IF PHILADELPHIA fans want to know why we haven't won a championship for a quarter century, I'll tell you.
It's not because of some statue on top of City Hall, an owner's refusal to pay his players, or bad luck or indifference. The answer is as plain as the noses on our faces. In fact, it IS the noses on our faces, the ones we stick in the air every time one of our beloved franchises faces a tough situation. The lack of recent success can be squarely blamed on the negative attitude of the people who seem to care so deeply about the fortunes of these teams.
Imagine a poker player who sits at the table having already decided he's going to lose. It won't take long for those chips to disappear.
The same goes for our attitudes about our teams and personnel. Prime example: Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid, who I've spent many a barroom conversation defending. Only in Philly could two people put together the resume they have - and the fans still can't wait to get them out of town. All they've done is go to four straight NFC . . . well, you know the stats. But despite that, we still seem to have the attitude that they've overstayed their welcome.
Case in point, a recent conversation with my father.
"Dumb Donovan is so inaccurate. And Andy can't coach a game . . ." I actually stopped paying attention because I'm so tired of defending these guys. I've had this conversation with every wannabe sports analyst/dockworker in the city and just can't do it anymore.
Finally, I interrupt my dad and ask what five quarterbacks in the league he'd rather have.
"Tom Brady and Peyton."
"Duh. That's two. Who else?"
"Okay, I'll give you one. Carson Palmer. MAYBE."
"Okay, who else?"
"You got 10 seconds."
"Oh, well, ah, um."
This glass-half-empty attitude is what's robbed this city of a parade four times a year since 1983. Playing for our squads and hearing all this moaning, groaning and pessimism during your tenure here has got to make winning way more difficult. What's more, if you're a career Flyer, Sixer, Eagle or Phillie, and this is all you've known, the goal may seem daunting and fruitless.
And what about owners' not spending? Is it possible that knowing what we're like and how hard we make it on them is as much to blame for the lack of superstars as the owners? Everyone has deep pockets, but it's hard to bring someone in who isn't interested in the first place, no matter how much money you throw at them. Maybe that's why the Phils spent $20 million last year on two pitchers, Eaton and Garcia, who, to put it mildly, didn't earn their keep and weren't worth it in the first place.
And it's not just the one's we didn't get. How about all the ones we've run out of town? Barkley, Lindros, Rolen, T.O. Okay, some examples are better than others, but you get the point. Is it possible that we just don't treat these men fairly?
SO BEFORE we run another superstar out of town, along with the best football coach the city's ever had, maybe we should turn the lens on ourselves for a change and evaluate what our role in recent failures may be.
I'm 27 and was three when the Sixers won the championship but sure can't remember the parade. I've seen pictures, and it looks like fun. A lot more fun than all this complaining.
I'm as passionate a local sports fan as you will find. I can't wait to finally celebrate that championship. I've long said that wherever I may be, when that parade finally goes down Broad Street, I'll be there, and it will be the greatest day of my life.
Four times a year, I watch a city celebrate these occasions, and dream of what it will be like when it's our turn. But I fear that day is further away than ever.
If we truly want to win, I believe the attitude must change. We don't touch the ball, stick, puck or rim, and the the players individually have more to do with it than we do. But we're many, and they're few. I'm not a believer in mind over matter, but I do believe our attitudes shape our destiny. With the bad attitude of us fans helping shape the destiny of these franchises, it's small wonder the pain continues.
We need a new attitude, a new voice in this city if our fortunes are to change. Whose will it be?
To achieve victory, we must believe in victory. Or, if you please, "Ya gotta believe!" *
Jeff Sramek is an optimistic Philly sports fan.