It’s been fun watching people get excited about the Phillies’ upcoming season. All the reports from spring training have been encouraging and a lot of people who jumped off the Phillies bandwagon after last season are now looking to climb aboard again.
Those fans see that veterans Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Roy Halladay appear to be healthy and happy. They see some new interesting pieces to the puzzle, like Michael Young, Darin Ruf and Mike Adams, and they’re intrigued by the possibilities. Besides, it’s spring training – if you can’t be optimistic now, when can you be?
Of course, those same fans were excited last summer before the Eagles started their season. They saw a healthy Michael Vick and all sorts of speedy playmakers and they knew that veterans like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jason Babin had an entire season with the Eagles under their belts and first-round draft pick Danny Watkins wasn’t a rookie anymore and linebacker DeMeco Ryans was going to be the run-stopper the Eagles lacked, and they dreamed of a Super Bowl.
And those same fans were excited before the 76ers started their season. They saw an All-Star center in Andrew Bynum, a franchise player who could be the heart of the team for years to come. They saw an exciting young point guard in Jrue Holliday, a player who was finally ready to be the leader of this team. They saw a developing star in Evan Turner, who was finally getting a chance to be a go-to offensive player — and they didn’t see the unpopular Andre Iguodala anymore, since he was traded away to Denver in the deal that brought Bynum to Philadelphia.
And now the Phillies. That’s three consecutive sports seasons where the fortunes of the Philadelphia teams seemed bright, and you know how it worked out for two of them. The Eagles completely fell apart and ended up cleaning house and the Sixers are now in the process of doing the same, although coach Doug Collins’ job doesn’t appear to be in danger like Andy Reid’s was.
High expectations followed by crushing disappointing. That’s just the way it seems to be in the City of Boo-therly Love. For some reason, Philly seems to get the short end of the stick most of the time and sometimes it’s just a matter of timing – the Seattle SuperSonics had the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft and had Kevin Durant sitting there; the Sixers had the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft and had Evan Turner sitting there. That just doesn’t seem fair.
That’s probably why Philly fans have such big chips on their shoulders. It’s one thing to support a bad team, but when you think it’s going to be a good team and it ends up stinking out the joint – like the Eagles did and the Sixers are doing – then it’s even harder to take.
The Eagles took their fans on that rollercoaster ride in the early years of the Andy Reid era, when the team went to five NFC Championship games and lost four of them. But no team generated higher expectations in the last several years than the Phillies. You never saw a bunch of fans more smug than Phillies fans were when their team re-signed Cliff Lee before the 2011 season and went on to win a club-record 102 games. But then they lost in the first round of the playoffs and that took the edge off.
Then came last year’s terrible, injury-ridden season and many fans – maybe even most fans – figured the Phillies’ run as a championship contender was finally over. And it was a good run, even though it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been and maybe should have been.
And now, well, the hitters look relaxed and the pitchers look sharp and everyone seems to be focused on the job at hand and the expectations are slowly rising again. And they’ll continue to rise until April, when the games start to count and we find out if the Phillies have indeed been resurrected.
If not, well, the Eagles have a new coach and they’re going to be exciting to watch and the NFL draft is coming up soon and maybe the Eagles can pull off a big deal, and then training camp starts in just five months. And we’ll crank up the expectations again, even though we should know better by now.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.