The Challenge of Remaining a Loyal Philly Sports Fan from Long Distance

April 22nd, 2011 by EricW | Filed under General.

Ohio, USA

I was born in Montgomery County exactly three months to the day after the Eagles won their last NFL championship in 1960. I have always been a loyal Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers fan (I stopped caring about the NBA when the good Doctor Erving retired). Philadelphia sports teams have played a big role in my life.

Some of my earliest–and fondest–memories are of watching Dick (Don’t Call Me Richie) Allen hit mammoth blasts out of old Connie Mack Stadium with my father. My dad grew up a loyal Athletics fan. He was born in 1920, and remembers the great A’s dynasty of the late 1920’s and 1930’s well, while the Phightins of that vintage rank among the consistently worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball. I would have been an A’s fan too. He remained loyal to the Mackmen until they broke his heart and moved to Kansas City in 1955, and only then did he really embrace the Phillies.

I was 13 when the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup in 1974. I remember the run to the Cup like it was yesterday. I remember watching Kate Smith belt out “God Bless America” before the last game and seeing the Boston Bruins players try to break the spell by shaking her hand. I remember Moose Dupont’s goal. And I remember that victory parade. If ever a city needed something to celebrate, it was Philadelphia.

Then I remember the fog games in Buffalo in 1975, and the second consecutive Cup. I remember Bernie Parent saving more than God. And I remember thinking that as a hockey nut, it didn’t get any better.

But there were plenty of lean times too. I remember 4-10 Eagles teams led by Roman Gabriel, Rick Arrington, Pete Liske, John Reaves, and Mike Boryla. I remember some truly atrocious Phillies teams, posting no less than 100 losses year after year with the likes of Woody Fryman, Ron Stone, Terry Harmon, Mike Anderson, John Bateman, Pete Koegel, Wayne Twitchell, Johnny Briggs, and Denny Doyle. As just one example, I remember the 1972 edition of the Phillies. Steve Carlton had probably the greatest season any pitcher ever had, winning 27 games for a team that won only 58 games that year, meaning that the rest of the pitching staff combined won only four more games than did Lefty. And who can forget the 1973-1974 76’ers, the worst team in the history of professional sports, with their 9-73 record? It was tough, but we persevered.

And then came the glory years. In 1976, the Phightin’s put up 101 wins, and they did it again the next year, even though they broke our hearts with the collapse against the Dodgers in the NLCS. I still think that 1977 Phillies team was the best team that the franchise has ever fielded. And then there was the 1980-1981 season, the greatest year for sports the city has ever known. The Phillies won the World Series, Dick Vermeil’s Eagles won the Super Bowl, the Flyers had The Streak, 35 games in a row without a loss–a record that will probably stand forever–and lost in the conference finals. The 76’ers won their division and lost in the conference finals. Hell, even Penn went to the Final Four that year. Philly came within a whisker of all five major sports championships that year. And with Moses Malone’s “fo, fo, fo” that translated to “fo-five-fo”, the 76’ers won the NBA championship in 1983 and the Wheeze Kid Phillies went to the World Series.

Who knew that there would a 100 season drought after that?

By the fall of 1983, I had graduated from college and was living in Pittsburgh, where I went to grad school and law school. It was a real challenge being a Philly sports fan in Pittsburgh, where everyone bleeds black and gold, but I managed as best I could. I was there at Three Rivers Stadium the day Mike Schmidt blasted his 500th home run off of Don Robinson. I went to see the Flyers play the Pens. I did all I could.

Then, when I completed my education in 1987, I was offered a job in Columbus, Ohio for more money than I could turn down, and I have resided here, 400 miles away, since. It’s really been a challenge being a loyal Philadelphia sports fan here in Buckeye Land, but the Internet and satellite TV makes it possible. I have DirecTV and pay for the NFL Sunday Ticket package just so I never have to miss an Eagles game. I watch Phillies and Flyers games via the Internet. I have never missed a game when the Flyers have played the Columbus Blue Jackets here in Columbus (I’m also a partial season-ticket holder for the Blue Jackets, but that’s a completely different set of frustrations that’s off-topic here). I read the Philly sports pages on Philly.com every day. When the Iron Pigs come here to play the Columbus Clippers, I try to make at least one game. I’m 400 miles away, and I can’t just hop in the car and be at a game in an hour or less, but I do the best I can.

I’m surrounded by Ohio State, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Penguin, and Cleveland Browns fans, but I remain true blue and loyal to my Philly sports teams. I always will. I am a Philadelphia Phanatic, and I am proud of that fact.

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