Before the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, it was a popular game in local fan and media circles to count the number of seasons the area had gone without a championship. We hit the 100 mark ahead of the Phils’ championship season, spawning cynical “celebrations” throughout the area.
As 2017 dawns, Philadelphia’s streak of pro sports futility stands at 32…and counting. Unless the Flyers happen to heat up considerably next spring, that number should continue to grow. The Sixers remain the worst team in the NBA, even though they now seem to have one legitimate standout player. The Phillies have been quite clear that they aren’t expecting to contend for at least another season, and their recent acquisitions back that assertion. The Eagles have a quarterback and not much else. And though Villanova won the national title and is ranked number one, there are people on Hawk Hill and North Broad Street who aren’t too happy about the Wildcats’ prosperity. In a city split by collegiate allegiances, it’s hard to rally around one school.
As the drought meter continues to spin, here’s a look at each team’s prospects for 2017:
Phillies: Despite raking in $100 million a year alone from its TV deal with Comcast, the local nine refuses to make any long-term investments in top-tier talent, choosing instead to embrace a “process” approach of hoping Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, Odubel Herrera and Tommy Joseph will mature into All-Stars. Uh, sure. The Phils will make big profits this year with a low payroll, promising fans contention in 2018 or so. For now, enjoy all of those Mets fans at the ballpark. Just keep the kids away from them.
Sixers: Joel Embiid looks like a real, live NBA player. Nobody else on the roster resembles a starter on a championship team, unless you remember that Mark Iavaroni was on the first five in 1983. The Sixers are learning that having a bunch of top-five draft picks doesn’t always guarantee success. Just ask the Kings. But there will be a whole new bunch of future “stars” available in June, so 25 wins can’t be too far away. Trust the process!
Flyers: That 10-game winning streak sure was fun. But after all of that prosperity, the Flyers are still eighth in the conference and facing a tough road to the Stanley Cup. At least the team looks to be playoff bound, quite a rare status these days. That makes the Flyers this town’s athletic valedictorian. Speech! Speech!
Eagles: As long as Doug Pederson doesn’t make Carson Wentz a pulling guard, the team should be happy that it has a quarterback for the future. Now it’s time to find some receivers, cornerbacks, linebackers, running backs and offensive linemen to go with him. And those are just the most pressing needs. Fortunately, Howie Roseman’s track record should give fans plenty of confidence that he can fix everything. If he wants to do something correct immediately, he should instruct the head coach to sit Wentz for the season finale against Dallas’ JV team. Then, Roseman ought to select the best fireman available with the Birds’ first pick in the NFL Draft.
Villanova: The Wildcats are lacking the same interior pop they had last year, but they have great leadership and plenty of firepower. The keys to whether they can repeat are whether guard Phil Booth’s knees let him get back onto the floor to provide needed depth, and if senior Darryl Reynolds develops into a bigger weapon down low. If those two things happen, ‘Nova could well be back in the Final Four. Even if they don’t, the Josh Hart/Kris Jenkins tandem is good enough to make a strong run at the tournament’s last weekend.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: Tis the season for high school holiday basketball tournaments, the last bit of non-conference action before league play begins. With so many games at so many locations, it’s crazy not to see at least one or two. So head out over the next couple days and see some ball. You won’t regret it.