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Whether they’re rooting for Phillies or Eagles, Delco fans are passionate

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, October 01, 2006 01:51 PM | Comments: 0
Phillies Nation in the News

Delco Times
Tim Logue, Of the Times Staff

With just a week to go in the regular season, it was an odd sight. There were the analysts on ESPN’s "Baseball Tonight" talking about which teams in the National League would advance to the playoffs, and all of them were picking the Phillies.

Just as strange were the National Football League picks rolled out by ESPN.com a few weeks earlier. Of the 12 football analysts, just one had the Eagles wining the NFC East in 2006.

"I think those picks are good for both teams," said Michael Rogers, a Phillies and Eagles fan from Upper Darby. "It’s good to see the Phillies finally getting some attention and it’s good for the Eagles to be under the radar. After everything that happened last year, the less people focus on them the better."

Though the Phillies’ playoff hopes were hanging by the thinnest of threads Saturday, the state of the franchise has improved dramatically since July, when their own general manager was questioning whether the team was good enough to win not only this season, but next.

And the Eagles, with a rejuvenated Donovan McNabb, improvement along the offensive and defensive lines, and the absence of a one-man circus at wide receiver, are looking more like the 2004 Super Bowl version than the 2005 Titanic edition.

For Philadelphia sports fans, true satisfaction is always a championship away, but many are excited to see the stock of their baseball team on the rise and their football team’s on the rebound.

Delco Times
Tim Logue, Of the Times Staff

With just a week to go in the regular season, it was an odd sight. There were the analysts on ESPN’s "Baseball Tonight" talking about which teams in the National League would advance to the playoffs, and all of them were picking the Phillies.

Just as strange were the National Football League picks rolled out by ESPN.com a few weeks earlier. Of the 12 football analysts, just one had the Eagles wining the NFC East in 2006.

"I think those picks are good for both teams," said Michael Rogers, a Phillies and Eagles fan from Upper Darby. "It’s good to see the Phillies finally getting some attention and it’s good for the Eagles to be under the radar. After everything that happened last year, the less people focus on them the better."

Though the Phillies’ playoff hopes were hanging by the thinnest of threads Saturday, the state of the franchise has improved dramatically since July, when their own general manager was questioning whether the team was good enough to win not only this season, but next.

And the Eagles, with a rejuvenated Donovan McNabb, improvement along the offensive and defensive lines, and the absence of a one-man circus at wide receiver, are looking more like the 2004 Super Bowl version than the 2005 Titanic edition.

For Philadelphia sports fans, true satisfaction is always a championship away, but many are excited to see the stock of their baseball team on the rise and their football team’s on the rebound.

"I think it actually feels a lot better," said Eagles season-ticket holder Len Carey of Ridley Township. "It doesn’t look like the Phillies are going to make it but I haven’t given up on them, and the Eagles look like they can go back to the Super Bowl."

Instead of focusing exclusively on the Eagles in late September, Carey said it’s nice to have two teams to root for in the fall. "It’s a no-brainer for me, I live and die with the Eagles, but it’s exciting to be in a pennant race. … I thought about smashing my TV when they blew the (home run) call on Chase Utley a couple days ago. It may have cost them the season."

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

Something about these Phillies had Kim Salmon on I-95 Thursday afternoon, heading for Washington, D.C., in a driving rainstorm.

"My mom and I left around 1 in the afternoon and we sat through the rain delay at (RFK Stadium)," said Salmon, who lives in Clifton Heights. "It was pouring. I didn’t know how they were going to play."

After waiting nearly four-and-a-half hours, the Phillies and Nationals took the field a little before midnight. "The only people left were Phillies fans," Salmon said. "They didn’t win but it was a good time. I feel like they are going in the right direction. They’ve got some young studs on the team now that are fun to watch."

Friday, before the Phillies crushed the Florida Marlins 14-2, Salmon was still thinking playoffs. "I think the Giants can come through against the Dodgers and the Phillies are capable of sweeping the Marlins again," she said.

If the Phillies had somehow forced a tiebreaker game Monday at Citizens Bank Park, Salmon said the Eagles and Monday Night Football will be an afterthought.

"If I had to choose, I would go to the Phillies game and get updates on the Eagles," she said. "I watch the Eagles every week, but it’s still early in the football season."

Born three years after the Phillies’ only World Series victory, Julie Michael was not ready to accept another almost-but-not-quite finish by her baseball team Friday. "The team might be different, but I will feel exactly the same as I have in past years," said the 2005 graduate of Villanova University and contributor to PhilliesNation.com, a fan blog founded by her brother, Brian. "I am sick of losing."

With the Phillies one game from elimination, Julie entered the weekend hoping for the best but expecting another offseason of frustration.

"The Phillies need to establish some kind of history of success," she said. "If they do, I think Philadelphia has the potential to be a baseball city… New York is a baseball city. Why? Because the Yankees win every year. The Phillies don’t need to get close again. They need to win."

With a little tinkering, Carey thinks this Phillies team could be a playoff contender for the next several years. "The Mets are getting old," he said. "If the Phillies address third base and the bullpen, maybe pick up one starting pitcher, I think they could be the team to beat in the division for the next five or six years."

RETURN TO PROMINENCE

Despite the questions marks about the quarterback, receiving corps and the strength of the NFC East, Eagles fans like Rogers loved their team’s chances coming into 2006.

"I never understood all the panic," he said. "Everything went wrong last year — the injuries, the craziness with T.O., the terrible defense — but it’s not like they came into this year with all those problems. The question marks in Washington, New York and Dallas were much bigger, but people decided to focus on the Eagles."

With two wins and one horrific loss in their first three games, the Eagles appear to be every bit the contenders they were before last season. Meanwhile, fingers are already being pointed at the Giants, Dallas is experiencing the Terrell Owens show firsthand and Washington is trying to win with a quarterback well past his prime.

"You’re never sure whether the Phillies will make the move that will put them over the top, but the Eagles always have a sense of direction," Carey said. "The fans may whine for a while after a loss but there’s a confidence that they can rip off four (wins) in a row and beat anyone in the NFC. If the Phillies lose five in a row, you feel like they’re done."

After their Monday night matchup against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, the spotlight will shine even brighter in Philadelphia with the return of Owens and the Cowboys next Sunday. No matter how those games turn out, the Eagles’ season will hinge on their final six games, two at home versus Carolina and Atlanta and four away against Indianapolis, New York, Washington and Dallas.

"It’s brutal," Rogers said, "but the Eagles have enough experience to handle it. If they do make it into the playoffs, they will be more battle-tested than anyone else."

REASONS TO BELIEVE

Charlie Buzza started watching the Phillies in 1978 when he was 8 years old.

"They had great teams back then and I thought every year was 1980," said the Ridley Park resident. "It took a while to learn that wasn’t the case — at least not with the Phillies. I root for all (the Philadelphia) teams, but I’ve suffered the most watching the Phillies."

Though he would prefer to see his team in the postseason, Buzza said the 2006 Phillies have shown something in their playoff run that the 2005 team did not. "I will be disappointed, but there is definitely a different feeling at the end of this season as compared to last season," he said. "The emergence of Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels; seeing what Chase Utley can do playing every day. I think the general manager has them going in the right direction.

"I have a lot more confidence in Pat Gillick than I ever had in Ed Wade."

And Phillies fans in general seem to have more confidence in their team’s ability to compete.

"It seemed like the clubhouse came together as soon as they got rid of (Bobby) Abreu and (David) Bell," Carey said. "The morale is a lot better and it gave guys like (Shane) Victorino a chance to show what they could do. They look like they are playing looser and having more fun."

Any talk of a Phillies resurgence begins with the first and second basemen. While Howard has put up unprecedented numbers in his first full season in the major leagues, Utley has quietly accumulated more hits and batted in more runs than second baseman Ryne Sandberg ever did during his Hall of Fame career.

"The young guys have been much better than I ever thought they would be," Rogers said. "It’s not just the numbers, it’s when they produce. Both of them are clutch hitters — something the Phillies have lacked for a long time. They like the pressure."

Instead of focusing solely on the Eagles’ next opponent, Tom Nowlan of Broomall was sweating out another Phillies win Saturday. "The Eagles are just getting started so it’s nice to have something to do between the Sundays," he said. "It makes things more exciting."

With the Phillies up a run in the eighth inning Saturday and the Dodgers and Padres games just getting under way, Nowlan was hoping his team would still have life on the last day of the season.

"I would sleep better tonight, and the beers would taste a little better, if we are still in it," he said.

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About Brian Michael

Brian Michael has written 1156 articles on Phillies Nation.

Brian is the CEO of Phillies Nation which he founded in July of 2004.

 
 
 
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