As I took my sabbatical this week, I was pondering this very matter. And wouldn’t you know, Bob Ford had a similar thought running through his head on Sunday. Though, to my credit, Bob is more broadly discussing the run of success Philly teams had between the 1973-74 and 74-75 championships for the Flyers, all the way through Villanova’s 1985 National Championship. It was a pretty solid time for Philly sports, and Bob, like myself, is hoping we are about to embark on another.
But has this past year been as good of a year as we’ve ever had?
I would imagine most would claim that the year of 1980 was the best, when all four major teams made their respective championship games and/or series, and the Phillies won the World Series.
So ’80 becomes ’08, and here we go again?
Not quite. Sure, ’80 to ’08 worked for the Phillies, who won the whole thing. However, both the Eagles and Flyers fell just short of making the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup, and the Sixers lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
But wait – can’t we throw Villanova into this mix as well? After all, though this college basketball season is technically considered to be the 2009 season, the damn thing started in 2008. I, for one, think that it is perfectly acceptable to pin this ‘Nova run right on the end of a very successful 2008 for Philly sports.
(And yes, despite being a Temple grad, I fully support Villanova basketball. Throw St. Joe’s, and Penn, and La Salle in there as well. I’ve been a Big Five fan since I was a little kid, specifically pulling for ‘Nova and Temple. I remember Kerry Kittles and Jason Lawson and Alvin Williams, remember loving Pepe Sanchez and Mark Karcher and Lynn Greer. And of course, who could forget Jameer Nelson and Delonte West? So, despite attending Temple, I’ve never felt the need to root for them exclusively. Oh, and I’m a big Penn State football fan, too – it’s what I know).
Plus we had Temple, sneaking its way into the Tourney. Hell of a year, no? And if Villanova wins the National Championship – a long shot perhaps, but it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility – it would mark the first time two separate teams had won championships in seasons that were at least partially played in the same calender year.
Combine that possibility with the championship game/series runs of the Eagles and Flyers, the playoff appearance of the Sixers, and the Tourney bid for Temple, and you have what I believe to be the greatest year of sports in Philadelphia history. At least, for those of you stubborn with semantics and tedious in technicalities, the best short-term run of success this town has ever seen. Even if ‘Nova doesn’t complete the task, I would probably put this at number two, behind 1980.
And can we talk about this Villanova team for just one second? How about that finish against Pitt – Scottie Reynolds, you are a legend, man. And this team has everything I love in a sports team – they’re scrappy, they have serious individual talent but play well as a team, they never quit on a game, they’re well-coached, and they are exciting as hell to watch. Remind you at all of that team in South Philly that just won a World Series?
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, especially after watching North Carolina decimate Oklahoma with virtual ease. And let’s not forget UConn and Michigan State, the former being perhaps the most consistently impressive team thus far in the Tourney, and the latter surprising me by knocking off a very talented Louisville team.
‘Nova’s got their work cut out for them.
But they could do this. They play tenacious, in-your-face defense for 40 minutes. They have excellent guard play, and seem comfortable playing both the half-court game and a more frantic, transition-scoring style of play. They are devastating when they get hot from beyond the arc, and Dante Cunningham has shown he can do enough down on the block to keep this team competitive. They have no shortage of big-game experience, and they survived the rigors of their Big East schedule this year, easily the country’s best conference. And Jay Wright is a legit, big-time coach – lock him up for as long as you can, Villanova.
They’ve got a shot (for once, no pun intended), and that’s all you can ask for. Hell, after last year’s World Series Championship, and relatively surprising runs by the Eagles, Flyers, Sixers and Owls, it might be all anybody in this city should ask for.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ahead and just bask in this while it lasts.