NFL: For Philly phans, it’s phun, phabulous, phantastic
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – LeSean McCoy stood on a bench after the Eagles jolted the New York Giants and yelled at a stunned, disbelieving crowd. Around him, teammates jumped and celebrated, the comeback victory too astonishing to comprehend.
“We own New York. We own New York. We own y’all,” the normally mild-mannered running back shouted at fans.
There’s no denying McCoy is right – at least for now. The City of Brotherly Love really stuck it to the Big Apple last week.
First, the Phillies swooped in from nowhere and signed Cliff Lee away from the Yankees. The star pitcher turned down an extra $30-plus million from New York to return to Philadelphia and be part of a starting rotation that’s the envy of baseball.
Next, the Flyers beat the Rangers 4-1 on Saturday after snapping Pittsburgh’s 12-game winning streak a few days earlier. These were the same Rangers the Flyers defeated in a do-or-die shootout to clinch a playoff berth last spring en route to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Then the Eagles capped a spectacular week by overcoming a 21-point deficit with 7:18 remaining and beating the Giants 38-31 Sunday on the final play – DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return that’s being called the “Miracle at the New Meadowlands.”
“We removed the inferiority complex to New York in one week,” die-hard fan Dave Maco said. “After Cliff Lee took less money to come to Philly instead of the Yankees, the Flyers destroyed the Rangers with everyone watching, and the Eagles yet again made the Giants look like circus clowns, New Yorkers can no longer ignore the fact that Philly owns them. Not just in sports. But in character and heart.”
Yes, it’s a great time to be a sports fan in Philadelphia. The city is the epicenter of the sports world these days.
“I’m sure it’s exciting,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “I know it’s exciting for us. I know it’s exciting for the fans.”
Michael Vick’s remarkable comeback is perhaps the most compelling story in sports. With Vick and Jackson leading the way, the Eagles (10-4) are strong contenders to get to the Super Bowl after taking sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The Phillies, despite failing to reach the World Series for the third straight year, have assembled a starting staff that’s being hailed as among the best in major league history. Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels are still two months away from reporting to spring training, but the excitement surrounding the Phillies has never been higher.
The Flyers, who fell two wins short of winning their first championship since 1975, lead the NHL standings and are on track to make another deep playoff run.
Even the 76ers are playing better after a rough start under first-year coach Doug Collins.
In college basketball, Villanova is ranked No. 8, and Temple and Drexel knocked off top-20 teams in the past two weeks. The Owls even had their football coach, Al Golden, lured away by Miami.
“I think all of those coaches, the coaches in Philadelphia I’ve gotten to know, the majority of them in the professional ranks and some of the college guys, there’s a lot of pride there,” Reid said.
Getting Lee was a major boost to Philadelphia’s ego because the hottest free agent on the market shunned New York and all the big bucks the Yankees waved at him.
Lee made it clear the Phillies were the team he wanted to play for all along. A team that used to unload star players before they hit free agency – remember Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen – is now the place to be for major leaguers.
“Going into the offseason, I wasn’t sure how serious the Phillies were going to be. I really didn’t know. So I guess there was a point in time where it was just, in my mind, the Rangers and the Yankees,” Lee said. “Once the Phillies got involved and I could tell that it was serious, it really could happen, it was a relatively easy decision to make.”
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation was so pleased Lee chose the Phillies over the Yankees that it decided to thank him in a billboard love letter that hangs above I-95.
“The best part is not having to play second fiddle to New York,” said Vince Blando, a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan. “The Yankees coveted Cliff Lee, and he chose us. The Eagles came back to deliver a stomach punch to New York Giants fans that they will not recover from anytime soon. Philadelphia pro sports teams are showing us that we can believe. Today, being a Philadelphia sports fan is a beautiful thing.”
This blue-collar town is crazy about its sports. Though they’re known more for their sometimes boorish behavior – throwing snowballs at Santa Claus during a 1968 Eagles game is an easy target for Philly haters – these fans might be the most ardent and knowledgeable ones in the nation.
“They’re passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer,” Lee said. “It’s exciting. It’s a historic town. I didn’t realize until I got here how interesting the city is. My family really liked it. The feeling of playing on the field feels different than anywhere else. I don’t know how to explain it other than you can feel the volume that’s created by the fans and their intensity.”
They were starved for a championship before the Phillies ended a 25-year drought and won the World Series in 2008. Now fans want more parades. The Eagles are due. They’ve never won a Super Bowl and haven’t captured a title since 1960. The way Vick is playing, anything is possible.