As much as we pride ourselves on being one of the best sports cities in the country, the truth is, as fans, we’re a fickle bunch. Take the current panic over the Phillies, for example. If I’d told you in March that the team would lose Roy Halladay for more than a month, on top of missing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, you might expect them to be exactly where they are today — in the NL East basement. Yet listen to a little sports talk radio and you’ll hear a lot of guys who sound like they’re calling in from a ledge on the Ben Franklin Bridge. Fire Charlie Manuel. Deal Cole Hamels. Never mind that Howard and Halladay are almost ready to return and that the season is barely half over — blow up the team.
To paraphrase Bryce Harper, the young star for the first-place Washington Nationals, that’s a clown attitude, bro. How quickly we forget, in this what-have-you-won-for-me-lately sports culture, that just four years ago, many of these Phillies were responsible for a championship — the first we’d seen here in a quarter century of dashed hopes and frustration. We didn’t just root for that 2008 team. We loved it. Winning the World Series is a good way to earn our eternal affection, but that’s not the only reason we bonded with that squad. We came to appreciate their manager in a way we hadn’t before. We watched a roller-coaster playoff run that produced a different hero with every win. We felt a bond with guys like Jimmy Rollins, who’d spent their entire careers here, and like us, remembered how far the Phillies had come since the Vet days. We even saw a rare moment of unguarded emotion in Utley, the clubhouse Sphinx, when he dropped that jubilant f-bomb after the parade.
Thinking about the ’08 Phils made me wonder — which of our teams most captured our hearts? That’s a question I try to answer in this month’s magazine sports column on the most beloved sports team in Philadelphia history. To figure it out, I came up with a weighted five-category system to quantify why we’ve bonded with certain squads over the years. How do the Cup-winning Broad Street Bullies compare to the 1980 Phillies? What place do our most lovable losers — the 1993 Phils, the 2001 Sixers and the Buddy Ryan-era Eagles — still hold in our hearts? With some perspective from a few all-time Philly greats like Brian Dawkins, Bernie Parent, Dutch Daulton and Charles Barkley, I rank the top five teams we love the most. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on this list and my methodology, and offer your own memories of our greatest teams.
And I hope that once the 2012 Phillies take the field after the All-Star break, we’re not so quick to say the era that began in ’08 is officially over.