Magazine article Risk Management

For the Love of the Game

Magazine article Risk Management

For the Love of the Game

Article excerpt

Wherever you go, people love to root, root, root for the home team, but few sports cities are as die-hard as Philadelphia. With competitive teams in all four major professional sports and five top-name college programs, there is guaranteed to be a game in town-and droves of Philly fanatics will be there cheering for a win.

Only eight other American cities can boast a team in each the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any fans with as much passion for their teams as the citizens of Philadelphia. So even though the City of Brotherly Love may be best known for its historical significance as the birthplace of the red, white and blue, the city's sports fans-whether they're cheering for the Eagles, 76ers, Phillies or Flyers-truly bleed green, red, orange and black.

These same crowds, however, have on occasion been known to be a little too passionate for their teams. Philadelphia fans rarely hold their tongue when it comes to telling exactly how they feel, no matter whether their dispute is with the refs, the opposing team or, most famously, the home team.

After all, this is the city that once booed Santa Claus. After playing a miserable first half during the last game of their dreadful 1968 season, the Eagles players were serenaded off the field with a chorus of boos and berated with snowballs all the way back to the locker room. The chaos then carried over to the scheduled half-time show, which featured jolly old St. Nick himself. "1 must have been hit with 100 to 150 snowballs," the unfortunate Santa Claus stand-in, Frank Olivo, was quoted as saying. "That whole walk along the sidelines, I was within range. They were so close 1 could hear them making the snowballs and throwing them. My own family was throwing them at me."

It's not hard to see how this demeanor has evolved in a city that hasn't witnessed a major championship of any kind since local hero Rocky Balboa knocked out Russian champ Ivan Drago back when Rocky IV came to the big screen in 1985 (a statue of the fictional boxer is located outside the Corestate Sports Complex at llth Street and Pattison Street, not on the top step of Philadelphia Museum of Art as portrayed in the movie). The fans here have gone through more than their fair share of suffering. In 1973, the 76ers posted all-time-worst NBA record of 9 - 73. For over a century, they have endured the perpetual heartbreak of a Phillies baseball franchise that has lost more games than any other team in professional sports history.

But despite the disappointment, there is not a tradition of losing here. Cities like Cleveland and Seattle have it far worse off when it comes to futility, and each year it seems at least one team from Philadelphia is a championship contender. That, more than anything, is what makes it so tough on the fans. In every sport, Philadelphia consistently fields teams able to have a strong season and they often make a deep run into the playoffs, only to fall short of winning an actual championship.

No team south of Buffalo has illustrated this frustrating sentiment so much as the current Eagles team of the NFL. Since 2002, the Eagles have been widely considered one of the elite franchises in the league and have been able to put together a winning season each year. For three straight seasons, the Eagles made it all the way to the NFC Championship ( just one game shy of the Super Bowl) only to lose before achieving their goal. Then this February, the team finally got over that hurdle, giving the Philadelphia faithful hope that this would be the year the city got its first-ever Super Bowl victory. Caravans of eager Eagles fans made a pilgrimage to Jacksonville for the game, many with no place to stay and offering up to $2,000 per ticket, only to watch their team fall short once again in a gut-wrenching defeat to a New England Patriots dynasty that has won three of the past four Super Bowls.

In baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies took their fans on a similar ride through the wringer during a period of tumultuous success in the late 1970s and early 1980s. …

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