Few things bring Philly together like sports. The city’s professional teams have had their share of highs and (many) lows. But lately, teams are on the move.
The Phillies are in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. The Eagles are 4-0 and the only undefeated team in the NFL. The Major League Soccer Union sits atop the Eastern Conference and is favored to reach the championship. Meanwhile, the Sixers look poised to contend for a title after excellent offseason moves. As for the Flyers, well, they still have Gritty.
Sports unite the Philadelphia region across racial, political and economic divides and provide a welcome escape from everything but the incessant elections and gambling ads. When teams are winning, it seems as if the collective mood of the city and region lights up.
Die-hard fans live and die for the Eagles. And lately, life has been easy. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, just 24 years old, has stepped up his game, dispelling the doubts many had about him before the season.
Last season, rookie coach Nick Sirianni was teased for comparing the team to a flower that needs water and fertilizer to grow. After a loss, a fan threw him a bouquet of flowers.
» READ MORE: ‘I don’t think anybody can beat us right now’: Eagles are 4-0, proving they’re NFL’s best | Marcus Hayes
Turns out Sirianni was right. The team is flourishing.
The last time the Eagles started the season 4-0 was in 2004, when they went to the Super Bowl. This year’s fast start has fans dreaming of another Super Bowl parade like the one in 2018 that had the city buzzing for weeks. No pressure guys.
The Phillies, on the other hand, spent a decade in the wilderness. After a streak of waiting until next year, the Phillies will play their first playoff game Friday in more than 4,000 days, the longest postseason absence in the National League.
Many young fans celebrated the end of the playoff drought by posting on TikTok. The last time the Phillies were in the playoffs, TikTok didn’t exist.
A paints even more of a picture, the last time the Phillies were in the playoffs (2011), Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins were in the lineup. Donald Trump was the host Apprentice from celebrities. But the more things change, the more they stay the same: In 2011, gas prices topped $4 a gallon.
Unlike the Whiz Kids of 1950, today’s Phillies are the Comeback Kids. The team was 22-29 at the start of June and the season seemed lost. Manager Joe Girardi was fired and replaced by Rob Thomson, a bench manager who had never managed in the major leagues.
» READ MORE: Drought is over: Phillies clinch first playoff spot since 2011
The Phillies thrived under Thomson’s low-key approach, winning eight straight. Kyle Schwarber, who would have fit in with the Phils’ polished 1993 World Series team, started hitting home runs and several young players provided an extra spark over the summer.
As the champagne flowed in the locker room after the Phillies clinched their playoff spot this week, Bryce Harper took a look at the Philly faithful, whose team has won just two World Series in its 139-year history. ‘story: “This is for the city. This is for the fans.”
Team owner John Middleton said the most important attribute to success is “persistence,” a trait shared by the team and the city. Middleton then urged everyone to “enjoy it”. “That doesn’t happen all the time.”
For now, let the good times roll.