Ah, the city of Philadelphia—home of the best cheese steaks you'll ever taste, the grumpiest fans you'll ever meet and the some of the worst teams you'll ever watch. It is also popularly known for its 10,000 losses, zero Super Bowl rings and 36-year Stanley Cup drought.
The streets are dirty, the people are blue collar and it's not always sunny like a certain television show may lead you to believe.
There is no getting rid of those 10,000 losses, our ring fingers are still missing that Super Bowl bling and the Chicago Blackhawks ruined the most recent shot the Orange and Black had at raising Lord Stanley's jug, but there's no denying there's almost never been a better time to be a Philadelphia sports fan.
What we're experiencing in the nation's Cradle of Liberty is something special. It's been three decades since the Philly faithful have seen a commitment to winning quite like this.
While the rings haven't been parading down Broad Street like they have a few hundred miles north in Boston, the Philadelphia front offices have continually been hard at work fielding their best possible teams over the past few seasons.
For three trade deadlines in a row, the Phillies have reeled in the big fish on the market, mostly without overpaying. On top of that, they have managed to assemble one of the greatest rotations baseball has ever seen with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and rookie sensation Vance Worley. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and company continue to show their willingness to construct a winning baseball team.
Since 2007, they have strung together four straight National League East titles (in position for their fifth) and the biggest prize of all, a World Series. These certainly aren't your father's Phillies who, before their recent string of relevance, had only won six division titles in team history. If they can continue on the track they're on with a fifth consecutive title in a row seeming likely, it would only take one more division crown to double their pre-2007 total.
Miles away in Lehigh, the Eagles have been busier than ever assembling a team that seems set for a Super Bowl run. The Birds have made a bevy of brilliant moves ever since the end of the NFL lockout, including signing top free-agent prize Nnamdi Asomugha, but this is quickly becoming the norm for an organization once viewed as a stomping ground for failure.
General manager Howie Roseman, along with team president Joe Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie, hasn't exactly been able to hold up a positive reputation around the city. It's rather difficult to find a decision that, looking back, shouldn't have been made.
We don't like to admit it, but the Eagles brass actually knows what they're doing—more so than most NFL teams out there. Their smug and arrogant nature doesn't bode well in a city of hard-nosed people, but year after the year they continue to make smart football decisions that have allowed the team to experience one of the winningest decades of football in its history.
Back on Broad Street, the Flyers have been a magnet for controversy ever since their not-so-smooth departure from this year's playoffs. General manager Paul Holmgren and owner Ed Snider set off on a mission to drastically change the team's culture within the locker room by trading troubled captain Mike Richards and top scorer Jeff Carter, as well as nearly half of the team's nightly roster last season.
Just a year removed from a Stanley Cup appearance, some have questioned the need for a complete makeover like what has taken place. But whether you disagree with the decisions that have been made is beside the point.
The Flyers did not turn half of their team over in an attempt to simply dump salary or just to go into win-now mode. From the moves that have been made they have set themselves up to be winners, not just now, but for years to come. That Holmgren and Snider were able to recognize the problems that existed as two players they both developed strong friendships with and then let them go in an effort to better their team, says something.
It may take a few years to see drastic results on the ice, but the Flyers are better suited now for a playoff run, and, ultimately, a run at Lord Stanley's Cup, than they previously were.
The 76ers aren't quite there yet, but with a new owner and a promising youthful team, there is hope to be had.
This moment of reflection comes on the heels of just another day in what is now Philadelphia sports.
The Eagles began the night by announcing their signing of Asomugha, which was later followed by the finalization of a trade that put the highly coveted Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence in a Phillies uniform. Oh, and the Phils went on to win 10-3 in another dazzling start from Doc Halladay.
This has become the norm around the area. This has become the world of Philadelphia sports.
From the earth shattering signing of Cliff Lee this past offseason to the recent addition of Asomugha, we here in Philadelphia have grown to expect these kinds of moves. Suddenly a city known for its blue collar toughness has acquired a flare for the dramatic.
Ruben Amaro Jr., Howie Roseman and Paul Holmgren have created a winning atmosphere that players and fans alike can't get enough of. Athletes wish to play here now more than ever. Philadelphia, even without the plethora of rings (yet), has become a winner.
Cherish these next few years, Philly fans. For the first time in a long while, we very well could see multiple parades down Broad Street within one calender year.
We have been gifted with three devoted front offices that put results first and business second. Each have proven they are dedicated to doing whatever it may takes to better their respective teams and, while it's only panned out for one team thus far, there is reason to believe.
Think back to the late 1990's when the Eagles were the laughingstock of the NFL, the Phillies hadn't been relevant since their World Series defeat at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 and the Flyers had been swept out of the Stanley Cup Finals by the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, extending their Cup drought to 22 years. My, how the tables have turned.
The Phillies, the losingest team in baseball history, are suddenly dominating their division and are poised to make a run at their third World Series appearance in four years. The Super Bowl-less Eagles have managed to scrap together a decade as football's third-winningest team and look better equipped than ever to claim that elusive ring. Oh, and the Flyers continue to be one of the NHL's marquee franchises.
Soak it up. Take it in. Stop and smell the roses. However you want to put it, just appreciate what we have.
This is a special time in Philadelphia. If all those years of failure and heartbreak taught us anything, it should be that nothing comes easy and success rarely lasts. It is easily possible that in 10 years, Philadelphia sports could fall back into its previous woes.
In the event that happens, at least we'll have these memories. And boy, are they good ones.
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