Were you on vacation this week? Out enjoying the warm weather rather than sitting by your computer? Or maybe there were more important things going on in your life than scrolling through Twitter or browsing your favorite sites to get the latest sports news. And you know what, we don’t blame you.
With things expected to be even nicer this weekend, we’re not going to hold you up with a big intro. Instead, we’ll dive right into our weekly roundup of the best and biggest stories in Philly sports.
For the first time since 1994, the men’s World Cup is returning to the United States, which will co-host the event with Mexico and Canada. And for the first time ever, Philadelphia will be one of the host cities, which is appropriate considering the tournament will coincide with the nation’s 250th birthday.
Here’s more from Jonathan Tannenwald ...
The announcement was made by FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, during a TV show broadcast from Manhattan to the world. Hershey’s Christian Pulisic, the biggest star of the U.S. men’s team, was part of the show. And there were jubilant celebrations by a crowd at LOVE Park in Center City that included fans, local youth players, and representatives from the city, the Eagles, and the Union.
Among them was Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, who played for the United States at the 2014 men’s World Cup. Some of his current and former colleagues — including Pulisic, Downingtown’s Zack Steffen, and Medford’s Brenden and Paxten Aaronson — could play in the 2026 tournament. Pulisic, Steffen, and Brenden Aaronson are on course to play in this fall’s edition in Qatar, and they star for some of the world’s most famous club teams.
They’re all familiar with a chant popularized by Union fans, then adopted by the Eagles, that was taken from English soccer fan culture: “No one likes us, we don’t care.” Those words have been proven false. The world’s most popular sport likes Philadelphia very much.
“Philadelphia just showed what it was,” FIFA vice president and Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said, praising how much the city showed that it wanted to bring the event to town. — Jonathan Tannenwald
What you need to know
These are some of the most important stories from the last week or so that you might’ve missed.
The other news, which broke almost the exact same time as the World Cup announcement, came from a different group that’s been equally hungry for a Cup of a different kind: the Flyers. News broke Thursday evening that they had hired John Tortorella to be their next coach, and then the team made it official by introducing him to the local media on Friday. Whether or not he’s the right fit — well, that remains to be seen.
While the Phillies have cooled off slightly since winning Rob Thomson’s first eight games after taking over for Joe Girardi, they still look like a much better team even though the only change was in the dugout. Former All-Star Mike Lowell doesn’t sound surprised. The Phillies also demoted Corey Knebel from the closer’s role as their bullpen continues to struggle. Could a trade be on the horizon?
Speaking of trades, Sixers writer Keith Pompey broke a little news this week when he reported that the team is gauging the trade interest in several players, including Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Danny Green, who was part of a prior rumor regarding a package including him and the 23rd overall pick in next week’s draft. David Murphy also looked at whether trading Thybulle is even possible — and explained why trading the 23rd pick should be a given. Oh, and James Harden will reportedly re-sign with Philly.
Our Title IX series continued with a look at three Black women across three generations who have all been both trailblazing and inspirational figures: Mo’ne Davis, Dawn Staley, and Nikki Franke. We also took a look at how a Title IX lawsuit against Temple “set the precedent” for how the law would be applied to college athletics.
On the lighter side of things, the Eagles changed the wordmark (read: font) that goes with their logo after a quarter century of using a certain style. Philadelphians handled it reasonably, as expected. And former NFL wide receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson has been running around Philly — literally. He says he’ll be here for the next couple of months, and he’s been doing everything from trying different cheesesteaks to hitting up a Phillies game to training with local boxer Jaron “Boots” Ennis.
Worth the time
Earlier, we mentioned a trio of Title IX features, but we felt that one specifically deserved a bit more attention, as you might have missed it on Thursday amid all the soccer and Flyers news. Olivia Reiner spoke to Temple women’s fencing coach Nikki Franke, who launched the program in 1972, became the first Black woman to coach a Division I fencing program, and just celebrated her 50th season at the helm.
Here’s more from Olivia ...
But before 1972, [the Temple women’s fencing] program didn’t have a history. In fact, it didn’t exist. The university only offered the sport to women in the form of a club populated by students enrolled in a fencing class. That changed when 21-year-old public health graduate student and fencing teacher Nikki Franke approached women’s athletic director Barbara Lockhart — “Being very naive,” Franke said. “Absolutely naive.” — and asked her why Temple lacked a bona fide women’s fencing team.
Lockhart told her if enough students expressed interest, Franke could start an official team that would compete against other schools.
“Not many schools would have given me that opportunity,” Franke said. “There is no school that would have let a 21-year-old recent college graduate start a Division I program. So you look back and you go, ‘That was crazy.’”
This past season, Franke, the first Black woman to coach an NCAA Division I fencing team, celebrated her 50th anniversary at the helm of the Temple program. The start of her tenure coincided with the passage of Title IX, which protects people from sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities.
Without Franke and without Title IX, the Temple women’s fencing program would not exist as it is known today.
“She is just one of the most outstanding women, this century or any other,” said Pixie Roane, a former Temple fencer and head coach of the Wallingford-Swarthmore Panthers Fencing Club. “People talk about Eleanor Roosevelt. Yes, you’re right. But I’ve got to tell you, Dr. Nikki Franke, to me, she’s one of the greatest women in this century or any other because of what she’s done, not only in the world of athletics, but also in the health education field.”
You can read the rest of the story, here.