anyway, thus weakening their bench. The team got older by getting Mutombo and he becomes a free agent after the season. The Sixers may be in trouble if they are unable to re-sign him.
The Eagles probably have the second best chance to win a championship, getting to the second round of the playoffs last year and eventually losing to the NFC champion New York Giants. They rebounded from a 5-11 regular season in 1999 to finish 11-5 last year and had five Pro Bowlers on their roster.
They have had an active off-season, but they still need to draft at least one wide receiver if they want to move up to the next level.
The Flyers have the third best shot to win a championship, in my opinion, but they’re really not that far away. This off-season, several big-name players, such as Avalanche center Joe Sakic, become free agents, and the Flyers have plenty of money to spend. At last, the team has a reliable goaltender in Roman Cechmanek, but they currently lack the offensive firepower to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
Finally, the Phillies are far and away the least likely franchise to win, not only because they don’t spend money, but the rare times they do, they make unwise decisions (i.e. signing Mike Jackson last year). Nobody, not even new manager Larry Bowa, can save this sinking ship, which is seeing its fan base shrink more and more each day. An XFL franchise could probably outdraw this team. The only hope this team has is for the current ownership to sell the team.
Right now, the chances of a Philadelphia team winning a championship are better than they have been in several years, but don’t hold your breath waiting for one.