Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Year In Selective Review

The year just concluding in local sports was most notable for its ups and downs.

As far as reversals of fortune go, the Eagles late season resurrection may be the stuff of legends, Delaware Valley division. No franchise in all of professional sport may dominate its local landscape quite like the Philadelphia Eagles do. During the off-season, training camp and regular season they absolutely rule the roost. (One wonders whether an appearance in the World Series by the Phillies would outdraw the Eagles if the Cowboys were in town the same day.) So it was noteworthy a mere month ago when all hope for the current season seemed lost as quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a knee injury. With six games still remaining, nearly everyone gave up on them and, not coincidentally, their head coach, whose play-calling and clock management had been suspect for years. Yet a mere six weeks later Andy Reid is again the toast of the town and the Eagles, already in the playoffs, are generally considered to be one of the hottest clubs in an admittedly cool National Football Conference.

The Phillies once again toyed with their faithful, stumbling out of the gate in April and putting on another late season rally that again fell short of the playoffs. To compensate for the overall team failure, however, the boys of summer gave us one Ryan Howard, the most personable and formidable slugger to come along in many a year. Howard impressed fans on both sides of the Pacific Ocean as well as voters who hand out various and sundry hardware at the close of business. Teammate Chase Utley, another sophomore sensation and All-Star, kept pace with Howard throughout the season as far winning the hearts and minds of fans.

Meanwhile, the Sixers provided precious few ups (truth be told I cannot think of a single one) on their way to another dismal season. They finished out of the playoffs at the beginning of 2006 and picked up right where they left off in the Fall of this year. Allen Iverson finally did what GM Billy King had been unable to do: pulled the trigger himself and demanded a trade. Meanwhile, to celebrate his pre-trade banishment from the premises, his teammates went on a ten-game losing streak, which was briefly interrupted by a two-game winning streak. The losing streak has resumed since that two-game aberration and AI’s eventual departure for the snows of Denver. He will be missed by many, but not, apparently, by his coach.

The Flyers were competitive last season albeit old and slow on defense and those liabilities took their toll as 2006 dawned, concluding with another early exit from the playoffs. Picking up where they left off, the Flyers began the current season in disarray that lead to the firing of head coach Ken Hitchcock and the resignation/firing of GM Bob Clarke. Instead of old, the Fly boys became young in the extreme: more than half their roster is made up of guys who were in the minors a year ago. As might be expected, they quickly sank to the absolute bottom of the NHL standings, all divisions considered. Last night they set a franchise record by losing their tenth straight game.

2007 doesn't hold any promise for the Sixers or Flyers, unless one considers draft position. As for the Eagles, the likely outcome of their playoff appearance(s) will be a dose of reality. The Phillies can be rightfully labeled a work in progress. If they manage to fill a few glaring holes in their bullpen, they should be competitive. Whether that translates into their first playoff appearance in fourteen years remains to be seen.

1 comment:

skeeter said...

I think the Phillies have a shot in 2007 to win back a lot of the fans in Philadelphia. With the sixers and flyers playing so horrible, the Phillies can win over this city again.

I hope I am right.