Monday, July 28, 2008

No Soulful End to the Curse

The indoor Arena Football League played it's championship game yesterday, and the local boys, the Philadelphia Soul, took the Arena Bowl XXII title by downing something called the San Jose SaberCats by a final score of 59-56.

The Soul are partly owned by famed New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, the very public face of the franchise, and have another local hero, former Eagles Super Bowl quarterback Ron Jaworski, among their official team hierarchy.

So the club has found a niche in the local sports scene, much as the pro lacrosse Philadelphia Wings and indoor soccer Philadelphia Kixx have found.

For those not from Philly, you may not be aware that we are in the midst of one of the worst major pro sports championship droughts in the history of such things.

No major Philadelphia professional sports team has won a title since the 1983 NBA Philadelphia 76ers, led by Julius 'Dr. J' Erving and Moses Malone, took that championship from the LA Lakers. That makes it a full quarter-century since Philadelphians have experienced the thrill of a major title, and the ensuing victory parade down Broad Street.


The Phillies last won the World Series in 1980, the Flyers last took the Stanley Cup in 1975, and the Eagles won the NFL championship in 1960 - they have never won a Super Bowl.

We have come close, as each team made it to the championship series multiple times. The Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Finals in the springs of 1985, 1987, and 1997. The Sixers made the NBA Finals in 2001. The Phillies were in the World Series in both 1983 and 1993. The Eagles famously lost a close 2004 Super Bowl to the New England Patriots that was the city's best shot in recent years.

Still, that makes just seven seasons out of a possible 100 (25 years each for the 4 teams), or 7% for a top ten market to even appear in a championship, and that is beyond woeful.

There were comments after the Soul win that the jinx may now be over, with Soul coach Bret Munsey saying "Now we can win championships in Philly. I hope that takes care of everything".

Uh, don't think so Bret. Your boys did a nice job. Congratulations to you and game MVP Matt D'Orazio and Bon Jovi and Jaws and everyone in the organization. But it doesn't end a thing involving the jinx, or curse, or whatever you want to call this thing, because 'minor' pro sports teams have done it before.

In lacrosse, the Philadelphia Barrage won MLL titles three times in four years between 2004-2007, and the Philadelphia Wings won six NLL titles between 1989 and 2001. In both 1998 and 2005, the Philadelphia Phantoms won AHL Calder Cup titles as the top farm club of the Flyers. The old Philadelphia Stars had won a pair of USFL titles in pro football back in the 80's.

Perhaps the most famous Philly title since 1983 wasn't even won by a pro club, that being the Villanova Wildcats winning the NCAA basketball championship in a dramatic upset of Georgetown in the spring of 1985.

In an online poll at Philly.com, local sports fans were asked "Does the Soul's championship affect the Philly sports jinx?" At the time of this article, over 4600 fans had placed votes, and more than 73% answered "NO, it has to be one of the 'big four' professional teams." The answer is clear, the jinx or curse is alive.

The Soul did a nice job in their league, they should be proud of their accomplishment, and their fans should enjoy the victory. But the fact remains that the curse remains.

One day, a major Philadelphia sports franchise will win a title. Perhaps Donovan McNabb of the Eagles will raise the Super Bowl trophy, or Mike Richards of the Flyers will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, or Elton Brand will raise the NBA championship trophy, or maybe even Chris Coste will get to leap into Brad Lidge's arms as the Phils take the World Series.

I was still a teen when Tugger and Schmitty and Charlie Hustle and Lefty won that 1980 World Series. I cheered Clarkie and Bernie and the boys on to a pair of Stanley Cups as a boy, and jumped for joy as Billy Cunningham's Sixers won that last '83 title. I have had the sports fan thrill, but it has been a long time.

I was 21 years old when Mo Cheeks dribbled down the court, jumping for joy at yet another title in Philly as the Sixers captured the 1983 NBA Championship. I thought that it would happen often, because at that point of my life in just the past seven years Philly teams were regulat title contenders.

Between 1976-1983 the Phils had been to the playoffs six times and won a Series, the Eagles were playoff regulars and had gone to a Super Bowl, the Flyers had been to the Cup finals four times and won twice, and the Sixers were regular title contenders and had now won one. Philly was Title Town in those days. Maybe one day I will live to see it all come around again.

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