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Friday, October 17, 2008

Philly Should Brace for National Media

Yesterday on Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon started what likely will be a steady stream of shots at Philadelphia sports fans by the national media with the Phillies in the World Series. Wilbon essentially said that we whine too much about not having won a championship in 25 years.

The knee-jerk reaction is to scoff at Wilbon, a Chicago sports fan. This is a city that has “suffered” through a century-plus of the Cubs not winning a World Series while Michael Jordan won title after title in the NBA with the Bulls. It’s a city that tried to ruin a guy’s life simply because he tried to catch a foul ball no player had any chance of catching right before the Cubs choked up a playoff series. And Wilbon’s just a national media guy who needed 90-seconds on Philadelphia and did what they all do – he went with the accepted story line about bad fans.

But with the Phillies in the World Series, it might be worth looking at the stereotype from the inside.

I still remember watching local coverage of a grown man practically crying into a news camera after the Eagles lost one of their three consecutive NFC title games. “They should’ve won this game!” he screamed with tears in his eyes. Even worse used to be hearing WIP and their callers rehash just how long it’s been after every promising season came to a close. (I say “used to” because I’ve made the switch to ESPN950.)

We even came up with the Curse of William Penn, described by Wikepedia as explaining the failure to “win championships since the March 1987 construction of the One Liberty Place skyscraper, which exceeded the height of William Penn's statue atop Philadelphia City Hall.” Were we really this desperate to compete with the Curse of the Bambino? Our curse started almost four years after the last championship?

Howard Eskin had the first sports talk show on WIP in September 1986. How about the Curse of WIP? It’s less ridiculous by six whole months.

Just this morning I heard the Philadelphia “jinx” mentioned on ESPN950. Yes, Philadelphia has gone the longest of the cities with four major sports franchises without a title. But we’ve now also had 3 out of 4 reach their respective sports’ final since the turn of the century. (The Flyers last made the Stanley Cup in 1997.)

Enough. There’s no jinx. They’ve all been beaten by better teams. And while I’m sick of sites that keep track of our championship futility, I’m more sick of the cheap shots from national media guys like Wilbon.

Whenever they have to say something about Philadelphia they grab for a line about the fans being too tough, the ancient booing of a last-minute fill-in playing Santa Claus at the end of a putrid Eagles season few current fans were even alive for, or the night Jimmy Johnson was pelted with snowballs. (Actually, we enjoy those highlights.) My favorite is when they talk about Donovan McNabb getting booed at the draft, and never mention that WIP’s Angelo Cataldi – a media member – orchestrated the whole thing as a radio stunt.

It’s no different then the way they decided Cubs’ fans are wonderfully loyal, genuflect whenever New York teams have a chance to win, and simply can’t get enough of “the Sox.”

Sure, some Philly fans go overboard now and then. But has there ever been an NLCS game with a late-arriving crowd in Philadelphia like there was in L.A. Wednesday night? No. How many from the so-called BoSox nation went home early last night before the Red Sox lived to play another game? Don’t think you’d see that in Philly either.

So as the national media focuses on Philadelphia over the next couple of weeks, get ready for some classic swipes at the City of Brotherly Love. Hopefully, the Phillies make it worth enduring.

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