Monday, January 7, 2008

Philadelphia: The City That Loves You to Look Back

We Philadelphians are tortured sports souls. We haven’t known the thrill of a major sports championship since the 76ers won the NBA title in 1983 (and even that is difficult to savor because, well, it’s basketball…). We bemoan our fate whenever our Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers break our hearts in their annual ritual of defeat. So desperate for a champion are Philadelphians that we grasp at any homegrown straw—human or animal—in hopes of salving our collective self-esteem: Bernard Hopkins, the 2004 Saint Joseph’s Hawks, Smarty Jones. We are forced to revisit past glory because we enjoy none in the present, our media endlessly regurgitating the long-gone triumphs of the 1980 Phillies, the Broad Street Bullies, and Chuck Bednarik’s 1960 Eagles. Many Philadelphia fans weren’t yet born the last time one of our major sports teams won a title, and most of us exist in a state of perpetual nostalgia to cope with the frustration over today’s teams.

To ease Philadelphians’ suffering, I propose combining our insatiable penchant for living in the past with the in-vogue marketing ploy of “throwback” uniforms and hold a throwback parade for one of our past championship teams. Instead of incessantly booing our athletes and badmouthing them on local call-in radio shows, let’s get the entire city lining Broad Street for the yesteryear glory we haven’t experienced in decades. The city could hold a parade for, say, the pennant-winning 1915 Phillies. Fly in some distant relatives of the original team and dress them in those vintage woolen uniforms. A column of cars parading Grover Cleveland Alexander’s 5th cousin, thrice removed, and a bunch of other anonymous yokels down Broad Street as they wave to two million adoring fans while wondering what the hell they’re doing there is just the shot in the arm Philadelphians need. At City Hall, a descendant of manager Pat Moran can thank the town for its passionate support and then urge continued isolationism in the wake of the Lusitania torpedoing to a confused crowd. The parade could continue up Broad to Lehigh—the former site of Baker Bowl, the 1915 Phillies home—and conclude with the septuagenarian grandchildren of Erskine Mayer and Gavvy Cravath getting checked for gout at the medical center that now stands there.

(Graphic enhancement on banner courtesy of Dave.)

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