Life as a Philadelphia sports fan has never been more exciting. So naturally, Philadelphia sports fans are angry and miserable on a daily basis. Ever hear the song “Toxicity” by System of a Down? There are two lyrics that stand out that describe the current state of Philadelphia fandom: “The toxicity of our city” and “How do you own disorder.”
The World Champion Eagles had an improbable playoff run under the guidance of Nick Foles. The Sixers have arguably the best team since 2001. The Phillies are a possible destination for two of baseball’s biggest young stars. The Flyers…well…GRITTY! The point is, Philadelphia sports fandom is on the cusp of a golden age and instead of focusing on all the good, we are obsessed with focusing on the bad. It begs the obvious question of why?
There is a perfect word to describe sports fans in Philadelphia right now, captious. Captious describes a person that tends to find fault or raise petty objections. Philadelphia sports fans weren’t always like this. Prior to 2008, everyone in Philadelphia was hungry for a championship. Twenty-six years had passed without a major sports championship, and the doom and gloom in the city was uniform. Philadelphia always stuck together even though our teams always let us down. Then the Phillies won the World Series. Something changed overnight. This town that loved being the underdog, that loved the chase, was finally a world champion again.
We Need More
The constant fight to feel that elation again has led this city down an interesting path. From 2008 until 2018, Philadelphia experienced drought again. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Phillies returned to the World Series, the Flyers had a Stanley Cup appearance, the Sixers began The Process, and the Eagles had three playoff appearances under Andy Reid and Chip Kelly. Instead of uttering the phase there’s always next year and moving on to the next sport, complacency became anger. Every John and Jane Doe was convinced they had the answer to fix everything for every team.
Fast-forward to 2018. The Eagles finally win their first ever Super Bowl. The elation, the excitement, and the relief of the Eagles finally winning a Super Bowl was a feeling that no Eagles fan will ever forget. This feeling was different than the feeling of the Phillies World Series. This win was vindication. We were so close on so many occasions, and we finally did it. As a child in the 90s, I was forced to grow up with span of six years that saw three Cowboys championships, a Giants championship, and a Redskins championship. Fans of all those teams always were able to rub their Super Bowl championships in Philadelphia’s face. The monkey was finally off Philadelphia’s back, and we could go back to enjoying sports without the misery…or so we thought.
Unfortunately, the toxicity of our city grew to new heights. Arguments about Philadelphia sports became more commonplace than arguments about the best cheesesteak. Seeing the confidence of the fans of other teams who won championships gave me hope that a winning culture would be born out of winning championships. This past year showed that Philadelphia sports fans don’t understand the meaning of complacency. The hunger never subsides. This is a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, if the players don’t feel the same way, it gets ugly. Social media has completely changed the way we communicate with others and how we view and interact with our favorite athletes. Everything is constantly under a microscope and is analyzed and dissected. The other sign of the times is the “we need it now” attitude.
We Need It Now
We live in a time where the masses want instant gratification. Instead of excitedly watching our favorite players develop into stars, they are called busts before they get out of their teenage years. Kobe Bryant became a superstar at 22 years old. From his rookie year at 18 years old, he got consistently better every year. Kobe didn’t win a championship until his fourth season. Lebron James didn’t win until his 9th season. Steph Curry didn’t win until his 6th season. Kevin Durant didn’t win until his 10th season. Mind you, Kevin Durant played with James Harden and Russell Westbrook for three years. It took Shaq 8 years. It took Michael Jordan 7 years.
I think I’ve made my point here. Fans are calling for Ben Simmons to be traded, giving up on Markelle Fultz, even calling the Sixers a failure. Embiid (third season) and Simmons (second season) are playing together for their second full season, and that they are expected to do something that LeBron, Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, Curry, and Durant couldn’t do for at least three more years is utter insanity. Don’t forget about all the amazing players who have never won a championship. The expectations are unfair. How do you own disorder?
Trust the Process
Has a winning culture caused the city of Philadelphia to become something it has always despised? The answer is unfortunately yes. Patience is a fleeting idea. Trust the process seems to be a forgotten phrase. I urge Philadelphia fans to take a step back and support your teams and support your players. We aren’t going to win everything every year. We need to be excited about what we have and be excited we can watch all-stars grow into all-time greats.
Love your city, love your players, and they will love you back. Just look at TJ McConnell’s recent Player’s Tribune article. Look at Embiid’s recent comments about the fans energizing him and wanting to play here his entire career. The players hear us much louder and much clearer than anyone thinks. Next time you think about going on a tirade about how we need to ship a player out of town, I implore you to think twice. End the toxicity in our city, end the disorder, and trust the process.