Right now the city of Philadelphia is flying high. The Eagles and Sixers are giving their fans all the good news they can handle.
|76ers guard Allen Iverson has made all the right moves so far this season.|
But it hasn't always been sweet this year in Philly. The cycle of sports news in a city can go up and down from week to week and team to team. As nice as things are now, back in May Philly fans were probably reaching for the sports pages last. I'm sure that fans in any city with more than one team can relate.
It started with Eric Lindros. The main Flyer had a few concussions. He criticized team doctors and management. His captaincy was stripped. The team lost in the playoffs again, short of the Stanley Cup. Again. All the hope that the city's hockey fans had invested in Lindros seemed to be escaping like air from a popped balloon.
About the only thing that Flyers GM Bobby Clarke and Lindros agree on is that Lindros needs to leave town. How does a franchise so alienate its best player? How does such a great player fail to rise to his full potential? Why does such a great player keep absorbing blows that threaten to end his career prematurely? Geez. This is depressing. Who did the Eagles draft? How are the Phillies doing?
Well, there aren't as many concussions to worry about, but the 2000 Phillies could induce even their staunchest fans to do a little head banging. The team was never really competitive.
The most pressing baseball question in Philadelphia, even before the All Star break, was: Is this the year we trade Curt Schilling? Eventually, Schilling was traded to Arizona. Eventually, manager Terry Francona was fired. Those 162 games seemed to take forever. Coupled with the Flyer woes, by late June fans in Philly were praying for the Eagles' training camp. And you know that is a sign of desperation because the Eagles have gone a very sweet 8-24 the last two years.
As of this writing, however, the Eagles are 8-4 and in first place in the NFC East. All the problems of the Phillies and Flyers have receded because of the great job Andy Reid has done with the Eagles. Fans can forget about Lindros and Schilling and instead focus on their amazing quarterback, Donovan McNabb, whom they booed mercilessly when he was drafted two years ago.
McNabb is doing a great job this year despite the fact that few people across the country could name any of the "weapons" at his disposal. On defense, Eagles rookie defensive tackle Corey Simon has clearly outperformed Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington, the most highly touted defensive players in the 2000 draft. Philadelphia picked Simon with the sixth pick overall and obviously got a winner.
The Philadelphia 76ers figure into this mix with some good news and some bad news, but the good news is probably more meaningful.
This fall, lyrics on the upcoming Allen Iverson rap CD were revealed to be a bit homophobic and misogynistic. And images of violence were dominant as well. More Philly bad news? Yes, but Iverson's reaction was encouraging. He did not back away from what he wrote but agreed to tone it down as a way of acknowledging that he is a role model for young hoops fans. A responsible, mature reaction and also a pleasant surprise.
||Iverson said that his new attitude came in part because he was embarrassed that the 76ers had shopped him over the summer. ”
On the court, the 76ers are off to a 10-0 start. That's right, 10-0. This was a team that made few personnel moves in the offseason and was dealing with a major rift between coach Larry Brown and Iverson, his best player.
Iverson has been taking a leadership role on the team and is now willing to do some of the team-oriented things that Brown was asking. Like showing up for practice on time.
Iverson said on "HBO Real Sports" that his new attitude came in part because he was embarrassed that the 76ers had shopped him over the summer. He realized that the team was committed to winning and they were willing to let him go if it improved the team. Iverson wanted to show everybody that he should be a part of any championship scenario in Philly. Another responsible, mature reaction.
So, a year that started out pretty dreadfully in Philadelphia looks like it will finish strong. The Phillies have problems and the Flyers still have not figured out what to do with Lindros. But when was the last time we were talking about the Eagles this late in the season and the 76ers this early? Philly fans can turn to the sports pages again, proudly.