Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The eternal question

Since the Spider is South Jersey born and raised, while I hail from the wilds of Lawn Guy Land, we get an interesting Philly/New York athletic conversation going on from time to time. One joke between us is that the term "Mets" is incomplete, with the full term being "New York wife-beating, coke-snorting, atheist Mets."

This isn't as goofy as it sounds. These cities each served as the capital of the entire US before Washington DC was built. If there had been professional sports in those days, one could well imagine Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin arguing about their cities' baseball fortunes between constitutional debates. (It's fun to imagine Hamilton as a newfangled stat guy - OPS+, VORP, WHIP - with the horrified old-school Virginians writing broadsheets extolling sac bunts and accusing Hamilton of selling out the soul of the game.) Instead, they had to settle for debating a national bank and the Report on Manufactures.

For the Spider, he best remembers the NHL's Devils as a very bad team called the Colorado Rockies. (As compared to today, when kids remember the Colorado Rockies as a very bad baseball team.) The guys to root for were the Flyers, along with the Eagles, Phillies, and 76ers. From 1974-1983 those four teams had a remarkable run:

'74, '75 Flyers - Stanley Cup champions
'76, '80 Flyers - lost Stanley Cup finals
'76-'78 Phillies - NL East division winners
'80 Phillies - World Series champions
'80 Eagles - lost Super Bowl
'77, '80, '82 Sixers - lost in NBA finals
'83 Sixers - NBA champions
'83 Phillies - NL pennant winner, lost in WS

That is one of the best sports decades of any city anywhere. Everywhere you turned you had Hall of Fame talent: those were the Phillies of Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, and who borrowed Pete Rose for the occasion; the Sixers of Dr. J himself, Julius Erving; the Flyers of Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent. The Eagles maybe didn't have anyone on par with those players, but just think - had they beaten the Raiders that day, we may have wound up with 20 years of EA Sports' "Dick Vermeil Football."

Now, I diverted from the standard Long Island pantheon, which usually goes Isles-Knicks-Mets-Jets. I'm not a big basketball fan, so the Knicks were never an interest for me (nor the Nets a viable option in any case), but my big thing was rooting for the Giants, not the Jets. Mostly it had to do with preferring my quarterbacks to be more upright than Kenny O'Brien usually was, with a large helping of annoyance with Mark Gastineau's sack dance. The guy literally had an episode every time he made a big play; I thought that he surely had to have a wallet jammed in his mouth every play to keep from swallowing his own tongue by halftime.

I got in just in time. From 1980 to 1991, the New York sports scene was pretty good to me:

'80-'83 Isles - four straight Stanley Cups
'86, '90 Giants - Super Bowl champions
'86 Mets - World Series champions

The Knicks were mostly nowhere then, but what did I care for basketball? Six titles in eleven years is pretty sweet. Hall of Famers all over - LT (the original and only) and Phil Simms; Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier, and Clark Gillies; and more sadly, the Mets who could have been all-time greats, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. It's tough to give an edge - the only head-to-head meeting goes to the Isles over the Flyers in 1980, but Philly also had Rocky I-III during their ten years, and that is a considerable plus.

However, I've just discovered an edge that may put my side back over the top. Go to this story and compare the various "beloved fans" of the football squads, as picked by the teams themselves.

The Eagles, who had a working court and jailhouse in their old stadium to handle their fan base on game days, nominated a Judge Dredd knockoff.

The Giants nominated Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj, who has rooted for the team since I was two.

Advantage, Big Blue.

No comments: