2012 has been far from a banner year for the Philadelphia sports fan. All year we’ve had one low point after another around the Delaware Valley when it comes to our favorite teams. We’ve been blessed over the past several years to enjoy some great sports moments in Philly but with the Eagles freefall in 2012 everyone is on edge about what the future will hold not just for the local football team but for the other teams in town as well. With 2012 coming to a close and 2013 just around the corner I began thinking about just where we currently are as a sports town and where we might be heading over the next few years.
The Eagles are obviously at the top of everyone’s mind and serve as the poster child for underachieving teams around the globe. All off-season we heard about how the team jelled and learned from its disappointing 2011 season. But 2012 has been nothing short of downright pathetic. They’ve been blown out of the majority of games and the 3 wins to this point have been only by a combined 4 points. This team easily could be winless and the fact of the matter is they have a long way to go before turning it around. The team fired its defensive coordinator Juan Castillo during the bye week then released All Pro defensive end Jason Babin who was awful in 2012. Babin had a career high in sacks in 2011 but couldn’t follow through in 2012 when he basically disappeared from the defense. That same defense which wasn’t impressive at all under Castillo got even uglier under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
The Eagles had a great run under Andy Reid. They’ve appeared in the postseason 10 out of the past 14 seasons but the time for change is now more than ever before. The terrifying part is I don’t believe we’ve seen this team hit rock bottom yet. I foresee the next 3-5 seasons as a serious rebuilding project as this franchise looks to find its identity with a new coaching staff and young players. It’ll be ugly for a while and records like 3-13, 5-11, 6-10 will be the norm around these parts until this team is able to stock pile enough talent through the draft over the next few years to get back on the map.
The Flyers, while actually playing, give us a competitive team year in and year out to get excited for but 2012 turned out to be nothing more than the usual playoff disappointment filled with below average goaltending. The ongoing NHL lockout doesn’t give anyone in Philly much to cheer for as we enter the winter months. For the sake of hockey fans everywhere the lockout needs to come to an end in order to give Philly any chance of enjoying the next few months of sports in this town. I do believe once the lockout is resolved the Flyers will put another competitive team on the ice and again it’ll be up to the goaltending to make or break a playoff run. For the immediate future though darkness fills the Wells Fargo Center until the millionaires of hockey can figure out how to divide up their fortunes.
The 76ers are up and coming but very inexperienced. They are playing as expected so far in 2012 but the big question is when or will Andrew Bynum ever play. Right now I’d say the answer is no. The guy can’t even bowl without getting hurt let alone play in an NBA game. The Sixers will make the playoffs and probably get beat in the first or second round unless Bynum magically gets on the court and plays to his potential. At the moment the Sixers in my opinion have the most uncertain future of any of the teams in town. They can really go either way at this point. At times they appear to be on the rise but we all know they aren’t a true championship contender until they add another big name or two. If the Bynum trade doesn’t work out it’ll be back to the drawing board to find the center piece this team needs to build around to take them to the next level.
The Phillies give us the best chance for something positive going into 2013. Clearly 2012 was a season to forget down at Citizens Bank Park. It was the type of season we aren’t used to when it comes to our baseball team. The news of Carlos Ruiz being suspended for the first 25 games of 2013 the same day the Eagles released Jason Babin just basically summed up how bad it is at the moment. Ruiz made his first All Star game in 2012 but his second violation for use of amphetamines will find him suspended to start 2013. Not a good way to start off 2013 for the Phillies but they still have the rest of the off-season to make a few moves and try to improve. I’ve said it many times last year, the Phillies are on the decline and age is clearly catching up with them but if they can stay healthy for one more season and add a power bat to the lineup they are capable of having a bounce back year in 2013 and putting us all out of our current sports misery by going on a championship run.
But let’s face it folks the current state of Philly sports is downright awful and the future looks cloudy. I believe 2013 will be a year of change and uncertainty in this town when it comes to our teams. Some teams will give us hope while others will be downright pathetic. As a lifelong Philly sports fan the only advice I can give is don’t bail out. The easy thing to do is jump to another city’s bandwagon when times get tough but we’ve been through rough times before in this town with our teams. All of us remember the late 90s when really the only good show in town was the Flyers who fell short of a Cup in 97 against the Red Wings in a series they were favored to win. Outside of the orange & black it was nothing but darkness for our teams for a long period of time. Then all of a sudden Andy Reid showed up and the Eagles became an NFL powerhouse. Then Allen Iverson and the Sixers put us back on the basketball map as a force in the Eastern Conference. Before you know it the Phillies went on a magical run of 5 consecutive playoff appearances. All this while the Flyers just continued to go to the playoffs year in and year out and even gave us a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2010.
Eventually times get tough for every sports town. It’s all part of the sports cycle in any town. You just can’t stay competitive and field championship caliber teams every season it’s impossible. But experiencing a period of losing will eventually make the fan base appreciate winning that much more once times are good again. Trust me you don’t want to bail ship now because as we experienced in the late 90s the good times and winning will eventually return. One day we’ll see the Eagles go on consecutive runs to the NFC championship again and maybe even win that 1st Superbowl. We’ll hopefully see the Phillies win another World Series with the core of players they currently have one more time. Eventually we’ll have to see the Flyers solve their goaltending issues one of these seasons and lift a Stanley Cup if the NHL still exists after the lockout. At some point we’ll watch the Sixers acquire a big name free agent or two and maybe form a big three of their own similar to Miami and capture a championship. It’ll all happen eventually but for right now the state of Philadelphia sports is pathetic and once you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up, right?