Phillies and Eagles bounce back beleaguered Philadelphia

“If there was a city that needed this, it was us,” said Michael Snock, a full-time teacher and part-time bartender, who lives in South Philadelphia, a short walk from Citizens Bank Park. , where the Phillies will face the Houston. Astros in Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday.

The Phillies outfit is everywhere — from the airport to street fairs to the brick sidewalk outside Independence Hall — as an upstart team that struggled to make the playoffs is now tied with the Astros powerhouse, one game apiece, in the best of seven series.

“I didn’t really experience a championship in Philadelphia until I was 31,” Snock said, recalling the Phillies’ last world title in 2008. “Now I think those two teams feed off one of the other. For the Eagles, it’s like, ‘Oh man, that could be us.’ “

These Eagles — whose fans across the way might be the most awful in town — are 7-0 undefeated, having beaten cross-state rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

“When I was growing up it was always mass in the morning and football in the afternoon. I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Snock, who stopped by pouring pints at the Paddy Whacks sports pub near Society Hill .

“It’s blue collar here, right? We expect and demand effort from our teams,” Snock added. “We want our teams to reflect our own lives. And when we don’t get that, we let them know.

Paying audiences let teams know when they’re fed up. During the infamous “Santa Claus game” in December 1968, fans of a miserable Eagles team pelted St. Nicholas with snowballs during a halftime Christmas parade.

Philadelphia fans have a gritty, throaty intensity that ranks with — and perhaps supersedes — that of Boston and New York. But what they bring in passion, they can’t match in the ultimate marker: championship banners.

Since the turn of the century, Boston’s four major pro teams have amassed 12 titles – six by the Patriots, four by the Red Sox, and one by the Bruins and one by the Celtics.

Philadelphians can only count two in this era: the Phillies’ 2008 championship and the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in 2018.

The Sixers in basketball? They last won it all in 1983. The Flyers in hockey? Try 1975.

“I’ve been deprived this whole time,” said Jay Rivera, 30, a Phillies fan who lives across the Delaware River in South Jersey. Now it’s time to party, as evidenced by his willingness to line up over the weekend with hundreds of other fans outside a gigantic sports bar near the ballpark.

Joe McDermott, 36, of Camden, NJ, stood by Rivera, just moving a few inches every few minutes for as long as it took to get in.

“It brings everyone together,” McDermott said, relishing a chance to block out the noise of criticism from Philadelphia. “We still have a chip on our shoulder, being counted out, not getting the credit we deserve.”

Philadelphia has had many tough times. Its population and jobs began to hemorrhage in the 1950s, although the town center saw new residential developments and the overall population grew.

But homicides hit a record high last year and youth shootings have doubled in the past five years. In 2019, before the pandemic began, Philadelphia had the highest poverty rate among the nation’s largest cities, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

Amid the challenges, good sports karma seems to benefit the city in many welcome ways.

When the Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings on September 19, and again when they upset the Dallas Cowboys on October 16, police reported no overnight shootings or murders in this teeming city of 1, 6 million people, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Since they won, there have been no shots. Wins are up, and crime is down. People are watching TV instead of shooting guns,” said Wade Coward, 55, from South Jersey, as he stood near the city’s professional sports complex.

David Johnson, 55, a former Boston College football player from nearby Glenora, NJ, is enjoying the good times. Dressed in Phillies red, Johnson strolled through the 18th century market in Head House Square over the weekend, joining dozens of others who showed off their local loyalty.

“I’ve been to Red Sox and Bruins games. It’s the same here, and we’re not afraid to tell you that upfront,” said Johnson, who played solid safety in British Columbia. “It’s working class, and we like our teams to be the same. We grind it down, and you’ll fight when you come.

A good, fair fight in the arena is one thing, but 25-year-old Jason Lomax of West Philadelphia wondered why the city’s sports fans draw so much abuse.

“We’re good people, but we have a lot of haters,” said Lomax, the sports complex’s parking attendant. “I don’t know what we did. I think we’re all cool here, and that kind of puts us back on the map.

Putting herself on the map, however, likely won’t take Philadelphia to the rarefied heights that Boston’s sports faithful have occupied for much of the 21st century, said Johnson, the BC alum.

“I personally don’t see it,” Johnson said. “Teams are paying too much money in too many key positions to retain quality players year after year.”

Still, even Philadelphia fans are allowed to dream while eating cheesesteaks with Cheez Whiz.

Allan Shaw wore a 2008 World Series jacket, commemorating the Phillies’ last championship, as he walked among a festive crowd near Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River.

“They kind of have a thing going on, a bit of a mojo,” Shaw said of this year’s team.

And he should know. Shaw has followed the Phillies for much of their long and often dismal past.

“I’m old enough to have seen the 1950 World Series. I was there,” Shaw said with a laugh, recalling the team’s loss to the New York Yankees.

Snock, the part-time teacher and bartender, is optimistic about the city’s sporting future.

The Phillies, Eagles and Sixers could keep winning for a decade, he said. The Flyers, Snock added, appear to be a work in progress.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia faithful ride high, and they don’t seem to care if they’re alone on the train.

“The fanbase here is very maligned and misunderstood,” said Snock, who stopped, shook his head and added an emphatic coda. “Santa Claus is an easy escape.”


Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at [email protected]

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